September 2022 | Jesus, the Door

Integrity in Crisis

Integrity in Crisis

Dr. Laji Paul

Eric Liddle is known as a missionary and sprinter for the Lord. He was born in 1902, in China to missionary parents. He studied in a boarding school and soon became a successful sprinter specializing in the 100 meters. In 1924, when he was given an opportunity to run for the 100 meters in the Olympics, he refused when he found out that it was scheduled for Sunday. Many criticized him. It was hard and uncomfortable. However Eric refused to compromise.  He chose to stand for his beliefs and convictions. 

Christ like disciples can only impact this generation. An essential quality in a Christ like disciple is a life of intimacy with Jesus so that the character of Jesus is reflected in the integrity in our interpersonal relationships. There is no doubt that this contributes to the credibility of the message we proclaim and adds to the health of the Church. 

God is revealed in the Bible as an unchanging God. His loving-kindness and faithfulness never changes. He is the God of integrity and desires integrity in those who have committed to serve him. Integrity is a quality or state of being complete or undivided. It means being the same inside and out. No double standards. 

The term integrity has within it the idea of an integer in mathematics. It means a whole number, not one number and part of another number. We are considered to be whole when our beliefs have been integrated into our behaviour. A person of integrity is not fractionalized with duplicity or hypocrisy. People of integrity begin a job and finish it. If they make a promise they keep it. If they commit a mistake they admit it. They are whole and complete without a fractionalized life. God is concerned that we are whole. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the mind to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Jer. 17:9, 10. 

How do we engage in mission with integrity in today’s context of a crisis due to the pandemic? The Covid–19 pandemic can be compared to a tsunami which has affected almost every sphere of the society. A crisis of unparalleled proportions in the context of which paradoxical terms like the ‘new normal’ has emerged. There has been a frenzied activity in response to the enormous needs that have emerged. 

The traditional understanding of mission as an activity is severely restricted and challenged on many fronts. The Bible always emphasizes mission as our life rather than an activity to be done. This does not negate the importance of relevant and need based activities springing out of our relationship with God. The call of Abraham, choosing the nation of Israel and the Church should be understood in the context of election-ethical living–mission. God has called us (elected us) to live ethical lives. The basis of ethical life is God’s word. As we do so we are engaged in a mission. The way we live is an affirmation of what we do. 

Christopher Wright in his book, The Mission of God has defined mission as, our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation.” (Wright 23). 

Mission activities are always challenging and exciting; however the basis of such engagement should be from our identity as God’s people and should be an overflow of our walk with God. 

For a disciple, challenges are opportunities to glorify God. Even as we go through this season of global pandemic, it is a life of integrity that will propel us to reveal to the world the love and hope of the Kingdom.  

A quick glimpse of some of God’s people in the Word will help us see the importance of this truth. 

The Integrity of Noah 

Noah is described as a person of integrity (Gen 6:9). He was righteous and blameless in his generation. God chose him as an instrument of his redemption when he decided to judge humankind for its wickedness. The term blameless is not sinless perfection but it refers to the person who is exceptionally obedient to God. These attributes were in him because he walked with God. (Gen 6:9). Is our walk with God, reflected in our life of integrity to those around us? Rather than being mystical God is calling us to be practical people who reflect our commitment to walk the talk. 

The Integrity of Samuel 

The last judge of Israel testifies before the people, “Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.” (1 Samuel 12:3). 

The passage reveals that Samuel had already determined that he would never compromise on his beliefs and use his position to manipulate or cheat people whom he was called to serve. As a result people respected him. A person of integrity draws respect from the people. 

It is sad to see celebrity figures with no accountability structures around them. Unfortunately the ‘baba culture’ (the tendency to assume the role of god man rather than a servant leader) has crept into ministry and is fast gaining popularity.   

Importance is given to quick visibility rather than faithful obscurity. Let us never forget that we represent Christ. In no way should we dishonor the name of our Lord and become stumbling blocks to those in search of the truth. 

The Integrity of David 

When we think of David the first thing that often comes to our mind is that he sinned. The Bible never portrays its characters as flawless heroes but as people with flaws restored by the grace of God. What does the scripture say about this king of Israel? 

Psalm 78, verse 72 states, “… And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.”  

Psalm 78 is a historical Psalm. It summarizes Israel’s history. What is history? It is not only past events frozen in time but it is ‘here’ and ‘now.’ We are a part of history. Those who have blessed history are those who have trusted in God and have led lives of integrity and done things skillfully 

Psalm 78:70 says, “God chose David his servant….” Choosing is by God. John 15:16 says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit …fruit that will last.” 

Psalm 78, verse 71 says “… from tending sheep …he brought him…” Ordinary life is important. Many a time we are eagerly waiting for a dramatic future but it is the day to day ordinary life which has to be given value. We might feel the routine of ordinary life mundane but it is the crucible in which we are prepared for the future. 

Apostle Paul in his letter to the believers at Colosse writes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Col 3:23-24).  

The disciples of Christ whether in the marketplace or behind the pulpit should be driven by a spirit of excellence because the vocation the Lord has given us is the place of ministry where our lives and work is a testimony for those around us. 

A classic example is that of Brother Lawrence who served in a Carmelite monastery in Paris. During his time as a friar he was much preoccupied with cultivating a keen sensitivity to the presence of God in everyday life.  

This was not done in isolation but as he peeled potatoes and cleaned the cutlery of the monastery. He cultivated intimacy with the Lord he loved and reflected integrity in the work he was entrusted with. This was recorded in a book compiled after his death, “The Practice of the Presence of God.”  

Psalm 78, verse 72 talks about King David shepherding God’s people with integrity of heart and skilful hands. Was his integrity seen only after he became a King? Was he a man of integrity even as a shepherd?   

David was tending his father’s sheep. How did he do it? He was responsible, accountable and willing to risk his life for the sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-37). The good shepherd is ready to lay down his life for the sheep (John 10:14-15). David risked his own life to take care of his father’s sheep. He reflected integrity in his work. 

When Prophet Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah, David says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (1 Samuel 12:1-15). In other words I have compartmentalized my life and separated what I believe from what I have done. He repents and prays, “Create in me a pure heart O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10. People of integrity admit their mistakes and acknowledge their need for God’s help in their lives. 

Another example we see in David’s life is that when he could have taken King Saul’s life, he did not do so. He believed that Saul was God’s chosen King and practiced his belief by not willing to kill Saul even when he had an opportunity. He learned to wait for God’s timing. He did not compromise his actions in the light of his beliefs. 

Today we see tragic examples of God’s people pursuing short cuts, willing to compromise with their beliefs, fractionalize their life just for some selfish temporal gains and in the process lose the eternal.   

The Integrity of Nehemiah 

Two men whom God used in the work of restoration during the post exilic period were Nehemiah and Ezra. While Nehemiah rebuilt the broken walls of Jerusalem which was essential to preserve the identity of the community, Ezra initiated religious reforms to return the people back to the law and the covenant. Nehemiah served as the governor of Jerusalem for two terms. 

Nehemiah’s challenge was to build trust. He was committed to integrity. He was committed to do the right things for the right reason even when he was not accountable to anyone. He gained trust because of his integrity. A person of integrity is trusted. 

“But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that.” (Neh 5:15). He avoided misuse of his office for his personal gain. An exemplary example of integrity! 

An interesting observation is that Nehemiah’s integrity springs from his reverence for God. Today for many leaders reverence for God is only a truth to be expounded from the pulpit rather than something to be exhibited in their life. 

The Integrity of Daniel 

In Daniel chapter 6 we see that Daniel's work and character were beyond reproach. When the new King Darius decided to appoint 120 governors with administrators overseeing them, Daniel was being considered to be appointed as the chief administrator. This led to jealousy among the other administrators which led them to plot Daniel’s downfall. They carefully searched for something to accuse him of but failed because he was neither dishonest nor negligent.  What a testimony! Daniel’s life is an example of how ethical behaviour and right choices at every stage of his life helped him in not compromising his integrity in times of crisis. “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9). 

To be people of integrity, we should commit ourselves to a few core values. It is these values which will guide our choice, decision and actions. Integrity is a matter of heart. 

Cultivating Integrity in Our Lives 

God is watching our hearts. “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. The Message Bible puts this as, “Keep vigilant watch over your heart that is where life starts.” 

Integrity and character is built intentionally by consistently making the right choices again and again until they become a part of your nature. 

Lord Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to his disciples. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts1:8).  

The power of the Holy Spirit is to transform our lives not merely to add power to our words. When our lives are transformed, we become witness to the gospel. Words backed by a life of integrity are bound to transform lives. 

The truth remains that we are saved by grace. Grace is not a license to sin. Grace carries with it responsibility. The responsibility to practice the disciplines of spiritual life of prayer, meditating the Scriptures and fellowship. All with the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the constant clinging to the cross and appropriating the love and forgiveness offered to us through the finished work of the cross that will help us to overcome the flesh, world and the evil one. Failing which the gap between the beliefs we hold and the life we live is bound to increase leading to loss of integrity. 

Today the world is impressed by charisma but God is looking foremost for character. It is necessary for the gospel to renew us on a daily basis before engaging in the work of renewal. Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s most respected political leaders, statesman and lawyer said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.” 

The Covid season should be a time of deep introspection for us as the body of Christ if our engagement in mission springs from our identity as God’s people. One word aptly defines us as God’s person is that we are people of integrity. It is a life of sincerity with no deception or masks. Integrity is not about what we have but what we are. 

When Eric Liddell chose to be a person of integrity in his choice to forgo an event for which he was prepared, God honoured him. He was allowed to compete for another event for which he was not prepared but he won the race and the gold medal. 

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Proverbs 11:3). 

(The writer acknowledges the use of select bibliography in compiling this article)   

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