TROUBLESHOOTING INTEGRITY | WITH DR. KWAKU OBENG AMPONSAH
What is Integrity?
Integrity is the quality of being whole, perfect or complete. It encompasses honesty, fairness and an adherence to a code of moral ethics.
The word shares the same root with the word integer which is a negative or positive WHOLE number. Fractions and decimals are not integers. Thus, a man of integrity does not live his life in “fractions”. He maintains the same, whole identity everywhere he goes.
Another word that shares the same etymology as integrity is “entire” which also paints a picture of wholeness and perfection.
Why is integrity IMPORTANT in our lives as young Christians?
Integrity is very relevant in our lives as young Christians because firstly, we are the image of God in this world. As the bible puts it, we are ambassadors of Christ here on earth. We give this world an idea of who God is. Jesus Christ is in heaven, but here on earth we are his visible representatives. God is Spirit, but He reveals His attributes physically through believers. A corrupt Christian is actually telling the world that God is also corrupt, which is not so.
God is spirit, but He reveals His attributes physically through believers. A corrupt Christian is actually telling the world that God is also corrupt . . .
Secondly, corruption is a contradiction to our new nature in Christ. Jesus said this so very clearly when he likened us to salt and light in Matthew 5:13-16. Light banishes darknesss and salt flavours food. Light that becomes darkness is useless; just as salt that has lost its flavour. A Christian will never have true peace within if he is corrupt because he will be living contrary to his true nature.
Finally, our actions serve as signposts that either lead people to God or away from Him. When we portray God rightly through our actions, it will cause others to get saved. Therefore Jesus admonished in Matthew 5:16 that when we let our lights shine (through our actions), men will give glory to God! Your ability to shine in spite of the darkness or corruption around you will ultimately bring men to God!
This world is seeking for for leaders with integrity, and frontliners without character flaws. The young Christian should accept the challenge to be the answer the world is searching for in this regard!
How do Christians compromise on integrity in their daily lives?
Christians compromise on integrity mainly by failing to protect their personal values in the pursuit of success. One biblical story paints this vividly:
The city of Ai, after their first victory over Israel threw caution to the wind in the second battle. Every single man in the city joined the pursuit of Israel leaving their own city unprotected. Unfortunately for them, Israel had set an ambush and the city got defeated.
Likewise, many people today, in their pursuit of success, fame and wealth throw caution to the wind after a few accomplishments. They leave their “Ai”s — (I) (personal values)— unprotected to achieve greater feats.
Often, Christians pursue great dreams with reckless abandon, sacrificing precious values on the “altar” of success or wealth! Their eyes get so transfixed on reaching higher echelons of power and education that any and every path seems right… Sadly, such people get “ambushed” and eventually, the world ends up having very successful but morally-bankrupt individuals – famous celebrities and glamorous leaders who are actually moral monsters! These will either ultimately lose all they already gained or they will retain their temporal (earthly) success but become eternally irrelevant!
In the pursuit of success, some Christians tend to lose sight of what is most important and experience a crisis in prioritising. Therefore, they end up trading character for wealth, integrity for fame, honesty for prevarication, purity for debauchery and virtue for vice in the pursuit of success.
What life experiences have you had concerning integrity?
I have had quite a number of experiences. I would share one experience where I compromised and another experience where I stuck to my values.
Christians compromise on integrity mainly by failing to protect their personal values in the pursuit of success.
Once, in my second year in University, I mistakenly overlooked a particular topic in preparing for a test. Much to my chagrin, the major question was from that topic . . . we wrote the test under laxed supervision as people communciated here and there exchanging answers. I could not but succumb and ask a good lady friend for help. Then, I could not bear the thought of losing all those marks, neither could I trust God enough to see me through without asking for help. For weeks after that, I was very sad that I had gone against my own principles. I apologised to the lady for seeking her help, prayed about it and with time my conscience recovered from the guilt of that action. Afterwards, I resolved never to cross that line personally again.
On the flipside, I had an opportunity to tell a lie in a clinical exam during my Final MBChB exam (which could apparently have fetched me very good marks). In clerking my patient, I had failed to ask a particular question. In discussing the case and its management with my examiners, I was queried about it — replying in the positive would apparently have shown my brilliance. Though I was sorely tempted to do so, I decided to tell the truth and immediately saw the disappointment on the faces of my examiners. They were not happy I had overlooked that detail. However to my utter surprise and amazement, after the results were collated I was adjudged one of five overall best students in that clincal exam!
There are several other experiences where I faced challenges in practising what I teach others.
I have not always been bold enough to stick to my principles, but I can boldly say that it always pays to be a person of integrity. The benefits may not come now or in the near future, but the God who sees in secret will certainly reward you openly one day, even if it has to be in heaven!
Should a Christian condone bribery as a socially/culturally accepted norm?
A Christian should not condone bribery as a socially accepted norm.
I do not believe that bribery and other corrupt practices were initially part and parcel of any society or culture in the world. They were introduced with time and became commonplace in some societies as many people began to compromise instead of enforcing rules and encouraging proper behaviour. Therefore the young Christian can challenge the status quo and re-introduce what is right. With time, as more people jump unto the bandwagon, the concerted effort could make bribery and corruption a thing of the past.
Using the simile of salt once more, we realise that a particular amount of food does not need a commensurate amount of salt to season or flavour it. Just a little salt can give the optimum flavour to a particular dish. Similarly, you can make a change in the society even if you are the only person who decides not to accept or give bribes.The effect would only be amplified if all Christians decide to do same!
What practical ways can we adopt to tackle the menace of corruption in our society?
The most important way is to maintain personal fellowship with God through all our life’s pursuits.
Jesus subtly iterated this when he said we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. A biblical commentator on visiting the site where Jesus sat when he made this statement made startling observations that help us answer this question.
He noticed that the valley was white with crytalline salt, which were formed from weathered parent rock underneath. However, men never used the visible, upper salt crytals for seasoning of food. This was beacause, due to their constant exposure to the elements of the weather like rain, heat, cold and the like, they had lost their saltiness over time. Such were scraped or broken off for road constrution. However, the deeper crystals revealed upon scraping of the upper layer- those which were closer to the parent rock from which they came- still maintained their saltiness and were rather used for seasoning.
Jesus was making a covert comparison in using this simile:
As believers, we come from Christ (our parent rock), in order for us to maintain our saltiness or integrity in a perverse world we need to remain connected to Him – the Rock. It is only those who remain close to Him in fellowship that can maintain their saltiness (integrity, personal values). Believers who get too involved with the elements of this world, without maintaining a connection with their source ultimately lose their saltiness and like the visible upper salt crystals, will no longer be good for seasoning.
It’s not wrong to seek to be a political leader, business tycoon, a trade mogul or any of the sort but the caution is that as you become more and more involved in worldly pursuits, you should not give up your personal fellowship with God. More work should not mean less time with God- it rather should necessitate extra time with Him in fellowship because that is what will keep you successful in your new endeavours.
The same principle is painted with regards to us being lights of the this world (Matthew 5:14). Notice that a light bulb, as long as it is connected to its power source will shine brighter when the darkness around it increases!
Two ways to increase the brightness of a light bulb are either to increases the power supply to the bulb, or increase the darkness around it. Both will make the bulb appear to shine brighter.
More work should not mean less time with God — it rather should necessitate extra time with Him in fellowship because that is what will keep you successful in your new endeavours.
In the daytime, streetlight lights do not appear bright, because of the presence of the sun. However at night, those same lights, with the same power flowing through them shine brighter because of true darkness! Similarly, as a light of this world the darkness and evil we see around will only cause you to shine brighter if you stay connected to your source – God. The Holy Spirit is a power source that doesn’t fluctuate, or need to be recharged. There is no dumsor with Him, Praise the Lord!
The corruption in this world will not taint a believer if he learns to keep His connection of fellowship with God. He will rather become a tool to expose, and dispel it.
Other ways I will mention briefly include:
- Defining a personal set of values you hope to never compromise on. Without a carefully guarded sense of morality, nothing defines ‘how far is too far?’ in pursuing success. Thus, we may go to any length (whether good or bad) just to “make it” in life – achieving success by hook or crook! Daniel and his three Hebrew friends had personal values they refused to compromise on even in a foreign land. Joseph was also not willing to sin against God by sleeping with Potiphars wife. Never allow a momentary pursuit to unravel the delicate, painstakingly-sewn seams of your moral fabric; such a mistake will surely expose the nakedness of your personal value-system to the world!
- Cultivate good habits consciously. Daniel had a custom of praying on his own since the “early days” according to Daniel 6:10. Since this habit was already ingrained in him, the king’s new edict banning prayer or worship to other gods could not stop him from praying. From childhood, we should instil Christian values in our children, and they will not depart from the training when they grow.
- Practise what you teach. Learn to do what you advise others to do. According to Acts 1:1, Jesus both did and taught the lessons he shared. Paul also exemplified his own teachings (Phillipians 4:9). Do not say one thing while you practice the direct opposite. Jesus warned against such hypocrisy, which was common amongst the Pharisees.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Speak with caution. Be a man or woman of your words. Do not make promises you know you cannot fulfil. Every idle word we speak will have to be accounted for (Mark 4:22).
- Discipline yourself to stick to your financial budget. Learn to live within your means. Overspending will only predispose you to using wrong means to get more money.
- Expose rather than cover up and condone the corrupt deeds of others. (Ephesians 5:11)
All these can be summarized by saying: In all you do “Focus on pleasing God and not men”.Most of our problems in life stem from our bid to please men.
How does it work – an incorruptible Christian politician?
I believe it is very possible to be an incorruptible Christian politician. We are the light of this world and the salt of this earth. We are to be lights to the world, not the church. Thus we are meant to get into the systems and structures of this world and influence them with our light for Christ.
In the same vein, salt cannot season food that it is separate from! To give flavour to food salt must come into contact with it; we cannot influence the world and its systems if we behave as hermits, secluding ourselves from it. We have the power to influence the world without getting influenced by it.
A Christian politician would be successful if he:
- Maintains his or her personal relationship with God. I have already spoken about the benefits of this earlier. Maintaining personal fellowship with God will provide the requisite strength and fortitude to prevent compromise on his Christian ideals.
- Understands the real reason for his position: Politics, business and all fields of endeavour are not an end in themselves. They are avenues through which God expects us to influence the world, make life better and bring people to Christ. That’s why Jesus came – that we may have life and have it more abundantly. The Christian politician’s main aim is to make life better for his constituents or jurisdiction. The money, wealth, fame and the like are all transient and are additions. They are minors. And he or she should not make the mistake of majoring of such minors, and rather minor on his major purpose!
In the heat of your pursuits, be it political or otherwise, do not let the allure of success cause you to leave the purity of your persona unguarded! Adopt Paul’s mantra: “…I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16)