Malaysia has a modern-day Daniel—a man renowned for his integrity, appointed to a high position in a government that is predominantly Muslim. Senator Datuk Paul Low serves as one of only two Christian non-political appointee Ministers in a cabinet of 32. He reports directly to the Prime Minister and his appointment is to initiate and oversee the government transformation program.
His portfolio is Minister for Integrity, Governance and Human Rights. As far as he can determine, Malaysia, where Muslims comprise over 60 percent of the population and where Malay-language Bibles and other Christian literature are restricted, has the only government in the world that has created such a cabinet-level post.
Bringing righteousness to government
In the 2008 and 2013 elections, the Malaysian electorate expressed their growing dissatisfaction with public corruption and the lack of social justice, and the government lost its two-thirds majority.
Datuk Paul Low, the immediate past President of Transparency International Malaysia, was well known as an executive in the glass and auto industries, and served previously as President of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers, as well as in various key government agencies and a number of international multilateral organizations. He is also an elder in his church, and the founder of a Christian counseling ministry.
His present responsibilities include collaborating with Federal Ministers as well as State Governments to promote good governance, and to strengthen transparency and accountability. He says: ‘We must bring righteousness to government . . . People want a clean government.’ Deeply and humbly aware of the magnitude of his responsibility, he earnestly and regularly requests prayer.
Datuk Paul Low served as a presenter and participant at a workshop in Hong Kong in September 2014 for one of the newest of the 36 issue networks of the Lausanne Movement, focusing on integrity, co-led by Bishop Efraim Tendero of the Philippines and Dr. Manfred Kohl of OC International. The Cape Town Commitment says: ‘We cannot build the kingdom of the God of truth on foundations of dishonesty . . . Let us strive for a culture of full integrity and transparency. We will choose to walk in the light and truth of God, for the Lord tests the heart and is pleased with integrity.’
As part of my role of overseeing the Lausanne Senior Associates and the issue networks, I was invited to speak on the connection between integrity and Lausanne’s historic focus on world evangelization.
1. Our understanding of integrity
The first connection is found in our fundamental understanding of integrity. Paragraph six of The Lausanne Covenant says: ‘World evangelization requires the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world’ (emphasis added). The concept of whole is fundamental to the understanding of integrity.
Integrity. The basic meaning of the English word integrity is ‘whole, not divided’. It is related to the Latin word integer, which means a whole number, not divided into fractions. Integrity is about wholeness, completeness, consistency.
Tōm. The basic meaning of the Hebrew word tōm, translated ‘integrity’ in the Old Testament, is completeness, fullness. Nothing is missing. Nothing is deficient. Nothing is out of alignment.
Aphthoria. The meaning of the Greek word aphthoria, translated ‘integrity’ in the New Testament, is ‘morally sound, pure’, literally, ‘without corruption’. Integrity is in fact the opposite of corruption. To have integrity means to ‘have it all together’ morally.
When asked to name the greatest commandment, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6, saying in Mark 12:29-30: ‘The most important one is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’ All . . . all . . . all . . . all . . . the whole . . . no admixture of other motives and agendas.
For 40 years the Lausanne Movement has been calling the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world—to leave no one and nothing out. The call to personal integrity is about bringing the whole of life into alignment with the person, the teaching, and the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus is Lord of all. There is no sector of society, no corner of creation, no aspect of personal life that Christ does not claim as his. Not finances, not business, not sexuality, not motives. Integrity is about wholeness on the personal level.
2. Our understanding of the gospel
The second point of connection comes in our understanding of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. The Greek word euanngelizo, transliterated in English as ‘evangelize’, means to announce good news. That good news includes the whole of the story of God and his interactions with the human race, from creation, to the fall, to redemption, to the final consummation—all centered in the person and work of the promised Messiah, Jesus. This story is good news. It is not just words, but it is expressed in actions that are for the common public good, and for the individual’s personal good.
Jesus was full of grace and truth. He was the embodiment of the fullness of God’s character. As followers of Jesus we are called to be full of grace and truth. To have integrity is to be consistent, to be complete, to be free from corruption, in both grace and truth. And that kind of life is good news to those who encounter us.
Redemption and lift
Donald McGavran, the great missionary to India in the mid 20th century, documented the changes that happened when whole families and people groups began to turn to Jesus. He spoke of ‘redemption and lift’.
That is, when people repented and believed and welcomed the good news of Jesus, and began to align their lives with Jesus’ teaching, entire communities advanced. Their health improved, their educational level went up, public drunkenness and sexual debauchery went down, family life became more peaceful, they began to earn more and save more, their treatment of the disabled and the weak became more compassionate.
When people start to live lives of integrity, full of grace and truth, they serve the common good. They become good news to the contexts in which they function—their homes, their extended families, their neighborhoods, their businesses, their institutions, their civic lives.
Daniel as a model
Daniel was a man of integrity, demonstrated in everything from the food he was willing to take into his body, to his refusal to worship or give ultimate allegiance to anyone except God alone. He was willing to speak the truth respectfully and graciously, without spinning it or shading it, even in the corridors of power to intimidating leaders like Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. His leadership was considered so beneficial that he continued to serve despite several changes of administration and even changes of empire.
The living embodiment of the grace of God and the truth of God lifts a whole society. Consistent applications of grace and truth, expressed in straightforward business dealings, honest research, transparency in government leadership, fulfillment of contracts, concern for the last and least, respect and kindness toward all the different segments of society (ethnicity and national origin, age, ability and disability, gender) all contribute to shalom, that beautiful Hebrew word describing a state of peace and righteousness and wholeness toward which God’s mission is aimed.
This provides the common ground for Lausanne’s Global Integrity Network with other networks and movements in society as a whole working toward integrity and against corruption. In obeying and serving Jesus Christ as Lord in every dimension of life, in being embodiments of the grace and truth expressed fully only in Jesus Christ, but awakened by his Holy Spirit’s operation in us as well, we become agents for the common good.
Many of the other Lausanne issue networks find this same common ground in working with others for the common good, such as those focused on Creation Care, Disability Concerns, and Freedom and Justice. Jeremiah called the Jewish exiles in Babylon to seek the peace, that is, the shalom and the prosperity of the city to which they had been taken (Jer 29:7).
A focus on integrity supplies us with common ground with those who seek the common good. It enables us to be good news to our societies, as agents of grace and truth, and it prepares the way for us to speak the more complete good news about God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. Jesus called us to be salt and light. Integrity beams light into the darkness. Integrity preserves a society from decay.
3. Our understanding of what may be the greatest hindrance to world evangelization
In the third place, a focus on integrity addresses what may be the greatest hindrance to world evangelization—that is, the lack of integrity in the church.
Hypocrisy is so destructive to the witness of the church. The Barna Group carried out a major research project on the increasingly negative reputation of evangelical Christians in the USA, especially among younger adults, resulting in a book entitled UnChristian.
First on the list of six common points of skepticism and objection is the perception among people outside the church community that Christians are hypocritical, saying one thing and doing another, pretending to be something unreal, conveying a polished image that is not accurate1—in other words, lacking integrity. I have heard similar statements numerous times in other countries as well, substantiating the assertion that the greatest threats to world evangelization do not come from the world but from the church itself.
Paul wrote to Titus: ‘In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us’ (Titus 2:7-8).
However, if our lives do not express integrity, wholeness, freedom from corruption, if there are inconsistencies and cracks, people will not believe or welcome our message—they will reject the good news as too good to be true, or as obviously not relevant. If people do not feel they can trust what we will do or say, if they are not assured that we are working for the common good, or for their personal good, they will not take seriously what we say about anything else—including the good news of Jesus Christ.
So the stakes are immensely high. The Global Integrity Network has an opportunity not only to build common ground with those who do not yet believe, and to prepare the way for the proclamation and further demonstration of the gospel, but also to rally the global church and its leaders, so that the church does not through its hypocrisy and its lack of integrity undermine or undo all that is being done to bear witness to the good news of Jesus throughout the world. People like Senator Datuk Paul Low of Malaysia are pointing the way.
1 David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity . . . and Why It Matters (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2007), 27.