Integrity and anti-corruption are foundational for character
The early Church (in the countries around the Mediterranean) experienced violent persecution. Countless sisters and brothers were martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ. It began at the first Church in Jerusalem with a deacon Stephen who, according to Acts 7, was stoned to death for his faith in Christ his Savior. However, Stephen was not the first person of the Church of Jerusalem to die. The first were Ananias and Sapphira, members of the Jerusalem Church. They did not tell the truth about their contribution to the Church, and because they lied – because they lacked integrity they were punished with death.
Martin Allaby, a member of the Micah Anti-Corruption Group, writes “It has been estimated that US$50 billion per annum may be stolen from money that Christians give to churches, para-church organizations, and secular organizations around the world.” Where are the individuals, the Christians, who demonstrate integrity?
Integrity: this is one of those terms we use often but without realizing its implications. “Integrity” is defined as: “honesty,” “uprightness,” “soundness,” “completeness,” “wholeness,” “incorruptible.” Evangelist Billy Graham, co-founder of the Lausanne Movement in 1974, said “When we speak of integrity as a moral value, it means that a person is the same on the outside as he is inside. There is no discrepancy between what he says and what he acts, between his talk and his walk.” Chris Wright, in his Cape Town presentation, said:
The overwhelming witness of the Bible is that the greatest problem for God in his redemptive mission for the world is his own people. What hurts God most, it seems, is not just the sin of the world, but the failure, disobedience and rebellion of those God has redeemed and called to be his people, his holy distinctive people… We have to deal with:
- The idols of power and pride
- The idols of popularity and success
- The idols of wealth and greed
Jesus himself was tempted in all three areas and resisted the temptation (Mt 4:1-11). With the help of our Lord Jesus Christ we can distance ourselves from all of these idols that tempt us, often on a daily basis.
For Jerald Daffee, integrity is the integrating element that unifies character, conduct, and one’s composite lifestyle. For him a simple working definition is:
- Integrity is playing by the rules
- Integrity is playing by the rules when no one else does
- Integrity is playing by the rules when one is playing alone
The best examples are Job (Job 6:29; 27:5), Joseph (Gen 39), and David (Ps 25:21; 41:12).
Everyone can list numerous examples of a lack of integrity in individuals. Consider these, which I have personally encountered:
- A good friend of mine in Kiev, Ukraine shared with me after a worship service that he had just landed his dream job, due to the efforts of a wealthy and influential family member, although there were many others applicants with better qualifications.
- A businessman turned down a lucrative government contract because he was unwilling to pay a large bribe. Another businessman, a member and elder of a church, received the contract because for him paying a bribe is part of doing business.
- A women’s group in my home church in Pforzheim, Germany spoke out vehemently against abortion. However, not one of the ladies distributes information about the realities of abortion or exposes politicians or organizations supporting abortion.
- More than once I have discovered that excellence is confused with success at any cost. Cheating, telling half-truths, and even stealing are accepted as normal as long as I am successful
- Travelling internationally, one constantly finds “culture” cited as an excuse for the practice of corruption, even from committed Christians. John Stott, United Kingdom, wrote, “For a Christian the Word of God must be above culture.”
- My nephew Derrick is a policeman. I am tempted to tell him that he should overlook my traffic violations!
- To be very honest, we hear what we want to hear, see what we want to see, do what we want to do, even if it is contrary to Scripture or if we hear God’s voice in our conscience. We need help.
To seriously address integrity one must begin with the condition of one’s own life. Do I strive to practice integrity, to be open to re-formation by God, to become more holy? It is not enough to condemn big bribery scandals or power-seeking individuals. We also have to examine ourselves.
“We, as followers of Christ, must not simply accept the reality of corruption in the world. We need to be concerned. ”
Time for Reflection on the Question: Am I a Person of Integrity? Sharing, Confessing, Celebrating, etc…. (Time for small group discussion)
Often we use expressions or terms without having a clear understanding of their meaning or implications. In recent days I have asked more than a dozen individuals for their definition of the term “corruption.” I received a great variety of answers. The term is defined by the Webster dictionary as: “to bribe,”” to spoil,” “morally unsound,” “perverted,” “wicked,” “evil.” Disturbing terms. Yet we have become immune to such reports because we hear almost daily in the media of scandals and financial scams involving government officials, businesses, and individuals. Our tendency is to say “So what?”
We still accept this terrible situation as being wrong but consider it beyond our control. We do nothing, and accept the situation – unfortunate, but reality. There are, however, some who have invested time, energy, finances in doing something about the situation.
- In India, a few businessmen confronted the leadership of churches involved in major corruption and challenged them to change. Leaders of the main denominations were invited to a conference on “Truth and Honesty.” They were shocked to hear the speaker say, “Dear Presidents, Bishops, Archbishops, Patriarchs, the evil is with you! You are involved in corruption, bribery, personal enrichment, evil!” The Holy Spirit touched several of those present, and public confession and radical corrections took place. Arpit Waghmare, a friend of our Lausanne team, leads “Operation Nehemiah,” the movement that grew out of this conference.
- In Germany, a father and son team did research on corruption in government, businesses, churches, and by individuals. They were shocked beyond belief by what they discovered. Thomas Schirrmacher, a senior theologian, and his son David, a young businessman, published their findings in a 110 page book.
- In Tanzania, a theological student selected for his dissertation the theme “Corruption Mocking at Justice.” Alfred Sebahene investigated the Anglican Church in his own country. Gershon Mwiti also deals with corruption in Africa and how dignity with integrity can replace corruption.
- “The “Micah Challenge,” a global organization. Initiated a few years ago by a group of individuals, deals with corruption and how to introduce transparency and honesty. The Micah Challenge is also represented in Europe, having conducted a major meeting in Oxford in 2019. Other similar organizations include “Transparency International”, “Faith and Public Integrity Network,” “Fides – equipping Christian leaders and churches in the fight against corruption.”
- When I established a Christian humanitarian agency in Austria and Switzerland I had to refuse several offers from advertising agencies who offered help only if I would pay secretly some money to the manager. Publishing houses wanted to make the same deal: free advertising for kick-backs.
Bishop Hwa Yung (Malaysia) describes similar situations in Asia.
6. The faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary developed a 140 page workshop study guide on integrity, “Examining How I Live.” This book can be used by any group of academics, pastors, students, or laypeople desiring to examine their own lives.
7. The leadership of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization held in Cape Town in 2010 recognized the need to pay special attention to the issue of corruption and integrity. To this end, Chris Wright spoke on “Calling the Church of Christ Back to Humility, Integrity, and Simplicity,” and Chapter IIE of the Cape Town Commitment deals with the issue. A global network on “Integrity & Anti-Corruption” has also been established. This is a joint effort of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and Lausanne and is led by Efraim Tendero, Philippines, and Manfred Kohl, Canada. Membership is open to anyone interested in this important topic.
The next conference on Integrity will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria on May 01 and 02, 2020.*
We, as followers of Christ, must not simply accept the reality of corruption in the world. We need to be concerned. We are called to be the light of the world (Mt 5:14), and there are many ways in which we can fight corruption. However, there is another side of this issue, the need to examine ourselves. Corruption is simply the reflection of a lack of integrity.
Time for Reflection on the Question: What Can I / We Do to Tame the Beast of Bribes, Corruption, Extortion, etc… (Time for small group discussion)
* Cancelled due to the coronavirus