Secret Service Christians

U.S. Secret Service

Created in 1865 by Abraham Lincoln on the day of his death to suppress counterfeit currency, the United States Secret Service now has a two-fold mission.

“Today the Secret Service is mandated by Congress to carry out the integrated missions of protection and investigations.” (United States Secret Service)

More specifically, Secret Service agents protect our “nation’s leaders and the financial and critical infrastructure of the United States.” They do this with a worldwide staff of about 7,000 employees.

Secret Service agents try to do their jobs in an inconspicuous way. In fact, they prefer to go unnoticed since being noticed usually means something went wrong.

Yet, spotting an agent isn’t too difficult since their unique objectives and activities means they won’t exactly fit in. Think of it like being able to spot security personnel at a concert. Because much of the time they don’t act like those in the crowd, they stand apart from it.

In some aspects, being a Christian should be like being a Secret Service agent. One of those involves being inconspicuous in some key ways.

Secret Service Christians

Jesus actually tells us to be secret service Christians in three specific areas… giving, praying and fasting (Matthew 6). He begins this teaching by telling us to check our motives.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)

By no means are we to hide our faith. In fact, Scripture tells us to always be ready to share the reason for our faith (1 Peter 3:15) and to continually glorify God (1 Chronicles 16:28-29). At the same time, our efforts in these areas are not to be for the purpose of recognition from men. Our focus, instead, should be on our “Father who is in the secret place” (Matthew6:4, 6 & 18)

When we are secret service Christians with our giving, praying and fasting, like the United States Secret Service agents we too will stand apart from the crowd not necessarily because of our specific activity but because of the way in which we do it. Also like Secret Service agents, the focus will ultimately remain on the object of our service.

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

How to… Keep Technology from Consuming You

2-11-13 Abraham LincolnWhat can we learn about instant messaging from Abraham Lincoln?

Even though Abraham Lincoln had no precedent for how to use it, he brilliantly integrated the new electronic communication of the day to help save our country. He did this by using the telegraph system to stay in touch with his generals in the field during the Civil War, and was the first president to use this quick, long-range communication method in this way.

Lincoln seemed almost obsessed with this tool at times, much like we are today with instant messaging, emailing and texting. That’s not to say that he used the telegraph as his only mode of communication, but he certainly grasped the importance of using it to help him in his job as Commander in Chief.

“Lincoln had done more than simply counsel on strategy; he used the telegraph to take command… The president telegraphed direct orders to generals in the field, moving men around as though on a chessboard… The wire became a way for the president to stay informed and assert himself… [The telegraph was] the tool Lincoln used for reinforcing his resolve and making sure that neither distance nor intermediaries diffused his leadership.” (Tom Wheeler, author of Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails)

What does Abraham Lincoln’s use of the telegraph have to do with our prolific use of technology today?2-11-13 Telegraph

Not only does Lincoln’s use of the telegraph reveal another element of his timeless leadership genius, but it also reveals to us how the technology of the day – whatever that might be – can draw a person in and seemingly shut out the rest of the world.

In other words, technology can make us closer and further away at the same time.

“Lincoln hardly left his seat in [the telegraph] office and waited with deep anxiety for each succeeding dispatch… The president consumed the electronically delivered updates… No longer was Lincoln content to sit idly by and await information, he was actively in communication with the front.” (Tom Wheeler, author of Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails)

While we can understand why Lincoln obsessed over these messages during this pivotal time in our nation’s history, we can also understand how doing so likely affected the other areas of his life. The correlation between T-Mail and E-Mail might not be perfect, but it does help to understand that technology always has had and always will have the potential for consuming us.

So how do we keep technology from consuming us?

2-11-13 Email

If we had the time, we could discuss how Lincoln took frequent carriage rides with his wife, how he loved interacting with his son even while working, and how he often corresponded in detail by hand-written letter. Doing so would help us see that while technology at times consumed him, he also knew the importance of face-to-face and more detailed interaction.

With the idea that technology in any form can easily steal our attention from the people we love, let’s look at ways to keep it from consuming us.

  1. Leave it. Don’t take your cell phone or tablet with you to church or out to dinner with friends. Make leaving it a regular habit to help reduce its pacifier hold.
  2. Turn it off. When reading or playing family games, during dinner, and when friends are visiting turn off technology and focus face-to-face. At the very least, turn off the sound.
  3. Avoid it at dinnertime. Make this a daily habit. Don’t let technology consume this important touch point.
  4. Have tech-free family time. Play cards or a board game. Have a family reading time. Exercise together. Make technology off limit for everyone during these times.
  5. Have tech-filled family time. Technology is not evil. In fact, it has tremendous value, especially when used to build relationships. Have a family Wii night or play electronic Scrabble together. Spend time together in technology.
  6. Let technology help you. I’m a huge proponent of keeping a personal calendar and making lists. My tablet is an indispensible tool in these habits that are crucial to my sanity and thus to the function of my family. Not only that, but staying connected as a family, especially with a husband who travels a lot for work, is made a lot easier through technology.

When Lincoln went home, he did not have the telegraph with him since telegraph wires were not yet run to the White House. We don’t have that built-in off switch. We have to choose to use technology rather than let it consume us.

DISCUSSION: How do you keep technology from consuming you?

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