Force for Good:
Christian Ethics and Integrity
By Peter Amsterdam
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One of TFI’s core beliefs is that the life of a Christian should be a living example of God’s love, both in word and in deed, and manifest the spiritual virtues enumerated in the Bible.1 We also believe that we should avoid conformity to attitudes and values that are contrary to God’s teachings.2
Our ethical standards, as Christians, are built around our core beliefs and our core values. Integrity is the quality of possessing and adhering to high moral principles and standards. It’s also honesty. Integrity means upholding our beliefs and living our everyday life according to those beliefs.
People expect Christians to operate with a high degree of integrity, and they respect people who live up to their ethics. Once people become aware that you are a Christian or a missionary or a volunteer for a Christian organization, they will generally expect integrity and honesty. It’s expected that Christians have high principles and that they strive to uphold them.
The people you try to reach will want to see whether your walk matches your talk. They will want to find out whether they can trust you. I think we’ve all discovered through our interactions with people that they often expect an even higher standard of integrity of Christians than they do of other people. While we acknowledge that we Christians are flawed beings—weak vessels through which the Lord works—people expect Christians to be a living example of their faith, and are disappointed when they don’t meet these expectations.
Following are some definitions of integrity:
The dictionary defines integrity as “the state of being complete, unified.” When I have integrity, my words and my deeds match up. I am who I am, no matter where I am or who I am with.
Integrity is not what we do so much as who we are. And who we are, in turn, determines what we do. Our system of values is so much a part of us that we cannot separate it from ourselves. It becomes the navigating system of our lives.3
Integrity is about what we will not do, about what we will not give up, about what we stand for at all costs … Integrity is very much at the center of who we are, and to lose it is to lose an essential part of our identity.4
Integrity means “the quality or state of being complete or undivided” and indicates firm adherence to our values. Our values are the things we hold dear, the things that are most important to us as we shape our lives. Living by them is integrity.
When you do something that is in alignment with what you believe—what you say is important to you—there is an internal sense of peace and well-being … even if doing it is difficult! It just “feels” so right. When your behavior clashes with your values, the opposite is true.5
Integrity is also a matter of personal conviction, and we must each determine the values that are important to us and that we consider a part of our personal integrity to uphold. We are each accountable before the Lord to operate with integrity and to uphold our principles and values. The credibility of our witness, of our works, and of our personal example rests on our integrity. A modern translation of the Bible articulates this concept as follows: “Be a good example by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.”6
In other words, the walk is what will be the proof of what we teach regarding our beliefs. What people see, how they perceive us, will ultimately influence how they respond to our message. As Christian author John Maxwell put it, “If what I say and what I do are the same, the results are consistent.” That’s what we’re striving for—the results of people’s lives changed and helped and brought to Christ.—Results that are consistent with our faith and our values.
Operating with integrity is essential to building credibility, whether on an individual basis or as a mission work. Building credibility is about earning people’s respect, and an important way to earn respect is through our professionalism and integrity.—Through showing that we’re dependable, that people can count on us, and that we have an honest, transparent, trustworthy, and professional manner of operating. As John Maxwell put it: “The more credible you are, the more confidence people place in you, thereby allowing you the privilege of influencing their lives. The less credible you are, the less confidence people place in you, and the more quickly you lose your position of influence.”7
In today’s world, news spreads quickly. It’s important that we each do our best to ensure that the news that flies will be news that will build credibility and promote goodwill.
In our interconnected systems, everything matters to everything else. What we are is a composite of our daily decisions, thoughts and actions, large and small. As business writer John Ellis says, “The truth matters. Loyalty matters. Lies matter. Values matter. … Nothing is hidden, especially in this wired age where news—especially bad news—gushes in an instant.”8
Providing things honest in the eyes of all men is a foundational building block for integrity, and fulfilling our societal or civic duties.9 There’s a passage in Mark that we’re all familiar with, where Jesus sets the pace regarding our civic responsibilities.
They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” …
“Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”10
It’s also helpful to seek counsel from knowledgeable individuals to ensure that your activities are well grounded and that you are building your work on a solid foundation. If you are operating a legal association, you may need legal counsel in order to ensure that you are operating within ethical standards. If you are starting a business, you may need professional counsel to avoid mistakes that could be costly in the future. If you are establishing a day care or preschool for children, you’ll want to ensure that you have any needed insurance and comply with all the laws governing such institutions, and so on.
We’re each accountable to fulfill our civic responsibilities and obligations, whether as members of a board for a legal association or nonprofit, or as the overseers of a mission work, or in collaborating with others on a charitable project, or in operating a business. As a faith-based organization, TFI upholds integrity and “providing things honest in the sight of all men” as important values and part of living a godly life in accordance with Jesus’ teachings.
Love for God and fellow man is at the heart of our guiding principles and our values. These are the foundation for our integrity as Christians.
Jesus laid out two concise, profound values that should guide our lives: love for God and love for our neighbor. These provide the foundation that everything we do should be built on, the standard by which we should measure our decisions and actions.
As we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, we will do our best to stay close to Him; we will take time in His presence; we will follow His Word.
As we love others and interact with them in the way that they like to be treated, as we try to be conduits of God’s unconditional love for others, then we will be considerate and respectful toward others; we will act with integrity toward them; we will consider their needs and be willing to give of our time and/or possessions to meet their needs; we will demonstrate God’s love and offer salvation to those we come in contact with.
These values as stated by Jesus are solid, enduring, and constant. In all circumstances in which we find ourselves, in all choices we face, we can use these values as a yardstick and base our responses, choices, and actions on them. As followers of Jesus, as individuals, as well as collectively as an organization, these two values should be the guiding light in our lives.11
Originally published January 2011. Adapted and republished June 2013.
Read by Simon Peterson.
1 See Galatians 5:22–23.
2 Statement of Faith of the Family International: “Living a Godly Life.”
3 John Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within You (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000).
4 Lawrence M. Hinman, Department of Philosophy, University of San Diego.
5 Rhoberta Shaler, Ph.D.
6 Titus 2:7 NLT.
7 John Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within You (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000).
8 Steven R. Van Hook, Ph.D., “Ethical Public Relations—Not an Oxymoron.”
9 Romans 12:17.
10 Mark 12:14–17 NIV.
11 Peter Amsterdam, "Blueprint for the Future," originally published June 2010.