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Wow! We’ve seen some pretty bad public relations missteps in the past week or so:
- First, it was the Pepsi ad that, amazingly, united the Internet in mockery and hatred of the ad to the point that Pepsi issued an apology and pulled it the day after it was released.
- Next, it was United Airlines forcibly removing an already-seated passenger from an airplane to make room for airline employees who were due to work at the flight’s destination the next day. The Internet responded again, calling for boycotts and smearing the airline’s image with snide memes and advertising slogans. The day after the incident, United’s CEO issued a public statement apologizing “for having to re-accommodate these customers” and an internal memo that defended the actions taken by employees, which was promptly leaked to the media. Backlash became even more heated and the resulting drop in United’s share price finally elicited a proper apology from the CEO a day later. Ironically, this is the same CEO who was dubbed Communicator of the Year by PRWeek only weeks ago.
- To top it all off, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made a major gaffe on Tuesday by saying that, unlike Syria’s Assad, Hitler at least had enough decency not to use gas on his own people. It seems Spicer’s knowledge of history isn’t very strong considering Hitler made regular use of gas chambers during his extermination of German Jews (and other “undesirables” plucked from Germany’s citizenry). The only thing more stunning than the statement itself was its timing — the week leading up to Passover, a major Jewish holiday — and the number of follow-up statements it took for Spicer to issue a satisfactory apology for his inaccurate and insensitive comparison.
We’ll have to wait to see the long-term ramifications that come out of all three incidents. Make no mistake, there will be countless public relations firms, companies, and business professors who will use these incidents as case studies when discussing what not to do when communicating with the public. To Pepsi’s credit, they apologized and made amends quickly, probably diffusing a situation that could easily have gotten much worse.
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We are incredibly naive if we think that our actions are not being monitored almost constantly. Most public places are equipped with security cameras. Edward Snowden revealed that governments are capable of monitoring our texts, emails, phone calls, and Internet activity. In Canada, it is legal to record a private conversation as long as one of the parties who is part of the conversation knows it’s being recorded. Pretty much everyone has a video and audio recording device — otherwise known as a smartphone — in their pocket or purse. That same smartphone is capable of instantly uploading all of that video and audio data to the Internet for the world to access.
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Now more than ever, those who claim to follow Jesus must live with uncompromising integrity and authenticity, both individually and collectively. The world has little tolerance for people who do not back up their stated beliefs with action. We are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). We misrepresent him when we do not live in a way that accurately reflects who he is. 1 John 1:5-2:6 is pretty clear about how believers are supposed to live:
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.
And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
A Call to Uncompromising Integrity
That’s why the Bible admonishes us to live lives of integrity:
- Proverbs 4:23-27: Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.
- Luke 6:31: Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
- Romans 16:19b: I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong.
- Philippians 4:8: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
- 2 Corinthians 8:21: We are careful to be honorable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honorable.
- Hebrews 13:18: Pray for us, for our conscience is clear and we want to live honorably in everything we do.
- 1 Peter 3:13-17: Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!
A Call to Uncompromising Authenticity
Believers don’t need to pretend to be perfect. The world doesn’t expect anyone to be perfect. In fact, they’d rather see that we have struggles and make mistakes. Those things are much more believable and relatable than perfection.
The world does want us to confess when we’ve done wrong. They want us to take responsibility for our actions, apologize sincerely, show true remorse by taking steps to change our ways, and make amends wherever possible. Forgiveness usually follows when the world sees that someone is really serious about making things right.
The World is Watching
Wouldn’t it be refreshing to experience a group of people whose actions match what they say they believe more often than not? Wouldn’t it be a nice change to see people quickly admit they’ve done wrong and work diligently to repair broken relationships? By the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, the Church can live together in a way that shows what our Lord and Saviour is really like.
We are Christ’s ambassadors. The world is watching. Let’s not disappoint!