Saturday, 19 April 2008

Internet Anonymity: Just Say No! (Part 5)

In this series I'm seeking to argue to Christians that in general, they should not post on the Internet anonymously. Part one, part two, part three, part four. Rather than building a single, integrated case, I'm arguing in a somewhat ad-hoc fashion - aiming in different directions, seeking to take out a few targets with each shot.

In this post I want to draw our attention to the ultimate fact: the judgment of God. One day, we will all appear, completely exposed, to the all-seeing judgment of God. "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). "[God] has appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has appointed" (Acts 17:30). "For as the Father has life in himself; so he has given to the Son to have life in himself; and has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man." (John 5:26-27).

In that day, there will be no secrets. "For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any hing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad."  (Luke 8:17) "For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops." (Luke 12:2-3)

The context of the verses quoted above from Luke 12 is that Jesus went on to encourage his disciples to not be afraid of men. Why should we not be afraid of men? Because we should be afraid of God! "And I say unto you my friends, 'Do not be afraid of those that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he has killed has power to cast into hell; yes, I say unto you, Fear him." (Luke 12:4-5). The fear of man and the fear of God are mutually exclusive alternatives. Fearing man and trusting God likewise: "The fear of man brings a snare: but whoso puts his trust in the LORD shall be safe." (Proverbs 29:25).

I believe that a considerably amount of Internet anonymity is due to old-fashioned fear of man. Effective hate-mail, slander and abuse can only be directed towards known persons. It's hard to diss "Mr. Anonymous", as no-one really knows who you mean. Pseudonyms function as a shield - the abuse is only personal to a certain degree; the identity can always be dumped, exchanged or rotated if the heat gets too much: a retreat option is always there, whether taken or not. Nobody enjoys personal abuse, and I've had plenty. It's also a surprising truth that those who are personally abused for Christ's sake enjoy blessings that the anonymous don't: "Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12).

If we really understood and meditated upon the fact that everything we do is completely open to God, and will be judged by him, then surely this goes a long way to reducing our anxiety over what our peers think about us. Our peers will not pass the final verdict on our lives - and God absolutely will. There is going to be a verdict, and nothing will be left out of the reckoning. All will be exposed. If that's true, then what is the point in trying to escape below the radar of our fellow men? Ultimately, they don't matter! If we really understand that all is done in the presence of God, then should we not stop caring about how others evaluate us because we're increasingly consumed with wanting to please him?

"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: indeed, I do not judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this: rather, he that judges me is the Lord." (1 Corinthians 4:3-4).

  • Should it not be a "very small thing" for all Christians as to what verdicts others pass on us? Surely that is not something unique, just for the apostle Paul?
  • If this is so, then why seek to be anonymous before your fellow men?

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