When your faith isn’t public, it’s not likely to be private either.
Let me explain.
The notion of a “private faith” is a very western, even a very American idea. We’ve all heard someone say, “My faith is a private matter between me and God.” This is usually used as a reason why someone doesn’t share their faith or live a Christian testimony openly.
Yet, in my experience, I’ve never known a person who used this excuse with me that was actually walking with God. The reality about the faith we have in Jesus is that our faith is supposed to be a very public faith. Jesus commanded us to be public about our faith. “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). If you are a Christian, then it should be normal to have a desire to share something of your faith with others. “I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16). Yet, if we have no desire to be open about our faith, then something is wrong. It’s one thing to have the desire and not know what to do or say. Everyone experiences that. But it’s another thing entirely to have no desire to be open about our faith in Jesus. The only time in the scriptures when people are not open, and not challenged about it, are those who face intense persecution, even to the threat of their lives. That doesn’t describe America. But it does describe believers somewhere else.
In my former online ministry reaching the Muslim world, everyday I exchanged emails with Christians living in Muslim countries who are in hiding because open expressions of their faith could mean extreme loss and even death. Yet every person who I have had exchanges with wants to seek out other believers and have some kind of openness about their faith. Every one of them. Isn’t that a stark contrast to those of us who live in American comfort and ease, who don’t face imprisonment or death for expressing our faith? The persecuted are looking for opportunities to be open about their faith while some affluent Christians often call their faith, “A private matter.”
The reality is that we are all witnesses. We either witness about Jesus, or about ourselves, or about others. Ask yourself, if the people you’ve known for years don’t know that you’re a Christian, then what does that say about what you really believe; what does it say about your faith?
Here’s a dose of reality. None of our legitimate relationships are a private matter. If none of our relationships are solely a private matter, then why do we say our relationship with God is a private matter? Our births are lauded by the family and friends of our parents. When we are growing up our friendships are known by our parents, teachers, and other friends. We marry in front of witnesses who rejoice in our relationship with us. We show off a spouse or our kids. Our adult friends are a matter of public record. We even introduce our friends to other friends. Even in our deaths friends attend our funeral. The only relationships I can think of that we try to keep “private” are the ones we know are wrong—mistresses and marital infidelity, criminal associations, and so on; those relationships which can bring us shame. So why is it that if all our relationships are open to others that we try to use the “private” card about God? Perhaps it’s because we are embarrassed about our faith? Or perhaps its just an excuse and we may not have a real relationship with God in the first place. Aren’t these in the realm of possibility?
Is your faith in Jesus a matter of public record? Considering how much he loves us, what he did for us, and what he continues to do for us, how can we try and hide him in some corner or dark closet of our lives where no one will see?
If you claim to be a Christian but have never made a public profession of your faith, then now is the time to step up and make yourself known. Because to those who make their profession public, God will reward. But to those who have no public profession of faith, they may find that God will say to them, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 10:32)