Patients’ information in the US is protected by HIPAA. Specifically, “The Rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization. The Rule also gives patients rights over their health information, including rights to examine and obtain a copy of their health records, and to request corrections” (hhs.gov).
We expect and demand that our privacy be protected when it comes to healthcare (and personal information in general). If that trust is breached, we may consider taking legal action against the trust breaker.
When it comes to our marriages, do we extend that same courtesy to our spouses? Or do we vent our frustrations about them to anyone who listens?
When it comes to personal information shared in confidence, do we extend that same courtesy to our Christian family? Or do we share that info with those in our personal circle?
When it comes to sensitive information we may have about someone in the church (or anywhere!), do we treat them with the same level of respect and discretion that we expect from those in the medical field or information technology fields? There are some exceptions to this principle (as common sense dictates), but we sometimes find ourselves sharing or listening to information we have no business sharing or consuming.
In short, if we expect this level of respect and discretion from the professional world, should we not do the same for those in God’s family?
“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler” (Prov. 20:19, ESV).
It is one of the preacher or teacher’s public speaking nightmares. And it happened to me yesterday morning between Bible class and worship services. I had no clue until I began to be approached by multiple members. My wireless mic was “hot,” and I was visiting with several people and, true to form, I was having plenty to say. As far as I know, I said nothing personal or embarrassing, but after I was informed of my amplified voice I began thinking back to who I spoke to and what I said. My private conversations were being broadcast throughout the auditorium, foyer, nursery, and beyond.
The Bible gives us some insights into what the day of judgment will be like. How much is accommodative language and how much depicts what it will be like is something we must leave until we are there. Yet, there are some statements made that are not open to interpretation. Solomon writes, “For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecc. 12:14). There is appointed a day when “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:16; cf. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10). Jesus taught, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Mat. 12:36-37). Clearly, the words we speak—even those which are not public—are subject to the universal judgment at the end of time.
With that in mind, I want to be more careful to control that hard-to-tame tongue (cf. Jas. 3:2ff). Lying, gossiping, complaining, bitter, slanderous, angry, malicious, backbiting, or jealous words can flow freely, especially in private conversations. I may think I am covered by the cloak of secrecy or privacy, but how would I speak if I knew that everything I said what being broadcast for everyone to hear? If I could think of my speech in that way, how much more positively would I speak of others, of my own circumstances, of the church, and of my God?
Yesterday was good for me! If all of us could experience an unplanned moment like that at least once, it might cause us to reflect on what we are saying when we think that those around us can’t (or won’t) hear. It might help us live soberly, righteously, and godly in view of the end.
Up until this past election cycle I had never even heard of WikiLeaks. Months and endless press later, I have become very familiar with this website. For those who may have been living under a rock for the past few months, WikiLeaks is a website that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media that they receive from anonymous sources for the world to see. Just looking on their page the other day, I discovered links that would allow me to read private emails from a presidential candidate and her associates, secret files about global surveillance, private emails between top employees at Sony Pictures, and I could have even watched a classified video.
Through all of this browsing it made me start to wonder. With hindsight being 20/20, would the ones who wrote these emails or committed these acts have written or done things differently if they knew that in the future they would be exposed and the whole world would be able to see and judge them because of these leaks?
More importantly, this also got me thinking further about myself. Do I have any secrets that I would fear if they ever got out? Do I ever have thoughts in my head that are impure and unfaithful? Do I allow myself to continue to have these thoughts because, after all, I’m keeping them to myself? After all, who’s going to know?
Allow me to answer that question for us all: GOD KNOWS! Like WikiLeaks in our world, God can, and does, unearth all these dark spots in our personal lives. But whereas there are still plenty of classified files and incriminating private emails out there that haven’t been, and won’t ever be, exposed by WikiLeaks, God already knows EVERYTHING there is to know about us.
As it says in Psalm 139:1-4, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all.” God knows everything we do on the outside and the inside. Having that realization is very intimidating.
For more evidence of this you can also look at Hebrews 4:12-13, which states, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
We will all be judged. Not just based on what our family, friends, and the rest of the world see, but based on the EVERYTHING that God sees. You can’t hide anything from God. Knowing this, are there changes we need to make in our lives? Are there things we need to do and think about differently?
The good news is that it’s never too late and God is a forgiving God. If we do sin, we need to confess these sins to God ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). I challenge you to live with the knowledge in the front of your mind that God is always watching and listening. There are no secrets with God and there is no misleading God. Live the life He requires and you will receive your eternal reward in Heaven.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
At a preachers’ meeting I attended today, a brother led us in prayer specifically about the men, women, and children who were onboard the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 as well as their families. While there have certainly been many other prayers for these folks, this brother said something that should have struck me before today. He prayed, “God, we know that you already know exactly where they are, but please help those searching for them to find them.” Has that thought truly struck us? Our omniscient God knows the precise point on this globe where those 239 passengers are. If we let that sink in, it reminds us of a much further-reaching point. God knows everything about everyone of us, where we go and what we do.
Scripture teaches this many times over, in both testaments. 2 Chronicles 16:9 tells us the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth. “He sees all the sons of men…all the inhabitants of the earth” (Ps. 33:13-14). “His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men” (Ps. 11:4). Hebrews 4:13 affirms that “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” The mysteries of the ages that have long confounded our greatest minds could not be more plainly known to Him. Whether or not the massive coordinated efforts of nations, militaries, technology, and resources solve this enigma is yet to be seen, but God knows the answer to this as readily as He does the greatest conundrums with which man has ever been confronted.
One day, God will cleave the skies and bring all unsolved mysteries to an end, with every secret, cloak and dagger, and clandestine activity which may have perplexed men for centuries. He will bring these secrets into the judgment (Rom. 2:16). While there is so much that we may not know, let us rest assured that we stand beneath the gaze of the All-Seeing eyes of God.