God’s Settings: Privacy and Public.
by Nick Bishop
Privacy is becoming a luxury in our modern age that seems to be disappearing fast. We have drones monitoring us, along with CCTV, and even websites and social media platforms like Google and Facebook among many others, where online advertisers are following our every digital move and try to harvest us for our information. It’s no wonder that there are hackers and criminals who exploit our vulnerability in our privacy and security, to the tune of billions of dollars each week!
As so many people are hooked to their electronic devices for business and pleasure, they spend hours each day announcing themselves online, so it’s no surprise that our private affairs are harvested by those who have the technology to trace our every comment, transaction and movement. For reasons of national security, we have government agencies, police, the National Crime Agency, etc, monitoring much of our daily lives.
Today, in these testing times, many families have once more, decided to live together, mainly for financial reasons. Yet there are many of our older generation distrusting of using the internet, email, bank cards, etc, because of lack of privacy, as the digital age tracks every detail of our lives.
Many companies today hold information on us. That is why there is the ‘Data Protection Act’ to protect the information that companies, organisations, etc, hold on us. Unfortunately, however, information about ourselves does slip out or is sold on or past on to third parties. Also, when we click on seemingly innocent adverts online, the next moment we are targeted by annoying online ads, telephone calls, emails, junk mail and worse. It seems our desire to socialise and experience all there is to offer, has robbed many of the importance of spending quality time in person with each other.
Human beings are social creatures and everyone enjoys a measure of socialising. However, during this age of the pandemic, socialising as we understand it, has been turned on its head. Wearing a mask, social distancing, etc, are a completely alien concept to many. To not be able to shake hands, hug and kiss people we care about (other than our nearest and dearest) is indeed a vast cultural change. However, for reasons of medical safety, this is something we have had to grow accustomed to, whether we like it or not. Mother Teresa summed up the challenge of our age when she wrote these words:
“There is much suffering in the world – physical, material, mental. The suffering of some can be blamed on the greed of others. The material and physical suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, having no one. I have come more to realise that being unwanted is the worst disease that a human being can ever experience”.
Privacy is often the dignity and space we all need. It’s the opportunity to spend quality time with our loved ones and like-minded people, but lately, so much of our interaction is being driven online. But this recent epidemic hasn’t robbed us of the privacy we can enjoy with God, as we meditate and spend time in his Word and his very presence.
During the age of COVID, privacy is not an issue for some, but isolation is. This is why human beings need to covet the space that is both private and personal, with others.
For those in isolation, the internet can be a lifeline for those who know how to access it and use it. For others, a pet, a television or a radio, or the odd knock on the door, is the only company they see.
If we look at the life of Jesus, he was a person who enjoyed the company of others. However, even Christ had to regularly withdraw and spend time with his heavenly father. So then, that should be our example, there are times to socialise and there are times when we need privacy or even, intimacy. These things are undoubtedly a balance we need in our lives.
Before we close, it is important that we understand the distinction between privacy and secrets. The following paragraphs were obtained in a discussion online about the dangers of privacy and secrets and the role of the church:
“The New Testament paints a clear picture of the church. Churches are the clear expression of the God-ordained expression of the 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 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 a rich, gospel-centred community.
Because we have entitled ourselves to secrecy. Where secrecy exists, real fellowship cannot.
Nevertheless, so many of us go through the motions of the Christian community today without ever experiencing it. We live as active members of a local church, regularly attending services, signing up for programmes, 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 of the places we go, the people with which we interact, and the things we do.
What is more, when people in a church want to know more 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.
Food for thought!
Here are some helpful scriptures:
1 Thessalonians 4:11: “And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we have instructed you”.
Jeremiah 20:24: “Can a man hide in places, that I cannot see? Do I not fill heaven and earth?”.
Psalm 64: 2 – 3: “Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, saying what they should not”.
God bless you.
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