Friday, May 1, 2009

Escaping Anonymity - Tim Challies

One of the issues those of us in the pastorate have to deal with at times is receiving letters or notes that are either unsigned or signed “Anonymous.” This has now become a standard way for many to “identify” themselves in comments made in the web world of blogs. Standard practice for many of us who are pastors is to disregard unsigned or anonymous comments as a violation of the relational principle of Matthew 18 – but this becomes more difficult in the blog world, as comments are posted publicly. In discussing this recently with someone I was directed to a Table Talk message by Tim Challies. Here is an excerpt:

Admiral Lord Nelson once remarked that “every sailor is a bachelor when beyond Gibraltar.” This was a statement about anonymity, a rare concept even just a few short generations ago. Nelson knew that once his sailors moved beyond the bounds of the British Empire, beyond society’s systems of morality and accountability, they underwent a transformation. Every man became a bachelor and sought only and always his own pleasure. Those who have read biographies of John Newton will see there a vivid portrayal of a man who was a gentleman at home but who was vulgar and abusive while away. Given only a measure of anonymity he became a whole new man.

In days past, anonymity was both rare and difficult. People tended to live in close-knit communities where every face was familiar and every action visible to the community. Travel was rare and the majority of people lived a whole lifetime in the same small geographic area. Os Guinness remarks that in the past “those who did right and those who did not do wrong often acted as they did because they knew they were seen by others. Their morality was accountability through visibility.” While anonymity is certainly not a new phenomenon, the degree of anonymity we can and often do enjoy in our society is unparalleled in history.

We need accountability. Left to our own devices, we will soon devise or succumb to all kinds of evil. As Christians we know that we need other believers to hold us accountable to the standards of Scripture. Passages such as Ecclesiastes 4:12 remind us that “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” The Bible tells us that “iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17) and that we are to “stir up one another to love and good works…encouraging one another” (Heb. 10:24-25). Life is far too difficult and we are far too sinful to live in solitude. We need community. We need accountability. And God has anticipated our need by giving us the local church as the primary means of this accountability. . . .

. . . We face unique struggles in our increasingly anonymous world. We must commit to making ourselves accountable through visibility. We must commit to purity of heart and commit to only speaking or writing or reading or watching or doing what is honoring to God. And then we must ensure that there are people who know us, who will watch over us, and who will lovingly exhort and correct us when we fail in this commitment. While the British sailors went beyond Gibraltar and heaped contempt on the Empire they represented, we wish to be Christians who are “the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15).
Click here for the full Table Talk article

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