I have been thinking lately as we have seen the continual progression of documents from WikiLeaks how I would feel if the entire world was able to see every email, Facebook message, text or other form of correspondence I have ever sent. Would my Christian testimony hold up to this type of evaluation?
On one hand, I know that most of my messages are rather benign. Unless somebody was really interested in finding out about power soccer practice times, Bible study topics, Amazon receipts or the ever popular LinkedIn connection request, I don’t know that my portfolio would be of very much interest.
However, I think we all have those emails we have written that we don’t want everyone to see. Even if they are not nearly as controversial as those we have seen from government officials, we have all said things that we would prefer not come out in the light.
We of course might have different motivations for wanting to keep certain things quiet. There are things that you just don’t want everyone to know, and there are times when you don’t guard your opinions as closely like when you’re speaking to trusted friends. I might be a little more blunt if I know that whoever I’m talking to is not going to be offended or take what I said in the wrong way.
There are certain conversations that for instance you would tell your family but not the general public. Medical conditions seem to be an obvious example of this.
However, there can be bad motives as well. I might want to gossip about someone, and I might do that in private behind his or her back. I might want to spread a false rumor about someone, and I would probably do that in private as well. These types of motives are clearly different than the first set. These have the potential to cause significant damage whereas the prior examples, while possibly embarrassing, would obviously not be as problematic.
It makes me think about what Jesus Christ said on the Sermon on the Mount in the context of whether or not we ought to swear oaths.
“Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:36-37, NKJV).
There are two implications to this. First, our word should be our word. We should not need an oath. The implications are obvious here for even our private conversation. If I said yes to someone in private, it should really mean yes. Similarly, if I said no, it should be a truthful no. I shouldn’t affirm in private what I do not affirm in public.
Second, you have to wonder however why Jesus would have said that swearing an oath by going beyond a simple yes or no is evil. Personally, it seems to me in the context of the passage that our word is limited to being our word. We should not swear by things that we cannot control. Therefore, it comes back to this idea that honesty is vital, and we also need to be honest about our limitations. If we start saying too much, our yes might not really be a yes anymore, and we might get caught saying things in public or private that are inaccurate.
Honest communication is important. We need to be straightforward and trustworthy, or our witness is going to be severely damaged. Since our primary purpose on earth is to be a witness to the glory of God and help point people towards Him, then we want to avoid any type of damage that we can. Making sure that what we say and private is something that we don’t mind coming out in public is a good place to start. Otherwise, I think we are witnessing the consequences of what can happen.