Information, Please

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 99; 147:1-11, Micah 7:7-15, Acts 3:1-10, John 15:1-11


In this age of identity theft, we are more protective of information than ever. Conversely, we are perplexed when we don’t get enough information ourselves. We suspect – with good reason – that news outlets, governments, businesses, and churches not only refuse to release vital information, but actively conceal it. Knowledge is power, and when we lack it we feel helpless. When it is stolen from us (though we still retain it) we feel violated. An information balance is a delicate thing.

As Jesus prepared his disciples for his death, he told them they were no longer servants but friends because “I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” A free flow of information transforms relationships. Members of a healthy community trust each other. When a person or group within the community purposely withholds something, even if it’s benign, they are telling all the other members they are of unequal status. It’s better to resist the thrill of being “in the know” or part of some perceived inner circle, since secrets are rarely kept for anyone else’s benefit. There is truly personal or inappropriate information, but we are considering the kind that knowingly creates an inequality of power. Whether in a church, social group, or neighborhood, boards and committees who adopt the “Vegas Rule” create a knowledge vacuum which people naturally try to fill, because it makes them feel less vulnerable, and therefore less fearful. Unfortunately their assumptions can have even worse unintended consequences. We must walk a tightrope balancing a respect for privacy on one side, and a healthy accountability on the other.

Disclosure can be difficult and uncomfortable. For Jesus that meant trusting his disciples not to flee when he told them he was going to die – very different from businesses who conceal layoff plans so employees will not leave inconveniently soon. For us it may mean letting go of a little power or social advantage, or risking criticism and hurt feelings. In the long run, a community is healthier for its honesty and transparency, and a healthier community promotes healthier members.

Comfort: Honesty begets honest.

Challenge: If you feel the need to keep something secret, take time to examine your motives.

Prayer: God of truth, give me strength to live honestly and openly. Amen.

Discussion: Are you ever tempted to keep secrets you shouldn’t?

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