A PRIVATE INTERVIEW
Where the Boundaries of Privacy Lie
Privacy vs. Dishonesty: Know the Difference
"Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, "Keep this interview a secret, and your life is safe. If the authorities hear that I have been talking to you, and if they come and ask you to tell them what you said to the king and what the king said to you, on pain of death if you will not disclose it, then you must tell them that you were petitioning the king not to be sent back at Jonathan`s house." The authorities did all come and question Jeremiah, and he answered them just as the king had told him; so they said no more, for the interview had been quite private" (Jer.38:24-28, Moffatt).
One of the burning questions often faced by Christians is when, if at all, it is permissible not to tell the truth, for truthfulness lies at the heart of the Besorah (Gospel). One of the Ten Commandments, which lies at the heart of the Torah (Law), is that we should not bear false witness. Everywhere liars are condemned in the scriptures. However, privacy is not. Though every thought and feeling that we have is known to Elohim (God), Yahweh has deliberately placed a veil between the thoughts of one man and the thoughts of another. We were created to be private, if that is what we choose to be.
A Duty to Speak
However, there are clearly exceptions. Though we may wish to be silent, we also have a duty at certain times to speak. We need to communicate with each other for ordinary, daily intercourse. If we are to "know as we are known" then clearly we must share our thoughts and feelings in words. However, let it be clearly understood that no one has a right to make us speak; rather, we have a responsibility to do so at certain times.
There are some people who believe that a believer should be open about absolutely everything to everyone as though being silent were in some way dishonest. Jeremiah the navi (prophet), put under a covenant by the king to be silent, evidently did not think so. He even was instructed in such a way as to deflect his questioners away from that which he wished to be kept secret.
Yah'shua (Jesus) taught His talmidim (disciples) not to cast their pearls before swine (Mt.7:6). They were taught to be discriminating, to discern what the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) wanted them to speak and to whom. Though the Master publicly testified that He was open in all that He did, meaning that He was not conspiring to undermine the authority of the State or the religious leaders of the time (as they verily accused Him of doing), most of what He said was veiled in riddles and parables that were specifically designed to confuse and confound those who were not called to be His sheep.
When Caution Pays
The ministry of a man or woman living close to Messiah will always be fraught with danger as Satan tries to undermine, trick and destroy that testator. The writer of Proverbs said: "A cautious man sees danger and takes cover: a simpleton strolls on -- and pays for it" (Prov.22:5, Moffatt). This is surely wisdom. No sane man puts his head in a lion's mouth. Equally, a wise man does not speak more than is necessary. Study the Master's words carefully and you will see that He wasted none of them. He was direct and to the point, and when there was no point in speaking, He remained silent. And to those who demanded an answer and would not accept silence, He spoke in parables they could not understand.
There are some people who find Messianic Evangelicals frustrating to talk with because we do not enjoy "small talk" and because we are cautious in what we say. We have learned, through hard experience, of the destructive power of the tongue. Our words of necessity should be chosen carefully, because that is what Yah'shua (Jesus) taught.
I believe in privacy. There are certain things which Elohim (God) ordained to be private always such as, for example, the close and intimate relationship between a husband and a wife. We do not believe, therefore, it is a Christian's 'duty' to talk about every intimate detail of one's personal life unless there is clear evidence that such is upbuilding and edifying. Balanced against this is, at the same time, the need to be open for the close spiritual intimacy of Christian fellowship.
No Obligations to the Nosey
Many years ago I upset a Christian man because I would not share with him the details of some of my private life. Though I explained that our Christian brotherhood did not depend on this information becoming public knowledge, he took my attitude as a personal affront. Nosey people need to be told, in a kind and loving manner, that there are certain boundaries of propriety and that these should be respected.
The boundaries of our social intercourse are plainly set out in the Scriptures. The authors wrote what they were moved to write by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) and no more. We find deep and heart-moving confessions in the scriptures as, for example, when David confesses his sins in the Psalms, but you will find that consistently certain details are omitted. The intimate sexual details of David's transgression with Bathsheeba are totally omitted, because they are unedifying. Similarly, nowhere do we find the intimate details of marriage relationships described, save poetically in the Song of Songs. And in the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament), we are told next to nothing about the family details of the apostles at all. We know next to nothing about Yah'shua's (Jesus') own family. The Gospels focus on the Besorah (Gospel) and nothing else.
The World's Obsession with the Details of Sin
Our modern world is obsessed with the details of sin because it is sinful. There is a morbid and perverse interest in the minutiae of sex and violence. Yahweh's people have no interest in such things. There is also a tendency to dissect sin molecule by molecule by psychologists to find root causes. But such dissections are nowhere to be found in the Bible. Rather, all godly council tells us to focus on good and to cultivate it once sin has been recognised and confessed generally. Read of David's confession to Nathan and you will see just how far we need to go in dealing with sin.
If detailed confessions of sin are to be made they should be made privately to a responsible, caring and experienced minister or parent. Private interviews are just that -- private. We must learn to respect such boundaries. The balance of my bank account is my own affair and the only persons who have the right to know what I have are the Inland Revenue (IRS) and the officer in the assembly responsible for helping families calculate their tithing.
What I am saying today I have said many times before because this is not a lesson learned easily by human nature which has a tendency to prattle and gossip. Learn self-control, expect nothing of others who have no right to know of your private affairs. Only if the integrity of the fellowship is being challenged by the immoral behaviour of its members do certain matters have to be made public (within the fellowship) and dealt with, though it is not necessary to involve everyone.
So remember -- there is a big difference between being dishonest and private.
This page was created on 22 May 1998
Last updated on 5 January 2015
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