This morning’s newsfeeds are full (still) of the NSA spying scandal. The president has come up with some proposals that seek to balance national security interests and personal privacy concerns. Apparently the civil libertarians are not buying the balance. The tilt is towards snooping. One way or another Big Brother is listening in on our phone calls and reading our emails and texts.
To be sure, this is an important policy issue. The cynic in me says that whatever new policies are written somebody somewhere will be able to listen in or read over my shoulder whether I want them to or not. I don’t particularly like the idea, but I am pretty sure it is reality.
So what would some poor NSA analyst discover if he or she were assigned my case? Not much of national interest, I suspect, but what might he or she have learned of who I am and what I think and how I act when he or she completed the tedious task of reading the transcript of my phone calls, emails and text messages.
Not fully, not completely, but the NSA has the ability to know a fair amount about the state of my heart.
In the pile of emails I send day by day, the NSA would find messages of encouragement, promises of prayer, words of Scripture. It would discover that the institutional foundation of a church’s ministry must be built with policy and procedures, budget and plans, programs and schedules. No apologies for that. I think they’d see some signs of care and compassion, a longing for connection and depth. Now and again our poor NSA agent would catch glimpses of the kind of things that make me smile and cause me to laugh. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.
But those emails would also reveal some pettiness and judgmentalism, too much impatience and a critical attitude. They would show me to be more concerned for self than the other. I’d be outed as the sinner I am. (We don’t like to say so, but it is true – read this interesting response from last fall when Pope Francis declared the truth about who he is.)
The fact of the matter is that there is no balance; I tilt toward sin.
I am not sure that the NSA report on my case would conclude sinner. It’s probably not one of their categories. But I am a sinner. And whether the NSA knows it or not, God does.
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me,” the Psalmist writes. The NSA doesn’t have anything on the Lord. “You discern my thought from afar.” The final report is not flattering. He remembers that we are dust.
But then this: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.”
I hope the NSA doesn’t make its finding about me public. It knows too much, and the report would not be flattering. God knows more, and it is even less flattering. But unlike the NSA, God has compassion. And that is why we, like the Psalmist, are able to say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts.”
Friends, hear and believe the good news of the Gospel. In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
See you Sunday