Consider this actual case (with nearly all important details removed… you will understand why).
A Muslim teen was led to convert to Christianity. This is not news. Some Christians act like this is a rare thing. But dialogue between Christians and Muslims has led to many questioning their faith on both sides in recent years.
Here is the story. Those who led the teen to “accept Christ” decided to “out” this person. That is, they decided to share the conversion experience world-wide through social media. This teen is the child of harsh parents (by any standards). This information distinctly did not help.
The result? The teen feels manipulated and feels that no one can be trusted… least of all, Christians.
Why did the “friends” of this teen decide to do what they did?
1. Perhaps they felt that salvation was tied to public confession of faith. But this makes no real sense since such a confession of faith can’t be done 3rd person. Even if they wanted to encourage the teen to make the decision public, most of us would feel that such a confession does not need to be put up on the world wide web.
2. Perhaps they were guided by who (or what) is important. Let’s consider some options:
a. God. If God is most important? I would suggest that God does not need to read about it on the Web.
b. Mission of God. If God is not the most important, but God’s mission is the most important, one might decide to post this information IF one thinks that the positive value of such a testimony in the general public would be greater than the negative impact one could expect in the small scale. But is such a Machiavellian attitude justified?
b. Friends. If friends are the most important. then one gives them things they will enjoy. If they enjoy inspirational gossip or newsy chitchat, one might prioritize giving such sensitive information. But how many friends does one have? Certainly putting information on a website that is accessible to most of the world goes beyond one’s list of friends.
c. Self. If oneself is the most important? Well, you do whatever makes you look good. If you think that hurting someone else makes you look like a great Christian, is that enough of a justification to tell the world? I don’t think so.
d. The young convert. What is best for the new believer. The young believer needs to be put into an environment guided by Christian love, and gently guided on the path that Jesus (Isa) walked. The young believer did not need to go through all of this other stuff.
I believe the priorities have to be God and the young believer. Self and others have to move down the list. And as tempting as it is to prioritize the “Mission of God” the risk of a destructive pragmatism is too great.
I do understand that sometimes to issues can get very murky. I am familiar with some missionaries that were planning to work in a “closed” country. They needed to raise money for support. This means going around talking about what they plan to do, their vision, and the needs. However, their agency gave them many warnings about the risk of causing problems by giving information. Following the agency’s advice to the letter would almost certainly sabotage raising the support they needed. In the end, a balance had to be found.
Balance is so important, but so hard to find.