When people try to keep their Christianity a secret.
Most of the time, this particular teaching of Jesus has the effect of getting Christians to quit waffling and publicly declare themselves Christian. ’Cause Jesus doesn’t want secret followers.
Matthew 10.32-33 KWL
- 32 “So everyone who agrees with me before people: I’ll also agree with them before my heavenly Father.
- 33 But those who disown me before people: I’ll also disown them before my heavenly Father.”
Though y’might notice there were secret Christians in Jesus’s day.
Thing is, there are a number of people who secretly, privately, personally believe in Jesus. But they don’t have the balls to step forward and publicly say so. Maybe they’ll say so in private… but sometimes not even then. “My religion is none of your business,” is their usual cop-out. “Religion is private.”
True, some religious practices are private, or certainly should be.
Which is precisely why Jesus makes this kind of deal about it. If you love him, you’re gonna acknowledge him. You’re gonna defend him to people who don’t think so much of him, or don’t think so much of anyone who puts their trust in him. You’re gonna stand up when it counts. Even when it might mean you’ll suffer consequences. Especially then; it’s hardly a significant gesture when there aren’t any consequences.
And yet we still have such creatures as incognito Christians. Who sometimes show up when we really need ’em, like Joseph and Nicodemus; but who more often cave under pressure, like Peter that one time. And to Peter’s credit, it’s a mistake he never made again.
Good deeds don’t preach the gospel as much as you imagine.
The authors of Matthew, Mark, and John knew Joseph’s deal, and said so in their gospels.
John 19.38 KWL
- After these things Joseph the Aramathene, who’d been Jesus’s student in secret, fearing the Judeans,
- asked Pilate if he could take Jesus’s body. Pilate allowed it, so Joseph came and took his body.
But interestingly, Luke didn’t choose to identify Joseph as a student. This was all the description he provided:
Luke 23.50-52 KWL
- 50 Look, a man named Joseph who had senatorial rank, a good and righteous man,
- 51 who didn’t collaborate with the senate and their action—
- this man Joseph, from Arimathea, Judea, who was waiting for God’s kingdom,
- 52 this man Joseph, going to Pontius Pilate, asked for Jesus’s body.
It’s a good description, but y’notice it leaves out the fact he followed Jesus. He “was waiting for God’s kingdom,” and recognized Jesus as King of this kingdom. But Luke chose not to say this. Maybe something made Luke doubt Joseph’s affiliation. Maybe the fact Joseph had spent so long in hiding it, and the one publicly Christian thing he ever did was to embalm Jesus and put him in his sepulcher.
But while that’s a pretty meaningful act to us Christians, it’s that’s not necessarily a Christian act.
Seriously. ’Cause the L
There’s an old quote which people claim St. Francis of Assisi said; it doesn’t really sound like him, but whatever: “Preach the gospel, and when necessary use words.” Properly interpreted, it means the same thing Jesus did when he told us to let our good deeds shine before others.
As you can kinda see in Joseph’s case, no it doesn’t count.
That’s the problem with secret Christians: When they do good deeds, we don’t know their motives. We might be able to deduce them because we see some rather obvious
The reason Jesus used words to preach the gospel? ’Cause it takes words. Deeds get people’s attention, but don’t tell the whole story. Words tell the whole story. Use words!
The fear of losing status.
Why’d Joseph hide his Christianity? Because he was a senator.
But while Joseph realized it was no longer appropriate, fact is it’d never been appropriate.
Had Joseph spoken up, he might’ve got a little pushback from some of his fellow senators. Like
Americans frequently use the excuse, “I can’t tell people at work I’m Christian; it’s forbidden.” Untrue. Workplaces can have dress codes which forbid religious imagery, and can forbid people
Nope. Where we can, and how we can, our Christianity shouldn’t be secret. So why was Joseph’s Christianity a secret? Fear.
And in my experience, fears tend to be entirely unfounded. Our brains, or the devil, play on those fears, exaggerate ’em out of proportion, and convince us to not take risks. Even useful, necessary, valuable, significantly rewarding risks. Comfort is such a useful temptation.
Joseph’s public stance would’ve made clear there was one senator who took Jesus seriously. It might’ve brought other senators who were secretly Christian, like Nicodemus, out of the woodwork. It might not have stopped Jesus from getting killed; it might’ve done nothing more than stall his trial a bit. But all the more people might’ve paid attention when the apostles stood up
Okay, now what if Joseph had been out of town when Jesus was killed, and never had the opportunity to entomb Jesus? What if the one good deed he’s known for in the bible, never happened? What if he never did publicly acknowledge his Master? You think Jesus would’ve stuck to his statement and disowned him?
I say Jesus is extremely generous, but it’s entirely possible. Because they valued their comfort and status over
Those who claim they don’t wanna embarrass Jesus.
In some cases people are secretly Christian for… well, let’s play along with them for the time being, and call this reason noble. See, they honestly don’t act Christian. So rather than tarnish the label “Christian,” they simply won’t claim it.
Fr’instance most Christians object to nonmarital sexual activity. Well, certain Christians wanna indulge their urges, don’t wanna do it within any confines of any monogamous relationship, so they do as they please. Sometimes they feel guilty about it; sometimes not. Either way they still agree with their fellow Christians—and the scriptures—in that promiscuity is a
In high school I indulged in plenty of fruitless behavior, and kept my Christianity on the downlow because I claimed I didn’t want my behavior to reflect on Jesus or Christianity. When word leaked out I was Christian, my excuse was, “I’m not a very good Christian; I don’t act Christian.” Sometimes I’d admit I should act Christian, but obviously I didn’t mean it enough to reform.
And gradually I discovered most kids were the very same way. Turns out most of my high school friends went to church, and actually
Hence I’ve met people in various unsavory career paths who behave this way. Like musicians who like to sing naughty lyrics, or drug dealers, or sex workers, or politicians. No, that’s not a jab at politics: They truly recognize their political positions and tactics are incompatible with Christianity, so they hide their Christianity. They really do imagine they’re sparing Jesus embarrassment.
Obviously what they’re truly doing is indulging their flesh, and putting off Jesus.
So are they even Christian at all? Well that’s kinda up to Jesus. But since he calls us to a lifestyle of repentance,
Those who feel embarrassed by Jesus.
Some secret Christians are hiding their Christianity, not because they don’t wish to embarrass Jesus or other Christians, but because they don’t wanna be embarrassed. They’re ashamed of their religion.
Sometimes these are the folks who are embarrassed by the misbehavior of our fellow Christians. They’re tired of the overzealousness, the politics masquerading as devout behavior, the anger and rejection disguised as purity—
And sometimes these are the folks who are embarrassed by just how backwards Christians can behave. In other words, we’re not “cool” as they define coolness: They figure society oughta hide its religious practices more than it does. So when we pray in public, quote bible, say “Amen” all the time, talk to strangers or volunteer to help the needy (or volunteer them to help the needy), or bring up miracles and the supernatural, it irritates ’em. They prefer private religion. So private, you can’t even tell it exists.
Ostensibly this is because they consider religion to be very personal. But that excuse is crap. Everyone’s religion, if we really do base our lives upon it, is very personal. If it’s impersonal, if we don’t really mean it or feel it, that’s hypocrisy. Any true relationship with God is gonna be personal.
Likewise any true relationship with God is gonna be private in some areas. But these personal and private revelations should be so significant, they leak into our public lives and transform them. No matter how private one’s religion should be, in every Christian we should see fruit. If we don’t, we’ve got faith without fruit.
The reason people hide their faith isn’t because it’s personal. It’s because it’s not there, and they’re trying to disguise their irreligion as deeply-felt religion. It’s just more hypocrisy.
Christianity embarrasses them because, frankly, they don’t have Christ. When all their Christian friends express joy and excitement about Jesus, they feel nothing. And that bugs ’em. As it should; there’s something wrong with them. But denial gets ’em to turn it around: “I’m not the one with the problem. They are. Religion should be private.” And other such self-deceptions.
The secret pagans.
Self-deception is very much at the heart of the secret Christian. They’re trying to tell themselves they really are Christian, they really do have a relationship with Jesus, they really are saved, they really are going to heaven. That their godless behavior doesn’t matter,
And other such things which keep ’em from repenting, and keep ’em in the dark when they should be going into the light.
In reality, many “secret Christians” aren’t Christian at all. They’re pagan. They have no relationship with God—or their relationship is so distorted by all the hiding and lying, it’s not a relationship that’ll get ’em into God’s kingdom.
As you can tell from the fact their lifestyles are indistinguishable from that of pagans. You can’t tell ’em apart. They vote the same, shop the same, dress the same, consume the same media, have the same rate of divorces and abortions, have the same rate of murders and rapes and suicides. They’re just as friendly, but just as fruitless. They act and live as pagans.
Doesn’t matter what they go on telling themselves.