So, did you hear what NBA team owner Donald Sterling said to his mistress? Did you happen to see Prince Harry in his birthday suit a while back? Have you seen the video of family-values Congressman Vance McAllister kissing a staffer (who was not his wife)? Or maybe you gawked at pictures of the mansion and private zoo deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych bought for himself with bribes and money stolen from government coffers.
Within living memory, part of being rich and powerful meant having the freedom to behave abominably in private without having the public find out. At least not until you were dead. Today, all the money in the world won’t keep your secrets from being exposed.
And it’s not just the rich and powerful whose secrets are being dragged into the light. Divorce courts are filled with people whose marriages are ending because of deception revealed by cell phone records, text messages, emails, instant messaging and internet browsing histories. You can now discover which of your neighbors have arrest records with a quick internet search. If you exclude a friend from a get-together, you’ll get caught when one of the attendees puts pictures up on facebook. And all you have to do is watch a true crimes detective show on cable to see how hard it is to get away with murder once science gets involved.
This loss of secrecy and some would say privacy is so obvious and so commonplace now as to barely be worth mentioning. It’s just a reality of our age. What is shocking to me is how rarely it is mentioned that this is exactly what the bible said was going to happen:
^There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” ~ Matthew 10:26
“For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.” ~ Mark 4:22
“But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” ~ Luke 12:2
Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts ~ 1 Corinthians 4:5
There are many other verses which say that the time will come when what is done in secret will be known to all. It’s a concept which is found all throughout scriptures. And it’s a promise we are seeing fulfilled in real time right before our eyes.
As I said, the fact that nothing is a secret anymore is so commonplace that it’s not in the least bit shocking anymore. But consider what a radical shift this is in human affairs. 300 years ago, the average person living in areas ruled by the British Empire wouldn’t know what a British prince’s face looked like. Today, people all over the world have seen pictures of Prince Harry (and other lesser nobles) in the nude. The idea would have been astonishing to an Indian peasant in 1700. There has never been a time like this in all of human history.
So, what should we Christians be doing in light of this fulfillment of scripture? The same thing the prophets always tell us to do when the Lord is approaching: repent. If there is some secret or shameful thing which you are carrying, you need to bring it to God to be redeemed. You cannot assume or hope that your secrets will remain hidden. If they are exposed while you are still holding them in a shameful and hidden place, it has the potential to destroy your life, your ministry and your entire witness.
However, if you have already brought them into the open, gotten help and begun the process of healing, you will have a story of human struggle and redemption to share should your secrets be brought into the light. Repenting may require that you expose some painful truths to the people around you. And it may cost you to do so. But the Lord will be a refuge for you when there is a price to be paid. He will not turn away a repentant heart and will redeem whatever cost you pay. It is far better to throw yourself into his hands in repentance than it is to live with your deception and hope that it will remain hidden.
Of course, not all secrets are kept out of shame over our own wrong doing. Some secrets we keep in order to protect those we love. Or we may keep them to protect ourselves from unfair judgment from others. Some secrets we keep because although we may have done nothing wrong, they have the potential to disrupt our entire lives should they be exposed.
If you are carrying these sorts of secrets, there are a couple of things to consider. The first is the issue of shame. Secrets are often a malevolent force in our lives because they are often closely tied to shame. But shame is one of those things which God desires us to be free from. Shame is not of God and has not right to live within our hearts. So if you have a secret surrounded in shame, ask yourself who that shame actually belongs to.
If your secret has to do with abuse or wrong doing on the part of someone else, it doesn’t belong to you. It’s not yours to carry. In this case, you need to bring this secret into the open in a safe setting so you can begin the process of living in freedom rather than as a prisoner to shame that doesn’t even belong to you. This may require you to find a good therapist, talk with a mature, trusted brother or sister in Christ, attend a support group for those who have similar experiences or even just anonymously sharing your story on the internet. Hell, you can email me privately with your secret if you don’t feel safe exposing it any other way. (firstname.lastname@example.org) I happen to be an excellent secret keeper. Although I should want you that I’m also an incorrigible advice giver, so you do run the risk of getting a kind and wise bossy-know-it-all response from me in return. 😉
Having secrets brought into the light is a painful, embarrassing and costly experience for those who have done wrong. But when you are the person who has been wronged, bringing what has been done in the dark into the light of day is an empowering and healing gift. And more often than you may realize, bringing these sorts of secrets into the open not only allows for your healing, but for the healing of others who may hear your story and realize that they are not alone.
If you are carrying secrets which are not a source of shame for you, but which you want to keep secret nonetheless, that is of course your right. I have a bunch of those secrets myself. Some I keep for the sake of people I love. And others I keep simply because I’m a pretty private person, believe it or not. But these secrets do need to be kept with an awareness that one day they may well be exposed. Which means you need to live with enough honesty and integrity that if your secret becomes known, it won’t reveal anything that isn’t consistent with what people already know about you. And you’d probably do well to invest in your relationships with anyone who might be upset or hurt if your secrets are revealed.
All of which is my long, drawn-out way of explaining Paul’s advice to the Corinthians for how to live without secrets:
We have renounced secret and shameful ways. We do not use trickery or pervert God’s word. By clear statements of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience before God. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:2
Tomorrow: the next, equally obvious sign that we are witnessing the fulfillment of scripture. And what you can do to join in on that one too!