Leadership, Integrity and Nation building.
– by Joseph Noel Sati
Being Christian in our modern times increasingly becomes more challenging. It is difficult to live out our Christian faith not only in the Western world, but even in here Africa or in Asia. Therefore keeping our Christian testimony shining in whatever context we live becomes a hard choice. I remember as new born again Christian I was one of only two Christians in my class at secondary school in Khartoum Sudan. I found myself everyday faced with questions. Why should I continue to remain Christian among the many Muslims living around me? Living my Christian testimony was not in doubt but issues of thinking about it were daily tested. However, God gave me the grace and the courage to be able to live out my Christian testimony, even though there were times I failed to give a good testimony. The most important part was to learn from failure and continue to keep growing in my faith. Writing on how should a Christian keep his testimony in secular role became an issue of concern to me. Especially when some people became very vocal in our South Sudanese context saying, ‘we are secular country where religion is rightly pushed to the periphery’.
The understanding of how to live our Christian life in the secular context, as many of us are assuming roles or jobs in this environment, raises this question. How can I live my testimony? Is it by having a Bible on my office table, or by playing Christian music in my office, by preaching in conversation to my colleagues or neighbours? These are all good things in their right situation but by themselves they are not enough to make our testimony for Jesus Christ known to those people who are around us.
In this chapter we seek to discuss this issue of how I can keep my Christian testimony wherever I am, especially out in the workaday world. We will see the Biblical model of Daniel from the Old Testament, and briefly mention a few others who were able to do that in their time. We will seek to understand the usage of the terms ‘secular’ and ‘Christian testimony’. What do we mean by them? We will seek to draw applications for our lives today so we can shine the truths and the love of God to those God has put around us, so they can have the opportunity to accept and follow Christ as a result.
We must understand that we live in a real world; a world which is becoming more and more hostile to Christianity and the Christian testimony, under different names. What are our ways and means that will encourage all Christians to remain firm and continue to shine their light of the gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere, and in particular where we are in secular roles? I pray this is what will discover together.
1. What do we mean by Christian testimony?
This is the personal experience of a born again and committed Christian with the Lord Jesus Christ. He witnesses by telling how he met the Lord Jesus, how the Lord answered his prayer, or delivered him from dangerous situations. Testimony also covers the way he lives his life among non-Christians, where his life visibly reflects his beliefs and Christian values. Life is one of the effective tools for witnessing in our secular context or world around us. It makes the witness of the churches more effective in a secular context as Jesus said in Acts 1:8 “You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth ...”.
This witnessing is within whatever career or profession one might have. We are called to witness by the power that is given to us as Christians from the Holy Spirit. Keeping our clear testimony while in secular roles is one of the ways of witnessing because this where the love of God is reflected to others as we translate our love for God into acts of love for and among people outside the Christian churches.
2. What do we mean by secular?
This has to do with the squeezing of the religious to the periphery of life. “It is the process that progressively removes religion from the public arena and reduces it to the private realm. Secularism is the stance that endorses and promotes such a process. Religion making a view on public issues is considered a threat and even intolerant”.
Vinoth Ramachandra wrote explaining secularism, “The modern western culture is the dominant global culture of our time. The origin of the term secularism: was first used in Europe as a term to describe the legal procedures where by ecclesiastically owned property translated to ‘worldly’ ownership or use. It evolved into a description of a process whereby religious beliefs cease to be widely accepted and religious institutions cease to have social, economic or political influence”. Therefore, talking of how we keep our Christian testimony in a secular role is very important to our lives, especially knowing how to do it. What are the ways that can help one to remain faithful to his faith in such an unfriendly context which considers anyone keeping his Christian faith is uncivilised, intolerant and the list continues. Many names are given to those who seek to continue to remain faithful to Jesus in their faith.
A biblical model of one man who kept his faith and testimony: Daniel.
The Bible has not left us to wonder much on how people kept their testimonies of faith in their non–Christian contexts, whether it was secularism, paganism or animism. They all have similarities and agree on one thing, (along with more recent Communism), being all anti–Christian living, against showing active faith in the living God. The model we will be writing about is Daniel in the Old Testament. His context was not secular but anti the true God and living by faith in Him. The principles Daniel followed remain the same for Christians to keep their faith in today’s South Sudan and Sudan. We will look at the characteristics that will help any Christian who is in a secular role or any anti-faith-in-God context.
a) Daniel made a commitment not to defile himself, Daniel 1:8
The first thing Daniel did was choose not to defile himself with the food and drinks that had been offered to pagan gods. He did not follow the crowds nor was he interested in just pleasing people. He knew himself as loyal follower of Jehovah God.
The temptation for him to throw away this faith in God was so high because of his career opportunity, but he did not give in. That probably goes back to his upbringing and how he was trained by his family in how to keep his commitment to Jehovah God. This what is expected from every true disciple of Christ. Every true Christian must pledge his allegiance to Christ. That is our first step in keeping our testimony in pagan or secular roles where Christianity or faith in God are not recognised.
The commitment that we live is not simply a chance to impress people or please them. It might have consequences over our lives like being mocked or given names to our faces or behind our backs. However, everyone will know our stand when it comes to the matter of Who have we committed our lives to? This commitment should be done with the full awareness of the cost, like in the Daniel case. He was not afraid of what might happen to him as result of his decision.
b) Daniel exhibited excellence in spirit, work and integrity, Daniel 6: 1-4
When it came to the issue of his work and integrity Daniel had proven to be the best. His testimony was not only reflected or seen in his spiritual life but also in how he did his work. His spirituality affected everything he did. When times of promotion came he was found to be the best, with an outstanding spirit. He had wisdom, was a highly skilled person in project management, people management and financial management. When his competitors looked for any fault in his life, for example being lazy in doing his work or not having the required skills or participating with others in corruption, they could not find anything of this kind to accuse him of. In our current context, especially in Sudan and South Sudan, tragically many Christians fail to maintain their testimonies in these areas of maintaining excellence in their daily work. They wrongly think that lives are divided into ‘more spiritual’ and the ‘so-called secular’ roles. It is not high in their minds to have top class Christian testimony before those they work with. As a result they give wrong pictures of both Jesus Christ and the Christian. For us to keep our testimony clear and attractive for Jesus we must excel in our work, sharpening our skills, developing our projects, giving value for money. Whether you are an engineer, teacher, doctor, accountant, civil servant, whatever you do, do it to the Lord, Colossians 3:17. By maintaining an excellence in your work and integrity in your character, you keep your testimony clear and clean. Later this will attract those around us to know and accept Christ the Lord whom we follow. That solid testimony is exactly what happen with Daniel. His enemies could not find a fault with him or his work of keeping the money of the government that he worked for.
c) Daniel maintained his relationship with God, Daniel 6:10-11
Here is another aspect of how Daniel continued to keep his testimony in that pagan world. His life of prayer and devotion was not affected by the decision of the king to ban it, nor the conspiracy that was going around among peers to cost him his job (perhaps even his life). He maintained his relationship with God in prayer and reading the scriptures. Many a time we think we are too busy to pray or even read our Bibles and when conspiracy comes our way it finds us not ready. We might think this is my private life and it will not affect my public life. From this case we see how this was not true. Daniel’s private life did affect his public life. His colleagues knew that Daniel would never compromise his relationship with God for anything. Many a time we find ourselves in such a situation where we are tempted to compromise our relationship with God, perhaps our times of prayer and devotions, at the expense of not looking foolish or uncivilised among our colleagues. We can think that we are too busy to do that or we do not want to be seen as a religious person or a committed Christian. God sees us in secret with Him. And this does come out in our public testimony, Matthew 6:6.
d) Daniel never compromised the truth,
Daniel 5:10-11, 17, 26-28
Daniel never compromised the truth. When the king had a dream and asked Daniel to interpret it, the interpretation was difficult for it was probably not what the king wanted to hear. Daniel could easily lose his position, but he chose to tell the truth to the king face to face about his bad governance and how God was going to judge him for that.
The temptation for us is to compromise truth so that we can be accepted by other colleagues or our senior bosses. That will affect, for sure, our Christian testimony. We must keep our testimony by telling the truth in love with no compromise, even to our seniors, Ephesians 4:15. That is exactly what Daniel did. If in your current context you are put in position where you have to speak the unwelcome truth to your boss or other senior officials, how will you act? To keep your Christian testimony you have to tell the truth without any compromises, even it means you lose your job. Such Christians are badly needed in both Sudan and South Sudan, and I am sure even elsewhere. Too often Christians have been silent about so many issues like atrocities, corruption, duplicity and other crimes. As result we have lost our testimony, or it has become horribly weak and insipid. We became not very different from others in our society, almost the same. We learn from Daniel’s life that all these possible sufferings did not matter to him when it came to telling the truth and standing firm in his faith testimony. It is the same with us today. It might cost us many things but we must say truth in love to whomever needs to hear it, and keep our testimony sound and clear in Christ Jesus. The Christians in South Sudan and Sudan, especially those who have the opportunity of secular roles, need to speak out the truth and bring godly wisdom before our government leadership, our business communities, financiers, education leadership, developmental planners, medical practitioners, journalistic producers, all tiers of the judiciary, and responsible political leaders at every level.
The application for life today
Learning from Daniel’s life helps us to understand his faith had great effect influencing all parts of his life. And it is not only Daniel. We see the scripture talking of other godly people who rise to the top of society while they live their Christian lives:
The slave Joseph managing the house of Potiphar, Genesis 39:2-6
David using his music to sooth a troubled King Saul, 1 Samuel 16:17-23
Nehemiah using his administration abilities to inspire a nation in rebuilding, Nehemiah 2:4-5ff.
Aquila and Priscilla opening their home and their work to advance and train future leaders, Acts 18:2-4, 24-26; Romans 16:3-5
Lydia using her resources to help the early Christians, Acts 16:13-15, 40
Paul the apostle supporting his ministry by hard work in his business of tent making, Acts 20:34-35; 1 Corinthians 4:12;1 Thessalonians 2:9-10
Each of them used their excellent, God-given abilities. Never hide that fact that you are a follower of Christ when you succeed. It is God’s doing. He can and should be praised. Lynne M. Thompson expressed this clearly, “Living a transparent and authentic life means allowing your relationship with God to illuminate every environment you enter, even the workplace. The place to work out your faith isn’t just at church. What people do in the workplace is their ministry, just as much as singing in the choir is at church”. Christ the transformer of culture is about using the ability of our Christian testimony to affect all the cultures around us. He wants influence through conduct and conversation. John Wesley is said to have viewed the Church as a holy community here on earth, which serves as a testimony and a model of what the world could be. We must remember the Church is visibly set apart from the non-Christian culture and yet it engages with and serves it to be a positive influence for her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We note the emphasis on how our testimony should be kept in the secular role, knowing that secularism is spreading like wildfire all over the world. This is part of the globalisation movement where the whole world is moving towards becoming one village, with the same cultures, norms and traditions everywhere. Rebecca Nganga wrote, “Jesus’ disciples are to be intentional in going to the world and being totally uncomfortable with the acceptance of beliefs that make people limp between world lines and religious rituals”.
As Christians living in a secular world, and taking roles of any levels in it, we have to be intentional about keeping our testimony. If we ask ‘how?’ the principles that Daniel lived by within a pagan nation apply to all contexts. Here is a summary of these principles that will help you in your secular role to keep shining the light of Jesus that is in you.
Commit yourself to a holy life, by keeping undefiled by the things of this world or thoughts of secularism. Keep on doing this – once is not enough!
Seek to excel in your work and maintain personal integrity. This means sharing your testimony by your deeds not only by words. Many times Christians are viewed as lazy, not doing their paid work properly but pretending to be busy with their Christian ministry. Remember work colleagues see more than they hear
Keep nurturing your relationship with God through prayer, devotion, meditation on the word of God, and fellowship with other believers. Do this every day you can
Never compromise the truth. Always seek to tell the truth and live it out.
In Matthew 5:13-16 our Lord Jesus Christ describes the Christians as salt and light. Of these two elements one is tasted and the other is seen. They cannot be escaped or missed. Since they reflect our Christian testimony it should be evident they can be seen and tasted by everyone. It is a command of Jesus for Christians to make our faith evident everywhere we will be. Our light should shine brightly. This light is our Christian testimony which people will see before praising our heavenly Father. We need to understand that the tools we use in the churches or among Christians may well not apply in the secular environment. We have to be creative in how we want to communicate our testimony to those people we mix with in our secular roles. May I urge you to go out and be the Christian salt and the Christian light in whatever secular role you have now. Keep your Christian testimony clear and may you attract many to the love of Jesus Christ just as the early Christians did and many are still doing today in different contexts and environments.
Using this chapter and Scriptures quoted
1. Discuss possible answers to Joseph’s raised question: “How can I live my testimony?” Share good and bad examples you have seen, giving reasons why you see them good or bad.
2. Do you think your environment is “becoming more and more hostile to Christianity and the Christian testimony”? Why? How?
3. How did Daniel “dare to be” different? Give examples from the Bible’s book of Daniel.
4. How could Daniel tell the king a message the king probably did not want to hear? What earned him the hearing? Daniel 5:1-30. Consider the personal cost of copying him in your place of work.
5. What are the best ways to “seek to excel in your work and maintain personal integrity”? Consider Ephesians 6:5-7 and Colossians 3:22-23. Be very practical.
 D.A. Carson Christ and Culture Revisited (InterVarsity Press: Westmont, IL., USA) 2008, p.116.  Vinoth Ramachandra Faith in Conflict? Christian Integrity in a Multicultural World (InterVarsity Press: Westmont IL. USA) 1999, p.141.  Lynne M. Thompson Making an Impact in the Workplace http://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/faith-in-life/living-in-hd-overview/making-a-difference-in-the-workplace (accessed 21st September 2017).  Rebeccca Nganga Might the Christians be the Determinants of the Shape Their Nations Take Weekly devotional http://www.beckyjohn.org/ (accessed 11th September, 2017).