A Right to Secrecy

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The basic American right to privacy. It is a thing, right?

Most people do not realize a “right to privacy” is not explicitly stated anywhere in the constitution. However, despite the absence of those words from the document, our country (at least its citizens) clearly believes that all people have a basic right to privacy. Our whole system of individualism is grounded in the idea. To the American mind, we should all be able to do what we please without anyone ever knowing.

Now before I instigate a storm of comments with political commentary, this post is not going to address the government’s right to look into the personal lives of its private citizens. Regardless of your stance on the government’s ability to spy on people, you must agree that there are points where our civil policy and our worldview shape and inform each other. This idea that we all have a right to privacy is just such a case. [pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]What may have started out as a right to privacy has really become an entitlement to secrecy. Furthermore, we have allowed this idea to walk right through the front doors of the church.[/pullquote]

Where governmental policies have sought to protect citizens from the unfair power of government, we Americans have taken that idea to be a core piece of our worldview that says no one (not just the government) has a right to know anything about us if we do not want them to. Even as you read those words, you may be wondering where the problem lies.

Privacy is so engrained in our culture that we do not see its dangers.

Truly, what may have started out as a right to privacy concerning certain matters has really become an entitlement to secrecy. Furthermore, we have allowed this idea to walk right through the front doors of the church.

The New Testament paints a clear picture of the church. Churches are the God-ordained expression of Christian community. When God’s guidelines for this community are obediently followed, the result is the deepest, truest form of community that mankind can know this side of heaven. It is rich and loving, it is a fellowship that cares for each other and bears one another’s burdens. It is a place that brings healing to the weary soul and gives strength for the constant battles with sin and the flesh. Yet, many Christians never taste the blessings of rich, gospel-centered community.

Why?

Because we have entitled ourselves to secrecy. Where secrecy exists real fellowship cannot.

Nevertheless, so many of us go through the motions of Christian community today without ever experiencing it. We live as active members of a local church, regularly attending services, signing up for programs and studies, faithfully putting money in the offering plate, and yet never developing real community. The answer lies in our overwhelming desire to hide portions of our lives from others around us. Privacy as a basic privilege is so hard-wired into our lives, that we think nothing of keeping back details about the places we go, the people with which we interact, and the things we do.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]We practice a “don’t ask don’t tell” attitude with fellow church members, not wanting to offend by prying and not wanting to be asked ourselves.[/pullquote] What is more, when people in a church setting desire to know personal details about us, we feel as though they are prying into our personal lives. And so, we practice a “don’t ask don’t tell” attitude with fellow church members, not wanting to offend by prying and not wanting to be asked ourselves. It is impossible to overstate the danger that exists when church members live with secrets.

Sin loves secrecy.

It is precisely in these dark, hidden corners of our lives that sin makes its home. It lurks in the shadows of our lives, and when we discover it is there, it is all the harder to reveal those secret places to anyone, especially people in the church. Sin’s love of darkness continually pushes us away from real community. It seeks to isolate us from that vital source of growth. The church is a wellspring of life to the Christian, and as soon as we isolate ourselves from transparent, real fellowship, our spiritual self begins to shrivel.

But if we submit to an open, honest life in the light of this Christian community, it will make all the difference. First, that light will reveal all of our evils and force us to confront them head on in the power of the Holy Spirit. That community will then be our helper, our fighter, our support in the battle against our own self and the grip of sin in our lives. Finally, with nothing to hide, we will come together as an actual community and taste the blessings of true fellowship.

May we who bear the name of Christ learn to live in the light of his community.

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