My sleep was so restless last night. Tossing and turning and even in my dreams, I felt the inner turmoil that was gripping me. How can this be happening? How can people do this? A sense of justice and vindication gripping my gut. Can they get away with this? I feel sick to my stomach. How do I wrestle with this reality? How do I walk with integrity, yet call out the hypocrisy? I feel like I was with my friend as she was sexually exploited and raped and I watched the whole thing happen, a witness to the violation. What do I do with that?
I have walked with my close friend the last 4 years as God poured out an amazing story into her heart. A story of His love and restoration. A story of being Salvaged. Faithful to what God was giving her, she wrote. One story turned into two which then turned into three. She was faithful to write all that He gave and to pursue every opportunity to steward the message that He had entrusted to her. During this time, she also lost her job. Her husband lost his. It has been a time of walking through poverty and famine, yet she has been faithful to the call. She has walked through every door and pursued every means of getting these books into the hands of teen girls.
God began downloading a bigger vision. Not just books, but a movie, and a video series accompanied by devotionals to be used with teen girls in youth ministry addressing relevant cultural issues these girls are facing. A large Christian publishing house caught wind of what my friend was doing and started dialoguing with her last spring about partnering with her. This was a time of great celebration in a road that has been very long and hard. After a series of “web conferences” discussing in detail the project and submitting specific material to them, she received a generic email that her project had been dropped.
Yesterday, I was shocked to see big name promotional ads on social media that looked strikingly similar to my friend’s; it even used the same name. I clicked on it only to realize it was not her book they were promoting. It was someone else’s using her ideas even under the same name. Looking further, I discovered it was the same Christian publisher that she had been meeting with. The two authors had received a copy of her book two years ago at a large ministry conference. All of this was in the works as the publisher was meeting with my friend asking her to submit her ideas, never telling her about the other project.
This leaves me with some serious questions. Where are our Christian ethics? Where is the integrity in the field of Christian publishing as well as writing? How can you take someone else’s ideas and repackage them as your own for the sake of big sales? My friend is not a big fish. She is a small fish that God has entrusted with big things. Ultimately, I know and trust God is her vindicator, yet I have real questions to our role as believers when we see such blatant violations of integrity in the body. Using someone else for your own selfish gain? This should not be so. We are called to more than this. I expect more than this. God is not fooled.
I woke up this morning with the picture of Jesus in the temple turning tables in his anger. The Priests had taken what was holy and turned it into profit. Jesus said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13).
We have created this “Christian Celebrity” culture that is nothing more than idolatry. We have made ministries, speakers, writers and teachers idols “in the name of Jesus.” In the publishing realm, we are told, “you need to make a name for yourself. Create a platform of recognition, so that we can guarantee sales.” Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are used regularly to create followers, to add to credibility. An amazing tool when used with the right motives. But many times I fear we are doing nothing more than creating a modern day Tower of Babel. We use social media to build up our own names so that we can “further the name of Jesus.” That, in and of itself, is hypocrisy. He doesn’t need any name to make His Name known to the ends of the earth.
So, how does Jesus see these issues of integrity when ideas are stolen and repackaged in His Name? As the question consumes me, this is how Jesus responded to the same kind of breakdown in integrity.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:25-28).
Often the lines get blurred, things become confused, less clear, and vision becomes obscured. Things may outwardly “appear” righteous and for the purpose of ministry, yet be concealing inward greed, hypocrisy and lawlessness. Let’s hold one another to a higher standard. We have been entrusted with a great mission, to make the Name of Christ known in the entire world. It will only happen as the Spirit of Christ fills us with his love and attributes and pours out of us to a lost and hurting world. Let’s hold our Lord in the highest regard and walk in integrity in all that we do.