The other day, I received two emails from Google. The first one mentioned my privacy features; the second displayed my recent whereabouts on a Google map, as tracked through my cell phone. Both emails required my response — to protect my personal preferences. I simply clicked "Delete" — that was my preference. Besides, Internet privacy is somewhat of an illusion.
Those Google emails got me thinking about Jesus' privacy preferences for Himself and His followers. So here it goes:
Jesus often preferred privacy. He wished to keep his location secret from religious authorities who were deviously tracking His whereabouts. Meanwhile, His location was well-tracked by the social media of the day, even as far away as the Mediterranean Sea coast:
Mark 7:24 – Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. (NIV)
Jesus preferred privacy while praying with His heavenly Father. In the Sermon on the Mount, He cautioned us to guard our own privacy in spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, and giving, to protect us from the temptation to put human praise and approval above God's approval. Today, this temptation may have reverse effects: We keep our faith private lest we be mocked as "one of those religious types", or we use "my faith is private" to cover our spiritual apathy or ignorance.
Regardless of motive, one supreme truth remains: With God, privacy is an illusion; we can't keep anything secret from Him, for "he knows the secrets of the heart" (Psalm 44:21 NIV). Only fools cling to the illusion that "God will never notice; he covers his face and never sees" (Psalm 10:11 NIV 2011). Denying God's all-seeing eye can't absolve anyone from guilt; it's a poor cover-up for one's shame.
It's far better to approach God in the secret place of our hearts and honestly admit, "You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you" (Psalm 69:5 NIV). Since God alone possesses full access to the private knowledge in our hearts, He alone can grant total forgiveness and "hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19b NIV). That's intensely good news! We can fully trust God not to gleefully parade our guilt and shame, "because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8b NIV). What a beautiful picture of protective love!
That's how we can best respect the privacy of others, including our offenders. We avoid parading their faults before everyone, including ourselves. Instead, we privately pray for them, asking God to shine His mercy into their hearts.
Private praying changes us and others, and that's what changes the world. The church has always grown strongest through the secret spiritual activities of its people. That's what makes fruitful Christians, who will find their lives to be rewarding even into eternity, as Jesus promised in regard to our giving, praying, and fasting:
Matthew 6:4b,6b,18b – Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (NIV)
That's no illusion!
Prayer: Lord, teach us to cherish our private activities with You above all our outward Christian habits and practices, for Your glory. Amen.
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