Optimize Your Integrity to Boost Immunity (Video)

Do you know Americans lie on average 11 times a week? That’s according to APA (American Psychology Association). There are no data showing how many lies people from other countries tell, but I know Americans are honest people comparatively.

When I first came to America, I noticed that Americans are quite naïve. Most immigrants say the same thing. They often laugh, saying that Americans are easy to cheat. Maybe because of the Christian values that govern the heart of the Americans. “In God, We Trust” is the slogan on our currencies.

In a sense, we are spoiled by a safe and secure society. Living in America for some time, I became Americanized. After six years of studying in San Francisco, I visited Thailand and got cheated in Bangkok.

The Lonely Planet guidebook that I carried warned me, but I got conned before reading that section. Later I learned that Americans are the easiest target for the con artists in Thailand and maybe in many other countries as well.

Still, research shows Americans are not 100% honest. Lying seems like part of life, and we often make excuses to justify lying. The Burmese say,

“Without lies, words are not smooth.” (mutha maba, linga machaw). ~Burmese Proverbs

It means, without lies, it’s hard to make your speech poetic, artistic, or persuasive. It also means you need a little lie to get the message across. It seems to glorify lying as an art. No wonder we call such people “con artists.”

In English, we also have the term “white lies.” A white lie is supposed to be a lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, but it also means a lie that does not harm anyone. Is it true that a white lie does not harm anybody?

After some research, I’ve discovered that every fib harms the fibber. Every lie we tell lies to ourselves. According to Akira Kurosawa, the maker of Rashomon,

It’s human to lie. Most of the time, we can’t even be honest with ourselves.” ~Akira Kurosawa

A white lie may not harm others, but it does compromise the well-being of the lier. Research studies have shown that a person’s integrity can affect their immunity. This information is very helpful during the pandemic because we want to do everything to boost our immune system—physically, psychologically, or spiritually.

According to psychiatrists, the moment someone tells a lie, their brain releases stress hormones, such as cortisol, weakening their immune system. We often say, “Lier, lier, pants on fire!” Their pants might not be on fire, but their immunity is compromised.

That’s how lie detectors work. The machine can sense the subtle signs of stress through our nerves when lying. Some people might cheat the lie detector, but they cannot cheat their health. So, honesty is truly the best policy not only for our character but also for our well-being.

It proves that we are not created to lie. Our body resists it, feels uncomfortable with it, and punishes us for it by the degradation of health.

There are two kinds of stress—overt and covert. The covert stress is more insidious because we might not feel it emotionally, but it subtly kills us from the inside. It will eventually show up on our lab reports during a checkup. Sometimes, it could be too late to reverse the health condition.

Lying is just one of many things that compromise our immunity. Anger, grudges, guilt, discord, manipulation, and other things that the Bible calls sin can stress our systems that compromise our integrity and immunity.

It seems we don’t even need God to punish us for our sins; our body is punishing ourselves already. If it is human to lie, how do we redeem ourselves? What’s not possible with human is possible with God. Jesus said,

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (Jn 3:17).

The truth is, Jesus did not come to punish us but to save us from our compromised integrity. The immunity boost is just a fringe benefit once we get our integrity taken care of because our body will stop rebelling.

We are on the Second Sunday of Advent. Advent means coming. Today, let us explore how to prepare the way for the coming of Christ based on this week’s scripture lesson.

[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]

The scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Luke 3:1-6. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”
(Lk 3:1–6).

[This is the Word of the Lord! Thanks be to God.]

Luke was both a physician and historian. He had never met Jesus, but he was a disciple of Paul, so he met many disciples of Jesus who were still living. Using that privilege, Luke interviewed the eyewitnesses of Jesus to put together the life and ministry of Jesus and wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts.  

In this passage, Luke began with the context of the story in the first two verses, which might trigger many emotions in those who know the history.

First, he mentioned “Emperor Tiberius,” which makes you think about a time of foreign occupation. It makes you feel a sense of enslavement, having to pay taxes to a foreign government.

Pontius Pilate was a man that compromised to maintain his position, a local iron fist of the foreign occupation. His job was to prevent insurrection and make sure enough taxes were collected and sent to Rome.

The Israelites could have ignored the foreign power if their own leaders were reliable. King Herod was supposed to take care of the country, but he was a puppet of Rome and a tyrant who was not reluctant to slaughter little boys to secure his throne.

The high priest Annas and Caiaphas were supposed to be the nation’s spiritual leaders, but behind the façade of their supposedly holy positions, their hearts were rotten from inside. They were corrupt leaders functioning as another layer of oppression and manipulated the system to put Jesus on the cross to suppress change.

You can summarize that the rulers of the time had no integrity, and they cared only about securing their own positions. What’s the difference between then and now? How satisfied are you with your government? Do you want to change it? WWJD, What would Jesus do?

Luke said that God’s word came to John the Baptist at a time like that, and John left the wilderness to deliver the message. The message was to prepare the people instead of changing the government. Have you ever wondered why God did not change the government to relieve the oppression? Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once said,

“It is not our mission to change the government, but our mission is to prepare the people because if the people are ready, the government cannot stay.” ~Norman Vincent Peale

It implies we have a government we deserve. That is a bitter pill to swallow because it requires us to take responsibility for the government we have. Do you think it sounds a little harsh to blame the oppressed for the oppressor?

Unfortunately, life does not work that way. Changing the government and expecting society to change automatically is a quick-fix mentality. The easier way is to blame the leadership and the rich for our plight.

The truth is, if people are not ready, removing the government does not work. Our generation has witnessed what happened in Iraq in the two decades.

If changing the government could make the country better, God would not have sent Jesus but an army of angels to wipe out the corrupt governments and solve all the problems.

However, the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart, so Jesus came to fix the hearts. Like a head nurse, John was setting up the operation room for the heart surgeon to come. The change begins within ourselves. It’s a slow process, but a sure one.

As mentioned, our hearts are overloaded with overt and covert stresses due to the necessary lies we tell, the grudges we carry, and the manipulations we scheme. I said “necessary” because we live in this fallen world of broken integrity, but we are not made for it. So, we need forgiveness of sins so that our bodies will stop punishing us.

“He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:3).

Notice that “repentance” and “forgiveness of sins” go together. The word repentance is translated from Greek, μετᾰ́νοιᾰ (metánoia), meaning “changing the way of life.” Many people think repentance just means “regret.” No, regret is not enough because people can regret what they do and not change. For example, John said a few verses later,

“Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” (Luke 3:8).

It means, if a person does not bear the fruit, they are not really repenting; they are just regretting it. That triggers the age-old question, “If we work on changing our lifestyle in order to be forgiven, then how can we say that we are saved by grace, not by work?”

That mystery was explained in my message last week. Like electricity, grace runs on two wires—grace in and grace out. The output of grace is our fruit, and the input is grace is the blood of Jesus Christ. We know grace is free but not cheap. Without the output of grace, we have what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.”

Then, using Prophet Isaiah’s message, John said,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.”
(Luke 3:4)

Again, this profound mystery can be explained by a light bulb analogy—it needs both the inflow and outflow of the current to light. God expects us to be not only recipients of grace but also carriers of grace. So, we need to make the path straight to allow the grace current to flow through us smoothly.

How do we make the path straight? It’s to maintain our integrity. How does grace have anything to do with our integrity? It’s simple. If you have grace, you don’t want to lie. If you have grace, you don’t hold grudges. If you have grace, you forgive. And so on.

The moment you show grace, you feel grace coming into your heart. Your brain will secret oxytocin, the healthiest happiness hormone.

I have discovered that oxytocin does not just make you happy but also heal your body. A Harvard research study shows that some people can work in a high-stress environment and still live a healthy life because they release oxytocin which quickly heals the negative effects of their stress before harming their health.

Don’t just take my word for it. The moment you make the path straight for grace to flow through, you feel the well-being and experience a profound state of freedom.

Then John said,

“Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;”
(Luke 3:5).

These metaphors will depend on your interpretation. What are the valleys of your heart? The valleys our fears, the chasms we are afraid of crossing. We fear the repercussions for our honesty. Sometimes, telling the truth can cause a backlash. Paul taught us to speak the truth with love. It means we can speak the truth with grace.

What are the mountains and hills that need to be made low? The mountains are a metaphor for difficult tasks. Sometimes we need to go the extra mile to fulfill grace.

For example, the Gift of Life program our church works with requires a lot of arduous procedures to bring a child with a heart condition from a third-world country to provide them a heart surgery.  It involves a lot of paperwork, resources, and negotiations. Only with grace can we take down those mountains.

How about the crooked paths? I think they are defensiveness, denials, and delays in distributing grace. We all know that the straight path is the shortest path. If we can do something today, don’t meander to tomorrow.

Some time back, a postman confided me that he would wander about in his mail truck so that he had to work overtime to get the overtime pay. Nowadays, I heard the USPS has found out about that loophole and has plugged it. The unnecessary overtime pay he earned those days might have ended up on his medical bills later. Was it worth it?

Integrity means “integratedness,” having our body, mind, and spirit in one accord, or our actions, thoughts, and words are in harmony. When that happens, we have a straight path.

John ended the quote by saying:

“and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:6).

When you make the path straight, all flesh will see the salvation of God because, as I said last week, grace is what fuels your light, and people will see your light shining bright and broad. Not all flesh may receive salvation, but God wants them to see its availability.

The salvation of God is our ultimate freedom from this stressful fallen world. We will all end up in a place where there is no more pain, no more tears, no more sickness, and no more suffering, but eternal love, peace, and joy at the presence of the Lord of grace.

The good news is that salvation does not just benefit us on the other side of eternity but also gives us a clear conscious in this life, knowing that we are forgiven despite our failure to maintain our integrity.  It allows us to start over with a clean slate to rebuild our integrity and strengthen our immunity.

John said that Jesus is the embodiment of “grace upon grace.” As we wait for the coming of Christ, let us make our path straight for his grace to flow through so that he is proud to see in us also like him “grace upon grace.”

That’s it for today, and I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I love receiving it from the Headoffice. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.

Amen!