The moral deterioration of our world is rampant and unmistakable. The formidable Duggar family is grappling with infidelity and deceit by a family member. ISIS reportedly practices ceremonial rape of prisoners as religious worship. They savagely behead Christians and others. Planned Parenthood and its contractors are discussing illegal and immoral manipulation of abortions (killing and dismembering unborn children) to obtain human “tissue samples” for research. And the world shudders as the secrets troves of Ashley Maddison’s adulterers and adulteresses become unexpectedly public. Homosexual behavior is widely embraced as normal. Men and women, Christians, who practice biblical truth in their daily lives are scorned and forced before judges who punish them, steal their livelihood, and attempt to train them in “proper sensitivity and tolerance.” Likewise, discussions have begun even about legalizing polygamy. It seems wise not to ask what is next.
Only a short ago men and women would have furrowed their brow and squinted at the mere hearing of such things. “That’s not proper,” they would have said as they shielded their eyes in embarrassment, their voice wavering. The Apostle Paul agreed, saying, “it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret” (Eph 5:12). But, secrecy has vanished. All of this wickedness and debauchery lies out in the open for all to see. It’s spoken of on the news and reported across the Internet.
Interestingly, the world still tempts us with privacy in which we can safely sin. Internet browsers offer the option of opening a “New Private Window” that records no history; so, one can cloak his or her nefarious wanderings through websites that tantalize the human propensity to sin. “Adult bookstores” fence in their parking lots with sheet metal, instead of chain link, so sinners can dash from their cars into the building’s recesses without being seen. Do they really think no one knows?
This concept of privacy has intrigued me for many years. I have devoted considerable thought to the question, “Why do we want privacy?” I return repeatedly to shame, to the need to hide what we’ve already done and to hide what we are doing even now. Culture after culture believes that if something is hidden, then its perpetrator is safe from the repercussion of his or her indiscretions, sins. “If no one sees it, then I won’t suffer the consequences that naturally follow,” one thinks. Such thinking shows humanity deceiving itself, telling itself lies and untruths.
Privacy is not a privilege, not a blessing. A certain amount should be retained for modesty and prudence. Certain private moral acts are not meant for sharing. But, those are few compared to the multitudes of acts that thrive in darkness.
I’ve received Ashley Madison promotional emails. I initially thought they weren’t real, that they were spam emails. Their philosophy is that you are safest in an affair when you have one with a person similarly motivated to hide the act. It’s a temptation to privacy. Before God, this cloak of privacy is as opaque as the emperor’s new clothes.
When I mention the dangers of privacy, how it tempts us into behaviors we wouldn’t consider in public, I’m not speaking only to those scoundrels who are the worst. In our church pews sit men and women who sin in secret. Outwardly, they offer fine specimens of goodness. Momentarily cloaked in their hidden privacy lurk insidious strongholds of sin. Privacy is an epidemic temptation. Our culture values and nurtures it. Yet, it slowly erodes our morality and turns us away from God.
When I was a junior high school student, a teacher at my church taught all of our students about morality. The name of the class was “Right from Wrong.” He gave us a wonderful test that shed light on our private practices. He taught us to ask, “Would you do this if your mother was there with you?” That question’s impact on my life is profound. Certainly, some things are perfectly proper - and mom shouldn’t be around for them. But, asking that question has helped me many times when my moral compass was confused.
Privacy is overrated. God sees everything. There is darkness and there is light.
Scripture speaks well. “The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going” (John 12:35). “Take care then, that the light in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35) because God “will both bring to light what is hidden in darkness and reveal the intentions of the hearts” (1 Corinthians 4:5). Let us take care that God will find in us His light.
Crossing the Lines
The ideas behind this blog emerged from my study and preaching of a message I titled "A Single Step." It was an unexpected message out of Philippians 2:12-18. I'm the one who was surprised. I had a whole different idea of where the sermon would go. Then, I got into the text and followed it. That led, eventually, to the response by individuals after the message. God worked in me and in our congregation. He's still at work.
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