This is the first article in a 3-part series on integrity, which has been contributed by a worker in Turkey.
We all intend and assume that whatever we do, we do with integrity. But do we? After almost 30 years living in a Muslim country and watching many foreign believers, with great intentions come and go, I have come to appreciate how hard it is to maintain integrity in our lives and work—all we do. I don’t say this to shame anyone, otherwise I would also be shaming myself. I say this to help broaden our understanding of the challenges we face living in out the gospel, no matter where we live.
I’ve been asking myself, “Why is it so hard to have integrity, particularly in the so-called closed countries that most of us work in?” In searching for answers, I found that Paul speaks to this;
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.2 Corinthians 4:7-11
We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.2 Corinthians 6:3-10
From Paul’s experience we can list some of the issues:
a. Pressed on every side (but not crushed)
b. Perplexed (but not in despair)
c. Persecuted (but not abandoned)
d. Struck down (but not destroyed)
e. We have … troubles
k. Hard work
l. Sleepless nights
n. Bad and good reports
o. Genuine (yet regarded as imposters)
p. Known, (yet regarded as unknown)
q. Dying (yet living on)
r. Beaten (but not killed)
s. Sorrowful (yet always rejoicing),
t. Poor (yet making others rich),
u. Having nothing (and yet possessing everything)
To summarize this list and my own experiences, it’s tough to maintain integrity because of daily constant pressures we face. Before we moving overseas with an international company, we were required to attend a cross-cultural training course. One of the trainers said, “Whatever you’ve got going on inside you and in your relationships, the pressure of living overseas will intensify it. For example, if you have a good marriage, it will get better. If you have a rocky marriage, it will get worse.” And he was right! Pressure intensifies what is going on inside of us.
The country I now live in, Turkey, is an interesting case study. The country is struggling to identify itself as a secular republic, however, 99.9% of the people firmly believe that you can’t be a true Turk unless you are a Muslim. Unlike many other countries in the region, Christians and their governments have been the enemy of Turks for over 800 years. Understandably, though constitutionally secular, the people and government are very closed to Christian activities … or are they? Is there a kind of Christian activity that would be welcomed here?
Consider the typical missionary family serving in any Muslim country. They are in their 30’s, have a university education and have 2 or 3 children. They come into the country having no job. They tell their neighbors that they are here because, “We love the country and the people.” They spend 2 years learning the language with no visible means of support. Their neighbors will smile and say “Hello” in the elevator, but no one really wants to get very close to them. Yet, then the missionary family wonders why do they feel so unwelcome? Naively they don’t realize that the circumstances of their living here has marked them as either a CIA agent or a missionary. Both are not welcome. The missionaries’ statements about themselves, who they are, what they are doing in the country—lack integrity.
To be continued …