I watched with sadness this week as a colleague in ministry in our Presbytery was forced to admit that he had plagiarized portions of his sermons over the last couple of years. I say forced since the admission came about when a church member confronted him having recognized portions of his sermons from the work of a number of well-known pastors, both in our denomination and elsewhere. It was a sad thing to behold. I’m glad to see that it looks as though this situation will end well.
It got me thinking about the price of integrity. When I was in law school my legal writing professor stressed to us the value of solid, accurate legal research in the memos and briefs that we wrote. The reason? The quality and accuracy of one’s writing and research is a huge part of our one’s reputation before the bench. One brief in which you misconstrue, misinterpret, misrepresent, or intentionally stretch the meaning of the case law for your particular matter at hand, you lose credibility. And it takes a long time to get it back.
The underlying principle is important to note: it only takes one bad decision to damage your reputation.