Greetings. I am Dr. Royal L. Harrison, director of the Greater Los Angeles Region for the Southern California Conference, and today I want to present to you one of our core values: Integrity With Transparency.
Integrity is defined as the adherence to moral and ethical principles, soundness of moral character, and honesty, while transparency is defined as the willingness to be honest, open, and clear as to the direction or decision the company is choosing to consider.
And we see throughout Jesus's life that he modeled both integrity and transparency. In fact, one of my favorite stories is the story of the woman at the well found in the Gospel of John, the fourth chapter, where Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water.
You remember the story, don't you? There, Jesus was sitting at the well. He had sent the disciples off to get food in the city, and a woman, but not just any woman, a woman, a Samaritan woman, the Bible says, who had a checkered past, to say the least.
But the Bible tells us that she came to the well at noontime, and biblical historians suggest that she came at noon because she didn't want to draw water when the other women were at the well, even though it was customary for women to draw water early in the morning when it was cool; she decided to come in the heat of the day.
It is thought that her being there at noon was to save her embarrassment and ridicule, knowing that the other women would be gone and she could draw water in peace.
And so here she is at the well, not expecting anyone, and Jesus shows up. Won't Jesus show up unexpected at some times? I know we have a saying, "He may not come when you want Him, but He's always right on time." But sometimes Jesus will show up when you don't want Him. Do I have a witness?
Jesus will sometimes show up and mess up your plans. He'll mess up your rendezvous. He'll mess up what you thought was going to be a good time. But if you could see what Jesus could see, you know it was a trap of the devil.
I'm so glad that Jesus shows up not only when you want Him, but even sometimes when you don't.
Well, He has just kind of shown up at the well and asked this woman for a drink of water. She wasn't expecting Him. She wasn't anticipating getting into any kind of conversation. She just was planning on filling up her water pots and going on about her business.
But Jesus showed up. Isn't that how Jesus works sometimes? You didn't plan to join the church, but Jesus showed up. You didn't plan to testify in front of that large crowd, but Jesus showed up. You didn't anticipate being there all day, but Jesus showed up. And Jesus showed up at this well on this hot afternoon day. And more than that, He had the audacity to ask her for a drink of water. And her response exposes the fact that she was caught by surprise. For she says, "You're a Jew, and I'm a Samaritan. How is it that you asked me for a drink?"
But watch this. I love Jesus's response. He says, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asked you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water." Did you get it, or did you miss it? Here it is again.
Jesus asked the woman for a drink, and she says, "You are a Jew and I'm a Samaritan. You shouldn't even be talking to me, much less asking me for a drink of water." But Jesus doesn't even acknowledge what she said. I love this. He says, "If you knew who it was that was asking you for a drink, you would have flipped the script. You would have turned the tables. If you knew who it was that was asking you for a drink, you would have been asking Him for a drink, and I would have given you water wherein you would never thirst again." And upon hearing this, she responds to Jesus's words and says, "Give me this water so I won't thirst anymore and have need to come to this well again."
Listen, transparency and integrity always opens the door to healthy and constructive communication. Samaritans were thought of as a lower class of people. But Jesus isn't into division. Jesus isn't into segregation. That's all manmade. Let's be clear. Jesus loves people. Jesus did not ignore this woman. In fact, Jesus strikes up a conversation with her, not simply because He was thirsty, but more importantly, to engage her in a conversation.
Jesus's integrity, listen to me, will not allow Him to sit by and not engage this woman in conversation. Being who He was and already knowing her situation.
I like what the late, great Bob Marley once said. He said this about integrity, "The greatness of a man or woman is not how much wealth they acquire, but the greatness of a man or woman is in their integrity and their ability to affect those all around them."
Jesus’s integrity would not allow Him to sit by and not say something to this woman at the well. And thus, He begins by simply asking the woman for a drink of water. In other words, He becomes transparent and vulnerable. He needs this woman's help.
Integrity, listen to me, demands honesty, and transparency calls for vulnerability. Jesus was both honest, He was thirsty, and vulnerable. He didn't have anything to draw the water with. And throughout their dialogue, Jesus and this Samaritan woman go back and forth until, finally, Jesus tells her, "go and tell your husband." And now it's her turn to be transparent and vulnerable. And she says, "I have no husband." And Jesus says to her, "You have answered right. You have had five husbands, and the one you are with now is not your husband."
Shortly thereafter, Jesus's disciples returned. The woman scampers off. But, listen, she doesn't keep quiet. The Bible says, "Then leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 'Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’”
Integrity with transparency are the ingredients wherein trust is built. This woman trusted Jesus so much that she went running throughout the city, telling and inviting everyone to come and see a man that told her all about herself. Just a little talk with Jesus made her feel accepted and valued, that no longer did she care about what others thought of her. She met a man who was honest with her and who allowed her to be transparent, and knew her and did not condemn her, but acknowledged her worth.
As we continue to operate with integrity with transparency as a conference, our sphere of influence will grow and the impact we will make our communities, in our cities, and even in our regions, will be immeasurable.
It is the intent of the Southern California Conference that the organization operates with integrity with transparency. Having enough integrity to always be honest and forthright with our constituencies, our churches, our pastors, and our employees, and to be transparent enough to admit our failures and our challenges, but to always operate in such a way that trust is guarded, trust is protected, and trust is valued.
May God so use us and this great conference to be filled with integrity with transparency that, as Bob Marley said, "We can affect those all around us..."—not for selfish gain, but for the kingdom of God. May God bless you.
And as we do our part in practicing and modeling integrity with transparency wherever and whenever we can. God bless you.