by Doy Moyer
“Why does it matter to you what people do in their own privacy? Why not just leave them alone? They aren’t hurting you. It’s their life; it’s none of your business.”
In one sense, it doesn’t matter to me what others do privately.* I have no interest in spying on people or using force to stop them from what they do (being a busybody is also wrong (I Timothy 5:13; II Thessalonians 3:11). God gave us all free will. If that’s where it stays, the only thing they’ll hear from me are pleas to reconcile with God because that’s a message for every human being regardless of the sin or circumstance, including me.
What matters to me is that people have opportunities to come to Jesus. We try to persuade people to glorify God and show dignity toward themselves and others. We try to point people to the Lord and His will so that they know the truth, repent of sins, and be reconciled with God. To do this, we need to be informed about what the Lord calls sin and how He worked to redeem us from sin. They decide from there.
If people are angry and throw private fits, that’s their business. I have no desire to enter the homes of angry people and stop personal tantrums.* However, I will still teach against anger and bitterness, though if their anger is acted out publicly, it becomes a problem for many (Hebrews 13:15). It’s none of my business what they do privately, but it is my business to teach the Lord’s will and to help others. If that happens to hit upon problems people have privately (including me), so be it. Christians are relaying information that impacts a person’s eternal circumstances. It matters to the One who offers His grace and mercy to the lost, and that should matter to all of us. If He teaches against anger (Colossians 3:8), then I will teach that, even if it confronts my own personal battles with anger. I need to hear it as much as anyone.
I do not take it as a personal offense against me if two men or two women do something privately. They are not attacking me personally (cf. Psalms 51:4). What does matter to me is that the Lord teaches people His will about sexually moral behavior (e.g., Matthew 19:1-11; I Corinthians 6:9-11; I Corinthians 7), and our job is to teach that and strive to live consistently with it. It’s not about what matters to me; it’s about what matters to the Lord and whether we will stay faithful to what He teaches — again, even if that confronts personal temptations I may have to fight. It’s up to us to exercise our freedom to respond appropriately (I Peter 2:16).
Private matters often do become public actions and defenses. It matters to me what messages people are sending my children and grandchildren. If you want to keep angry temper tantrums to your own private space, that’s on you, but don’t teach my children and grandchildren to be angry and bitter. If you want to participate in whatever form of consensual sexual behavior in your privacy, that is something you’ll answer to before God. I’m not the Judge. But don’t expect me to stay silent when you try to teach my family to participate in or endorse those things. It’s no longer private then, and we do not consider it harmless. If you think you need to speak out, so must we. Yet understand that the real issue, at the bottom, is not about a particular culture in time, but about what happens eternally. We want everyone to be saved, and any actions — ours or yours — that cause souls to be lost should be called out.
I want to make sure that the reason I think it is any of my business at all is that my business is wrapped up in God’s business. If I respond to arguments attempting to persuade us to act against God’s revealed will, then it’s not because I am personally offended so much as I am a child of God who expects me to reflect faithfully His will. God and His will tie me to specific teachings, not my own personal wishes. I must deny myself.
God expects Christians to set their minds on things above and be the new creation He intends them to be (Colossians 3:1-11). For those who are outside of Christ, it’s not that what they do offends our personal preferences. But they will hear our appeal to God’s will and plead with them to be reconciled with Him, just as we do with all people (II Corinthians 5:11-21). It does matter eternally, and it should matter to us that all have the opportunity to respond to His grace. This is what real love requires, and we will try to do it with grace (Colossians 4:6), knowing that we, too, need it.
Ultimately, it does matter. Will it matter to you?
* [Though I recognize that if private actions cross over into criminal behavior, that becomes another issue and is handled legally.]