There is a teaching in Scripture that I like to call, the right of privacy. I don’t particularly like it (that is, my flesh doesn’t like it), but it’s there and we need to look at it. I’ve personally violated it several million times (maybe a slight exaggeration, maybe not), however, for the past several years I’ve tended to recognize when I do it and experience conviction as a result. And, thankfully, along with the conviction have come revelation and some insight into this subject, which I will now share.
We’ll start with an exchange between Jesus and Peter in John 21:15-23 following Jesus’ resurrection. I won’t go into a complete explanation of this conversation, but will address only the pertinent part found in verses 18-23. In verse 18 Jesus basically tells Peter that when he was younger he took care of himself and went wherever he decided to go. Then Jesus tells him that when he is older, he’ll stretch out his hands for help, another (the Holy Spirit) will take care of him and lead him where he will not want to go. Verse 19 then tells us that Jesus was talking about the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And Peter evidently understood this, because when he saw John following them he asked Jesus in verse 21, what is going to happen to him? To which Jesus answers in verse 22 and repeats in verse 23, what is that to you?
Now, let me make my point. If you examine the complete passage, you’ll notice Jesus has repeatedly admonished Peter to "feed My lambs", "feed My sheep", "feed My sheep", "follow Me", "follow Me". Remember, things were repeated to stress their importance. God had a plan and purpose for Peter’s life. At best, it would be difficult; at worst, it would be humanly impossible. And Jesus was telling him, Peter, it’s time to focus, concentrate on the business at hand, your business (what the Father has planned for you). Never mind what’s going to happen to John, that doesn’t concern you. The principle is the same for every one of us. God has a plan and purpose for our lives, but we’ll never realize it by minding other people’s business. We’ll only know it by concentrating on Him.
In Matthew 7:1-5 we find this warning, "judge not, lest ye be judged". I’ve talked about this before. The verb is krino and literally means to decide what is right or wrong for someone else. Here, Jesus says, it’s not for you to decide what is right or wrong for others. He then goes on to illustrate personal responsibility with the example of the speck that is in another’s eye, compared to the beam that is in your own. It’s a matter of perspective. And if you have the proper perspective, your faults (the beam) should look much larger (seem more important) than the faults of others (the speck). And when you combine His instruction with the illustration He gives, you should conclude that it’s wrong to decide what’s right or wrong for others and it should be your priority to look for and deal with your own faults.
Let’s move on. In Romans 14:4 Paul tells us that we’re not to judge (krino, again) another’s servant, because it is before his own master that he will either stand or fall. This is a great statement. First, in some translations the word "master" is capitalized to signify that it is a reference to God. A fact that is confirmed by the direct reference to God in the very next sentence and over all in the context of this passage, specifically verse 10 that tells us God is the One responsible for judgment (krisis, the noun form of the verb krino). Again, what’s the point? It’s not our responsibility to decide what’s right or wrong for someone else’s servant, their Master will decide. And just in case you’re really paying attention and you’re thinking, well yeah, but the verse 10 you cite above is really talking about the Judgment Seat of God yet future when He’s judging the dead; then look at Acts 10:42, which tells us that Jesus is the judge (krisis) of both the living and the dead.
Moving on, Galations 5:1 says we have freedom in Christ. If you examine the context, you’ll find that the word "freedom" or "liberty" in some translations refers to the right of privacy that every believer has that allows him to pursue a relationship with God free of any interference, or constraints that others might try to put on him. And while everyone is supposed to have this freedom from the interference of others, the opposite of that is true: others are supposed to be free of interference from us. In II Thessalonians 3:11 Paul warns against being "disorderly". The word (ataktos) is a military term meaning out of rank, and is used here to signify those who were unruly or disobedient. And how were they disobedient? The last part of the verse spells it out; they were busybodies (periergazomai), those who meddled in the affairs of others, instead of minding their own business as they had been taught was the proper thing to do.
Paul mentions busybodies again in I Timothy 5:13. Here you find one of his lists in which the first item leads to the second, which leads to the third, and so on. In this verse he warns against idlers, tattlers and busybodies. In fact what he says is, don’t be one of those who find themselves with too much time on their hands, because they’re not involved in anything spiritually productive (idlers). This will lead to being one who talks too much about things that don’t concern him (tattlers). Then, first thing they know, they’re going to find themselves more involved in the affairs of others than they are their own (busybodies).
To make the proper application, they become one who is more interested in the supposed spiritual condition of others than they are their own spiritual condition. And if you’ve read many of my articles, if they’re like most "Christians", they’re actually more concerned about the moral condition of others than they are their own moral condition, because morality is what their religion has taught them. They don’t know what true spirituality really is.
When we look further, in Galatians 6:1-5 we see more on the subject of privacy. In verse 1 Paul instructs that when someone gets caught up in some sort of trespass or fault (paraptoma, a blunder or misstep, probably a reference to Galatians 5:26warning against self-conceit, a competitive attitude or jealousy and all the goofy, destructive things that come from them), those who are spiritual should not judge them but rather restore them. The word "restore" is from katartizo meaning to mend, as in the case of something out of joint that has to be put back in its place in order to heal properly. The idea is that those who are involved in some sort of misconduct should not be isolated from the fellowship (dislocated from the spiritual body), but should continue to be accepted, hopefully to affect their healing. Further, the verb "restore" is in the present tense indicating continuous action and suggesting the need for patience on the part of the others involved.
Verse 2 then tells us that we must quietly endure one another’s troublesome faults and in this way we will fulfill the law of Christ. Of course, the law of Christ is that we love one another. And here, it is clear that Paul’s view of fulfilling this law demands the acceptance of those who exhibit failure. Judgment or isolation is not an option. Verse 3 tells us that those who refuse this course do so because they think themselves superior to those who fail. This is certain self-deception, since we all fail from time to time and find ourselves in trouble.
On to verse 4, which tells us that we must examine ourselves, take proper care to remedy our own faults and then we can feel good about ourselves without having to resort to unhealthy comparisons. There are basically two reasons why people compare themselves to others and both are wrong. They compare themselves to those they think inferior in some way to make themselves look good. Or, they compare themselves to those who seemingly are better off in some way, because they feel sorry for themselves. Then verse 5 simply tells us in conclusion that we all have to bear our own load of faults, that is, we simply have to take responsibility.
There’s one more verse. Then I’ll give you a principle using Christ as our example, a short conclusion and we’re done. In I Peter 4:15 violating another’s right to privacy is compared to other, seemingly more serious violations of personal freedom. Here we find these terms: a murderer, who takes another’s life; a thief, who takes another’s possessions; an evildoer, who takes away the harmony and tranquility of a community; and the meddler, who interferes in the affairs of others and takes away their right to privacy. Yet the construction of the verse suggests these violations of personal freedom are equally wrong.
As is usually the case, Christ is our example. John 8:1-11 shows us the principle that should guide us when we’re tempted (and we will be) to judge someone else’s seemingly wrong behavior. Now, if you’re reading this paper the way you should, then every time you see a scripture verse or passage in bold print, you immediately stop and read it in your Bible. So, if you’ve read John 8:1-11, then you know that it is the account of the woman brought to Jesus after she was caught in the act of adultery. Without going through a verse-by-verse explanation, let me just tell you the principle taught here is neutrality. In regards to the woman and what she had done, Jesus was neutral. He neither judged nor excused what she had done, evidenced by His statement "neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more".
Jesus did not violate her right to privacy. He did not judge her. Nor did He feel the need to get personally involved, find out all the gory details and set Himself up as the expert ready and willing to give this poor woman all the counseling she would need to help her out of this mess. Isn’t that amazing? He didn’t "minister" to her. Instead, He set the example for us to follow. He stayed out of it and minded His own business. Remember at the beginning of this paper when I was talking about Peter and the fact that Jesus was telling him to mind his own business and concentrate on what God had for him. In John 8 Jesus in His humanity was simply following this truth. Did God have a plan and purpose for Jesus? Certainly. Did Jesus have to concentrate and keep Himself focused in order to understand and fulfill that plan? Absolutely! And regardless of what you think "church ministry" should look like, you find no evidence in the life of Jesus that the Father’s plan for Him included getting personally involved in the private affairs of others. Yet this is a large part of what goes on in religious institutions today.
Now, why write a paper about privacy? I’m afraid religion has taught us some bad habits. The influence of institutional religion has provided us with its so-called "spiritual authority" (a manipulative ploy), the "wisdom of the church" (nothing more than the intellectualism, nonsense, and traditional thoughts of men which, in reality, disregard the teachings of Christ as explained by Paul in Colossians 2:8), and the phony religious ideals that give everyone the "Christian" responsibility to be moral policemen to those around them. And all these things have taught us to either yield to the interference of others perceived to be above us or they taught us to violate the rights of those perceived to be equal to or below us (a good way to lose your head in religion is to try to interfere in the affairs of someone perceived to be above you).
I’ve written this paper to establish a context so you could understand this one important fact: there is no spiritual value in the things we do because we were made to feel guilty through the judgment of others, manipulated by false authority, pressured into conforming to some religious standard, or counseled by men (or women) and guided into some kind of reformed behavior. It is the plan and purpose of God to change us and conform us to the image of His dear Son. But the only change God will recognize is that which comes as a result of our submission and obedience to Him. Our own efforts to reform ourselves or allow others to reform us are not acceptable to Him.
"That no man should ever boast in His presence. Because it is from Him only that you have your life in Christ Jesus. And God has made Him our Wisdom (the understanding of His divine plan of redemption), our Righteousness (making us acceptable with God), our Sanctification (separating us from the world to be His own) and our Redemption (paying the price required for our sin). So then, as it is written, He that boasts; let him boast in the Lord." (I Corinthians 1:29-31)
"He delivers us, not because of any self-righteous works that we have done, but because of His mercy. And He does it through the cleansing of regeneration (change) by means of the renewing ministry of the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:5)
Why should we respect other’s rights to privacy? It is because God is both the source and the agent for change. Regardless of whether it is our wrong religious training, our own silly self-righteousness and deceitful perceptions of spiritual superiority or our genuine good intentions, any change that comes from our interference in the lives of others is merely the result of human effort and is worthless in the eyes of the God Who has established a plan in which He and He alone is able to affect real change. Our efforts to reform ourselves and others will never be equal to nor will they ever be an acceptable substitute for God’s covenant plan of redemption, a plan that absolutely requires the individual, personal participation of both man and God for its fulfillment.