Political leaders and well-known personalities seem to be falling like flies these days, the result of various accusations of sexual misconduct, harassment, or verbal abuse. Sins of youth are being remembered and broadcast across national media.
Christians are not immune. In fact, Christian leaders are Satan’s preferred target. There is nothing that gives him greater delight than to see Christian leaders fall from grace through scandal, whether it’s sexual misconduct or issues related to fraud or theft. A lifetime of godly living and a reputation of being a person of integrity can come crashing down in a momentary lapse of judgment.
Christian leaders need to live lives of integrity if they expect others to follow them, whether that’s in church, in politics, or in business. If people are going to follow someone, they want the assurance that their leader can be trusted. They want to know that he or she will keep their promises and follow through with their commitments.
Samuel’s ‘farewell speech’ as he approached retirement (I Samuel 12) is probably the envy of every Christian leader today. As he addressed the nation in his State of the Union address, he said: “Here I stand. 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 bride to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.”
The reply from that massive crowd, as they reflected on Samuel’s long reign, is incredible by today’s standards. “You have not cheated or oppressed us. You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”
That’s the standard of integrity by which we should all live and guide our actions. Samuel was a great leader because he understood leadership as an opportunity to serve people and add quality to their life. He detested a leadership model that used its power to exploit those he led for personal gain and position.
Jesus regularly addressed the integrity issue during his brief ministry. He referred to Pharisees as hypocrites, usually preceding his rebuke with a “Woe to you.” Hypocrisy is the polar opposite of integrity. Pharisees didn’t live up to that standard. When we talk about integrity today, we generally use other closely related terms such as ethics and morality.
So, using Samuel as a model of integrity, how are you doing? And while it’s a question that all of us need to answer, it’s addressed especially to Christian men and women involved in business or the professions.
Are you dealing ethically with your customers? Do you provide them with a quality product or service? Do you provide your employees with a fair wage and benefits, and do you treat them as fellow image-bearers of Christ?
When it comes to stewardship, do you treat your budget and your bottom line with integrity? Do you support Christian charities, including your local church. Is Christ reflected in the way you run your business?
This office receives occasional phone calls from people who wonder if the Canadian Christian Business Federation (CCBF) is like a "Christian Better Business Bureau" because they have a few issues with a business owner whose ethics don't match up to his or her profession as a Christian. Those callers are encouraged to contact that business owner’s local church. That’s where accountability and integrity starts and ends.
For all of us who call ourselves 'Christians,' we are called to live up to our name. To do otherwise would be a slap in the face of our Lord. May we all come to the end of our lives with the same level of integrity that Samuel experienced.