In 2004 Victor Yushchenko stood for the presidency of the Ukraine. Vehemently opposed by the ruling party Yushchenko’s face was disfigured and he almost lost his life when he was mysteriously poisoned. This was not enough to deter him from standing for the presidency.
On the day of the election Yushchenko was comfortably in the lead. The ruling party, not to be denied, tampered with the results. The state-run television station reported “ladies and gentlemen, we announce that the challenger Victor Yushchenko has been decisively defeated.”
In the lower right-hand corner of the screen a woman by the name of Natalia Dmitruk was providing a translation service for the deaf community. As the news presenter regurgitated the lies of the regime, Natalia Dmitruk refused to translate them. “I’m addressing all the deaf citizens of Ukraine” she signed. “They are lying and I’m ashamed to translate those lies. Yushchenko is our president.”
The deaf community sprang into gear. They text messaged their friends about the fraudulent result and as news spread of Dmitruk’s act of defiance increasing numbers of journalists were inspired to likewise tell the truth. Over the coming weeks the “Orange Revolution” occurred as a million people wearing orange made their way to the capital city of Kiev demanding a new election. The government was forced to meet their demands, a new election was held and Victor Yushchenko became president.
Philip Yancey writes
“When I heard the story behind the orange revolution, the image of a small screen of truth in the corner of the big screen became for me an ideal picture of the church. You see we as a church do not control the big screen. (When we do, we usually mess it up.) Go to any magazine rack or turn on the television and you see a consistent message. What matters is how beautiful you are, how much money or power you have. Similarly, though the world includes many poor people, they rarely make the magazine covers or the news shows. Instead we focus on the superrich, names like Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey.… Our society is hardly unique. Throughout history nations have always glorified winners, not losers. Then, like the sign language translator in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, along comes a person named Jesus who says in effect, Don’t believe the big screen – they’re lying. It’s the poor who are blessed, not the rich. Mourners are blessed too, as well as those who hunger and thirst, and the persecuted. Those who go through life thinking they’re on top end up on the bottom. And those who go through life feeling they’re on the bottom end up on the top. After all, what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul?”
Source: Philip Yancey, What Good Is God, pages 184-186
When we write letters we commonly end them with “Yours sincerely”. Have you ever wondered why you do this? The practice has its origins in ancient Rome. Roman sculptors often concealed cracks in apparently flawless marble statues with melted beeswax. When the wax dried and crumbled, the angry purchaser sought compensation. Reputable sculptors guaranteed their work as sine sera, which means ‘without wax’. Hence ‘Yours sincerely’. Likewise, we are called to be people of integrity whose words are true.
Source: reported in Talkback Trash and Treasure
The Olympic Games, Mexico, 1968. The marathon is the final event on the program. The Olympic stadium is packed and there is excitement as the first athlete, an Ethiopian runner, enters the stadium. The crowd erupts as he crosses the finish line.
Way back in the field is another runner, John Stephen Akwhari of Tanzania. He has been eclipsed by the other runners. After 30 kilometers his head is throbbing, his muscles are aching and he falls to the ground. He has serious leg injuries and officials want him to retire, but he refuses. With his knee bandaged Akwhari picks himself up and hobbles the remaining 12 kilometers to the finish line. An hour after the winner has finished Akwhari enters the stadium. All but a few thousand of the crowd have gone home. Akwhari moves around the track at a painstakingly slow pace, until finally he collapses over the finish line.
It is one of the most heroic efforts of Olympic history. Afterward, asked by a reporter why he had not dropped out, Akwhari says, “My country did not send me to start the race. They sent me to finish.”
Source: reported on Sydney 2000 Olympics website
A wealthy sultan of the Muslim faith, Saladin, once approached Nathan the Wise, a Jewish scholar, with a question: “Your reputation for wisdom is great,” said the Sultan. “You must have studied the great religions. Tell me, which is the best, Judaism, Islam, or Christianity?”
Nathan the Wise found himself in a predicament. If he answered “Judaism” his Islamic friend would be insulted, but if he answered “Islam” he would lose his own integrity. Nathan the Wise thought for a moment then responded with a parable.
“Once upon a time there was a king who possessed a magnificent opal ring. It glowed with thousands of colours, but its true power lay in the fact that it made a person beloved of God and others. For many generations the ring was passed down from parent to favourite child, until finally it came to a king who had three children all equally favoured. What was the King to do? He decided to fashion two more rings, each identical in appearance to the original. He then gave one to each child, with each believing they had the original ring.
But instead of harmony the three rings brought conflict. Each child believed they possessed the true ring and therefore the right to inherit the throne. The tension was escalated when the rings were examined but differences between them could not be determined.”
At this point Saladin interrupts. “But surely my friend you are not suggesting that Christianity, Islam and Judaism are the same? Surely there are great differences between them?”
“You are right Saladin” replied Nathan, “but each of these religions is based on faith and belief, and who can prove that one is superior to the other? But let me continue with my tale, for it is nearly at an end.”
“The quarrel among the three children became so great it was brought before a judge. The judge listened as each child explained their case. When the time for judgement came all listened with great interest. ‘I have been asked to decide which of these rings is the original.” began the judge. ‘As the original ring made its wearer beloved of God and people I can only conclude that none of you have the original ring, for your rings have brought hatred and strife between you. None of you is loved by the other, so I must conclude that the original ring perished with your father and that all three you possess are counterfeits. Or it may be, that you father, was weary of the tyranny of a single ring, and made duplicates which he gave you. So let each of you prove his belief in his ring by conducting yourselves in a manner that befits those beloved of God and people.”
Source: Adapted from Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Nathan der Weise (1779).
Once there was an emperor in the Far East who was growing old and knew it was coming time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or one of his own children, he decided to do something different.
He called all the young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, “It has come time for me to step down and to choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you.” The kids were shocked! But the emperor continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One seed. It is a very special seed. I want you to go home, plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me, and the one I choose will be the next emperor of the kingdom!”
There was one boy named Ling who was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story. She helped him get a pot and some planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.
After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept going home and checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by. Still nothing.
By now others were talking about their plants but Ling didn’t have a plant, and he felt like a failure. Six months went by, still nothing in Ling’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn’t say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.
A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to go, and to take his pot, and to be honest about what happened. Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.
When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by all the other youths. They were beautiful, in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kinds laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, “Hey nice try.”
When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown,” said the emperor. “Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!”
All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. “The emperor knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!”
When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. “My name is Ling,” he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!” Ling couldn’t believe it. Ling couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?
Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds which would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grown, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!”
Source: reported in More Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks (Zondervan, 1995)
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognisable landmarks on the planet. Built as the grand entrance to an 1889 world trade fair, the tower receives thousands of visitors every year and is a favourite spot for romantic rendevous.
But when it was built there was ferocious opposition. A group of leading artists and writers, including the author of “The Three Musketeers”, Alexander Dumas, filed a petition that read:
We, the writers, painters, sculptors, architects and lovers of the beauty of Paris, do protest with all our vigor and all our indignation, in the name of French taste and endangered French art and history, against the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower.
History vindicated Alexandre Eiffel. In 1889 he was roundly condemned. Today he is praised. His story shows us that what matters is not the opinions others have of us and what we do – these will change according to what is culturally fashionable – but holding onto what we believe to be the values and wisdom of God.
Reuben Gonzales was a leading racquetball player. In his first ever professional tournament Gonzales reached the final. He held match point in the fifth and final game when he made a terrific “kill shot” into the front corner to win the tournament. The ball was called good and all were ready to congratulate the new champion when Gonzales turned around and declared that his shot had hit the floor before it reached the wall. He lost his serve and his opponent went on to win the match and the tournament.
The next issue of National Racquetball Magazine featured Gonzales on its cover. Everyone wanted to know why Gonzales did it – why would a professional sportsman disqualify himself after he had just been declared winner of match point?
Gonzales reply was simple: “It was the only thing I could do to maintain my integrity.”
Source: reported by Dennis Waitley, Being the Best.
All of us have heard of Desmond Tutu, but few of us will know who Trevor Huddleston is. Yet without Trevor Huddleston there may have been no anti-apartheid leader named Tutu.
Asked by the BBC to identify the defining moment in his life Desmond Tutu spoke of the day he and his mother were walking down the street. Tutu was nine years old. A tall white man dressed in a black suit came towards them. In the days of apartheid, when a black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and nod their head as a gesture of respect. But this day, before a young Tutu and his mother could step off the sidewalk the white man stepped off the sidewalk and, as my mother and I passed, tipped his hat in a gesture of respect to her!
The white man was Trevor Huddleston, an Anglican priest who was bitterly opposed to apartheid. It changed Tutu’s life. When his mother told him that Trevor Huddleston had stepped off the sidewalk because he was a man of God Tutu found his calling. “When she told me that he was an Anglican priest I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I wanted to be a man of God” said Tutu.
Huddleston later became a mentor to Desmond Tutu and his commitment to the equality of all human beings due to their creation in God’s image a key driver in Tutu’s opposition to apartheid.
Source: This story has been widely reported including by Tutu himself in a 2003 interview with the BBC and in Tutu’s Nobel Prize ceremony.
One of the hit films of 2000 was Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe. The film centres on the Roman General Maximus, a man who holds onto his integrity at all costs.
Just before his death Marcus Aurelius tells Maximus of his dream that power be returned to the people and asks Maximus to become the Protector of Rome who ensures this is achieved. Maximus responds that he cannot do this, for he is never live din Rome, nor is he of Senatorial rank. Besides, he doesn’t want power. He simply wants to get home from the war and resume life with his family on his farm. Aurelius replies “It is precisely because you don’t want it that you must take it.” Aurelius sees Maximus’ integrity.
This integrity stands in stark contrast to Aurelius’ power hungry son Commodius, who will do anything to gain the title of Emperor, even murdering his father.
Seeing Maximus as a potential rival Commodius orders him, his wife and his young son murdered. Maximus escapes, but is unable to save his family. He is captured, sold into slavery and forced to fight as a gladiator. He fights with vastly superior ability to everyone he meets in the ring and eventually comes to Rome where he grows famous among the people. Once his true identity is revealed his fame again makes him a rival to the Emperor. Commodius’ rivals, who like Aurelius wish to restore power to the people, plot to have Maximus released from slavery and returned to his army, whereupon he will march on Rome, take it, restore power to the Senate, then leave. As was Marcus Aurelius, so these senators are so confident in Maximus’ integrity they know he will walk away from power having gained it.
At the climax of the film Commodius himself fights the Gladiator Maximus with both killed and power thus restored to the people.
What holds the key to Maximus’ integrity. It is revealed early in the film where he cries to his troops, “What we do in this life leaves echoes in eternity”.