In every culture, there are norms as to what is public versus things kept private. There are no absolutes. Cultural norms evolve with time. As a child, I found the differences fascinating and confusing. What made one culture casual about swimming wear, or lack of, while other cultures found it to be crucial to one's privacy and moral standards? Was there a reason that public displays of affection were embraced with warmth and appreciation in one culture, admonished in others, and not even considered in a third? Why did people worship so differently? In some cases, everything was private and conducted behind closed doors while the opposite extreme played out across the street.
With experience, I can see the impact of tradition and culture on individual behavior. Yet, I am more confused! It seems that being private is often an excuse for fitting in without ever having to practice or express a truth filled spiritual view. We can fit in without ever having to have a conversation with a supreme being. We can be upstanding, respected members of our community without embracing mercy, compassion, or social justice. We can be seen as having wisdom even as we float through life without forming a firm view on anything.
I look at the heroes in my life and I see something quite different. Who they were and are in private is the same as what people see in public. If you know one side of these individuals, you know both. They publicly embraced their values and priorities, often encouraging others to form their own views even if they were different. They openly went about their business, risking ridicule and criticism for steps that were different than others.
One example was shown on “the next day as the three travelers were approaching the town, Peter went out on the balcony to pray.” (Acts 10.9) Gandhi dressed, practiced, and lived his values. Recently a friend stood up for another, risking reputation and career.
Today we are invited to walk with God. It is a public invitation. So is our response.
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