6.10.2007

Privacy, Transparency, and the Judgment Seat of Christ

In Acts, the Jerusalem Council sent word to the Gentile converts that they did not have to be circumcised, but that they should abstain from eating meat offered to idols, abstain from sexual immorality, and not eat animals that have been strangled or eat blood . . . so that they could be in unbroken fellowship with the Jewish followers of Jesus.

Soon after, Paul wrote his words to the Corinthian believers about the correct ethic being a concern for my brother's well-being and for what is actually right before God as each one's conscience testifies to him or her. We should not violate our own consciences, nor should we lead another to do so.

Paul also writes there and to the Galatians and Colossians that it is not an adherence to regulations about food that brings salvation any more than it is circumcision. Our ethic is truly to be AGAPE love and a real understanding of what is useful and what moves me and my brother and the body of believers toward God's best for each of us.

God does have things He prohibits and things He approves -- for all of history, for a particular culture, and for each of us in particular situations. We are given what we need to determine what obedience requires: the witness of the Holy Spirit in each one's heart, the Word of God in Scripture, the witness of the historical Church, the witness of the piece of the Church that I live in here and now, and the witness of the contemporary culture. And there will be a day on which all is revealed and the truth about what would have been obedience is revealed to all, at the judgment seat of Christ.

So we are to live by consciences informed by all of the above and held accountable by all of the above . . . both analytically and intuitively. Obedience is the natural response to a God Who loves us and rescues us from enslavement to sin and death.

A lot of the books I have read over the past 5 years and a lot of my own experience led me to a place where I believed the healthiest stance in living my life was to live "transparently", which basically translated for me to a life where there was no room for healthy privacy. All that I wrote before this paragraph in this post is my rationale to modify that now, as is all that I wrote in my previous post on rejection and betrayal about the way cliques operate.

I now believe that it is healthy to keep private those things that my own conscience approves but that others would disapprove as outside their "rules", whether to avoid the "norming" I described in my last post or whether to avoid leading another to violate their conscience in how they act.

For instance, if I have determined to be friends with a woman who likes wine, and it is comfortable for me to drink socially with her when I visit her, I will not feel obligated to reveal that to anyone who would disapprove or judge me for that. I also will not feel obligated to convince those who think social drinking is wrong that they are mistaken. But I will feel obligated to reveal my drinking to those with whom my relationship really requires such transparency, such as my husband or a key mentor, and will not lie about such drinking if it violates any commitment I have made to not drink at all. (That is, if I were a student on a campus where students were not allowed to drink at all, I would not be right to violate my commitment as a student there.)

A second example is in the way I might dress. My husband favors the "raciest" clothes he can talk me into wearing, and those clothes fit right in to most of the non-church environments I live in here in Orange County. My own sense of modesty leads me to "fit in" rather than to call attention to myself sexually; so I am comfortable in more revealing clothes in places where they don't mean anything in terms of a sexual display (like wearing a halter top today at a pool party where other women were in bikinis) but not comfortable in wearing them when they would be perceived as a sexual signal (like wearing the same halter top to church today without a nice blouse covering it up and a tank top layered under it for additional modesty.) Appropriate obedience, privacy, and accountability here do require me to dress differently in different situations, do require me to discuss it with my husband and select friends to make sure their take on it matches mine, and do not require me to discuss it outside my group of intimate friends or cave in to the disapproval of someone who disagrees with my choices. (How I dress is a social action, however it is my responsibility before God to consider various inputs and then dress how I choose to dress and live with the consequences, whether that be my husband's dismay at my undo modesty or my mother's disapproval of my blatant sexuality.)

So the right role of privacy in my life is to ensure that I will live in obedience to Christ and strive to please Him, rather than strive to please anyone who wants to have input into any of my choices. I need not reveal anything about those choices to people who are looking for an opportunity to exercise control over things that are not properly theirs to control.

The wrong role of privacy in my life would be to hide things that should be properly judged as outside the ethics and choices that will lead to the abundant life that I am to be free to pursue and to set others free to pursue. "It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery!"

I will not allow myself to be re-enslaved by sin and death, but neither will I allow myself to be enslaved by the legalist's desire to control me and others.

May we use appropriate privacy and appropriate transparency in full understanding of how things will look at the day all is revealed before Him and all our brothers and sisters. Is my conscience right from the perspective of that final day of truth?

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