When Chad and I were dating, we had literally just gotten our first ever email addresses a year or so earlier. He had moved to Nashville, and I was still in college some 800 miles away. We were too broke to pay per-minute to talk on the phone, so we spent a lot of time in our two years of dating sending emails back and forth. I remember sitting at my parents’ computer late at night waiting on the dial-up, and we would email back and forth for hours. In those early days of the internet, it felt like we were in our own private world.
The internet makes you feel that way sometimes. When there’s no one else around and you have a world of visuals and information and weirdness at your fingertips. When you feel like you can ask Google anything. Connecting with an old girlfriend on Facebook. Looking up your high school sweetheart to see if he’s still married. When you feel like you can nose around in stuff that you have no business nosing around in.
But, ask anyone whose name is showing up on the Ashley Madison list: the internet is never a private place.
It’s like a playground for sin-sick people (i.e., all of us). And, I don’t know if our internet sins really bother us all that much. Christians get on the internet every single day and post the most ungodly things about other people in the name of standing up for ourselves. We engage in sexual encounters with people we aren’t married to, pretending that it’s not that big of a deal. We look at pornography and tell ourselves that it’s harmless. We burn with jealousy as we watch people’s lives play out on Facebook. We argue with each other over petty things. We boast and brag and try to make ourselves appear morally superior while we bury all of our secret sins like there is such a thing as privacy. We do these things, and we aren’t really all that bothered by any of it.
Until we’re caught.
Until we’re standing there, in the spotlight of truth, shamed and humiliated. Then suddenly we get concerned about our sin problems.
It is truly awful to be discovered neck-deep in your sin.
The truth is that, for the most part, we don’t think much about God’s presence in our lives. We don’t think about His omniscience. We don’t think about the fact that He is much more involved in our “private” internet lives than any hacker could ever dream of being. Somehow we are okay with God seeing what we do online, as long as none of our friends or family find out about it. We are content to deny Him through our habitual offenses if the world still thinks that we’re “good Christians.” It must be true. How else could we do half of the things we do when no one’s looking?
I’m grieved for all of us.
We have such a weak view of God that we have more fear that people will find us out than that God will.
And, if we’re being honest with ourselves, while we have been spewing and sputtering over the sheer existence of a site like Ashley Madison, while we have been postulating about how those people deserved to get caught, inside we are trembling, so relieved that it wasn’t our internet history that was exposed to the world’s judging eye.
God is good, and He is kind, and He is patient. He is our judge, but He is also our Savior. We can trust Him with our darkest secret sins. But, we owe Him true repentance. We owe Him a total overhaul of our “private” behavior and thoughts and attitudes. And, we certainly owe Him the acknowledgement that everything we do on the internet is intimately linked to where He ranks in our minds and hearts.
The Bible says that out of the mouth the heart speaks. What does your internet presence say about the condition of your heart? Lay the fear of being found out at His feet. The only One who really matters already knows. And, His grace is enough.