“Privacy” is highly valued, but is it highly valuable? We’ve seen how the family unit breaks down under all the efforts to keep a personal sense of privacy, even in that relational context. This was not always the way. In most of the past, marriage, childbearing, and the broader social dynamic were far more intimate. They lived life together.
This should resonate with Christians more than it does, but we think we love this thing called privacy. We want to be left to our own devices, unchallenged by peers, living lives that only intersect others when we need something from them.
I’ve got to say, I’ve yet to encounter a single instance in Scripture that supports a lifestyle of privacy as it’s sought today. In fact, it seems just the opposite.
Abraham lived a life within intimate proximity to his “family”, but his “family” included servants and their families as well. To put it into perspective, there were enough of them to mount a military offensive to rescue Lot and his wife. That’s hardly just the immediate family.
Paul rarely went anywhere alone. He always took Timothy, Silas, Barnabas, Luke, or another disciple or two everywhere he moved in life. He valued the challenge, camaraderie, and perspective gained by intimate companionship.
David grew to love Saul’s son Jonathan as an intimate friend long before he was able to call him brother-in-law. They risked their very lives for each other and shared each other’s hopes and fears.
The bride and groom of the Song of Songs seem to be very open and frank about their sensual praises of each other. They even seem to encourage occasional commentary from their peers, with one mind-blowing scene in particular that acts as an earthquake to both Western notions of privacy and our sensibilities, so much so that translators and commentators often pretend it’s not there or word their way around it.
The vast majority of the prophets had wives who, in their own way, shared the righteous burden of their husbands’ offices.
Jesus himself shared his very life with twelve men, men who ate and slept alongside him at every moment of his ministry. Some, like Peter, had wives as well, and it’s quite reasonable to assume their families were also close to the Son of God. We know for a fact that He was very close to Lazarus’ family, close enough to openly weep before them and share their home on multiple occasions.
The book of Acts presents an early church in such intimacy. House gatherings, spiritual meals, financial sharing, and a generally social lifestyle were the norm.
Not once in the entire New Testament do we see a Christian praised for his or her capacity to make it apart from others. We are, after all, the body of Christ. Even Christ didn’t carry His cross by Himself.
As God said way back at the beginning, it’s not good for man to be alone. And if anyone would know, it would be Him.
Paul, after his encounter on the Damascus road, is commanded by God to go to a certain man for healing his eyes. But wait, wasn’t it God who blinded him just moments before? Couldn’t God just heal him right there? Sure, if God wanted Paul to not engage with the community of believers. But He had a plan. From Paul’s perspective, the plan was awkward, abrasive, and most effective. Which could really be a great description of Paul’s entire ministry.
And that’s the important lesson. Getting away from this notion of privacy—that is, allowing others into intimacy with us—is painful at times, as it requires letting fallible people to get close enough to hurt your fallible self. Allowing others in makes life hectic at times, as it requires you to accommodate them, make time for them, and even sacrifice for them.
Engaging with the community is aggravating at times, as it requires having an audience who may not be comprised exclusively of sycophants.
And that’s the point. Throughout the pain, the chaos, the irritation, and everything else that comes with it, intimacy grows, and with it, true community. If you remain committed to community despite the bad, beauty emerges. Lifelong friendships, support during hard times, wise counsel, spiritual exhortation, genuine pee-yourself laughter, and everything else that comes from Christian love: it’s all there. And none of it is found in apartness.
Such is the prevarication of privacy. It has none of what it promises. The hurt, the chaos, the irritation, they all follow you into apartness and keep you company when you’re there. You’re lonely, but not alone. Wherever you go, that jerk called “you” goes too, and more often than not, that guy is the real cause of your problems.
Being apart doesn’t fix. It only masks. And not even all that well.
Privacy is a lie.
Living in Intimacy
We should live life with others. Most of all with our spouses: we are one flesh, and my wife has a right to everything that’s mine, as it’s just as much hers.
Next, our children should share in our lives. Gone are the days of fathers and sons working alongside each other from early ages, but we can still toil together, sweat together, pray for the family together. Far too many parents try to shield their children from all difficult circumstances facing the family, but this ill equips them to deal with their own trials. Rather, live life with them, protecting them when necessary but including them more and more as they age.
Finally, have close family friends. As in “our family is friends with their family”, not “he/she is a friend of someone in our family”. And live life together. Invite them over to eat regularly, and don’t clean the house. This isn’t about showmanship or courtesy or propriety; it’s about intimacy. Have their kids sleep over with yours and vice versa. Heck, have the whole family over for a slumber party, parents included.
Build that relationship and begin to challenge one another, pray for one another, cheer for one another, and mourn with one another. You’ll bother each other, rub the wrong way, and even offend. But keep on loving.
There’s little room for “privacy” in this arrangement, but there’s a lot of room for love and growth. This is community. This is what we see in healthier times, and I suspect it’s what we’ll see in heaven.
Protect your right to privacy, but by all means exercise that right with restraint. Be selective with your true intimacy. Christ was followed by thousands at times, but in close were only some few dozen. Among those, he had the one dozen. Within the twelve there were three, and within the three there was one.
We can’t be intimate with everyone, and we shouldn’t be. That’s unhealthy, and I believe that’s part of what Christ was teaching in Matthew 7:6. But being guarded is different from being apart. If you don’t have anyone in your life that is so uncomfortably close to you that you’re comfortable with anything, you’re missing out.
The great teacher Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Christians who isolate themselves and walk alone, are very liable to grow drowsy. Hold Christian company, and you will be kept wakeful by it, and refreshed and encouraged to make quicker progress in the road to heaven.”
One caveat. Men, draw close to men, and women to women. Apart from your spouse, keep boundaries between you and the opposite sex. There is wisdom in such boundaries. Don’t avoid intimacy altogether; be friends, by all means, but exclusively through your spouse or their spouse (ideally both).
Originally posted 2016-09-23 08:00:46.