One of the biggest topics in the news lately has been Governor Romney's secretly recorded comments about the 47%. The context is that a potential donor has asked him, on a practical level, how he will win the election. His response began with the idea that 47 percent of people "will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to good, to housing, to you-name it. That that's an entitlement and government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what." If you want the full context of the comments and the event at which he made them, here is an article you can read.
Since the secret recording was released, there have been varying reactions. Romney himself called the comments "inelegant" while some others have called them horribly offensive. I personally think the comment are worse than Romney is making them out to be, but I am not worked up over them. I guess my lack of indignation was for the same reason that I do not become indignant when a major college football program gets caught for recruiting violations. I have simply come to a place where I believe that the one who gets caught is not the only one who does it.
Case in point, a few months ago the president himself was caught on tape. During a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev concerning missile defense negotiations, the President Obama was recorded by a hot microphone. He said to the Russian president, "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility." The idea was that the president had to hold back on what he really wanted to do until he wouldn't have to worry about his quest for reelection. It ended up being an embarrassing gaffe.
What both of these situations have in common is that someone was caught on tape saying something that they had not intended for public consumption.
Now, before any of us throw stones at these men, we should consider what people would think of us if you private comments, jokes, and snide remarks were broadcast on television.
At the same time, these events underscore the fact that we often say what we really think when we don't beleive that our comments will have consequence. We speak most honestly when we don't think our comments will go public.
In Luke 12:2-3, Jesus said, "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs."
In a similar sense, the author of Hebrews says in 4:13: "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
Our youtube culture reminds us daily that what we say in private may end up being heard by the public. This is bad because comments are often taking out of context and friends betray confidences. At the same time, this is a sober reminder that we really don't have any private moments. We are always before God. He always hears us. And we are always accountable for what we say. When our "private" words are made public, we can blame those who betrayed the confidence, but we also must take a look at ourselves. If I am embarrassed that my words are repeated, then I need to ask why I said something embarrassing.
Living in freedom before God involves living with a clean conscience. Great freedom comes when you aren't afraid of getting caught or exposed. If we are content that our words, were they shouted from the rooftops, would reflect well on us, then there is nothing to fear.
Many years ago, a friend and fellow pastor, Alan, was wearing a microphone during the church service. The music was going on and the congregation was singing. He didn't realize that his microphone was on, and so people in the foyer could hear what he was saying. Standing in the back of the sanctuary he said to a friend, "You see that hot blonde in the front row?" You can imagine how the people in the foyer gasped when they heard this. Was their pastor checking out some woman and commenting about her. Then he said, "That's my lady." Great relief swept across the foyer when they realized that the "hot blonde" was his wife.
The story is only funny because, instead of being caught saying something embarrassing, Alan was caught saying something nice. His most honest words were revealed, and he was talking flatteringly about his wife. His private moment went public, and it revealed only a clean conscience.
We will all be caught on tape. We will all have private moments go public. May we live soberly before God so that those comments will reveal private people who are consistent with our public personas.