Some people really don’t care much about privacy at all. They are happy to share everything and anything on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. On the other hand, some are afraid of losing their privacy to the observant eyes of the internet.
So how are Christians meant to view privacy? Does a Christian have any privacy at all? And more importantly, what does the Bible say?
A Christian and their privacy
Here is an overly simplistic answer to the questions above: Christians do not have any privacy because, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight” (Hebrews chapter 4, verse 13). In some ways, this answer is completely sufficient – it is true that God sees absolutely everything.
However, I think it’s helpful to dig a little bit deeper.
I’m definitely not a biblical scholar but I’m pretty sure that the Bible does not explicitly define or address the concept of privacy. In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus does speak of actions that should be performed secretly, like when he states that fasting should only be seen by God. However, it is evident that Matthew chapter 6 refers only tangentially to the issues of privacy that we face today.
In today’s context, when society speaks of privacy it alludes to possible invasions into an individual’s personal life by private organisations or government agencies.
Now this raises a compelling question around which this whole issue revolves: Should Christians be concerned about privacy in the first place?
The benefits of a little less privacy
Please don’t think that I’m advocating for institutions to know our address, our credit card details, or the size of our waistlines. However, I do want to recount two biblical passages: first, that we are a “city on a hill” that cannot, and should not, be hidden (Matthew chapter 5, verse 14); and second, that as the body of Christ, “If one part suffers, then every part suffers, and if one part is honoured, then every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 23).
The first passage is clear. Society’s discussions about institutional threats to our private lives must not cause Christians to forget the importance of living transparent and connected lives that are public demonstrations of our faith.
The second passage implies that the modern concept of privacy may not apply within Christian communities.
Privacy revolves around the concept of keeping our lives separate from each other. This includes our pains, our struggles, our victories, our joys, and our sins. However, the Bible clearly states that a hallmark of a Christian community is sharing life with one another.
The pitfalls of privacy
It is privacy that leads us to watching porn. It is privacy that leads a business owner to break the law because they believe that nobody will know. Ultimately, it is privacy that often allows people to do things that displease God.
It’s always comfortable to keep our sins a secret. However, James chapter 5, verse 16 states clearly that Christians should confess their sins to each other, and live transparent lives within the Christian community, as this allows other brothers and sisters to pray for spiritual healing.
When the individual has finally dealt with their sin, the whole body of Christ will rejoice with them. It becomes a victory, and a joy, that we can all share.
Please note that I’m not advocating for a ministry of “nosing around in other Christians’ business”. However, it is evident that within Christian communities, a little less privacy, and the creation of a public space where Christians can share life, may not be a bad thing.
Jia Pan Xiao attends GracePoint Chinese Presbyterian Church and commenced working as a lawyer in early 2017. In his spare time, Jia Pan enjoys watching American sports, drinking coffee and devouring chocolate mud-cake.
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