Blackmail-proof: A Life Without Secrets

My wife Karen got an email from a scammer this week, blackmailing her and demanding a payment of $1,000 in bitcoin.

The scammer claimed to be a hacker who had accessed her email account, embedded a keylogger and had taken control of her screen, network camera, and all her other devices. Since my wife only has one device, a laptop, taking control of all her devices is not nearly as impressive as the scammer hoped to portray.

The email was purportedly sent from my wife’s own email account, which the scammer claimed was proof that he/she had hacked the account. When my wife showed me the email, I immediately checked its source which, in spite of the scammer’s claims, was not from her account.

Dennis, our internet provider’s support whiz, told me that this scam is hitting large numbers of people. The scam rests on the “hacker’s” claim that he/she had introduced a special program that links users to a porn site. The scammer then claims to have video of his target, captured through the computer’s camera, using that link to watch pornographic videos. He then threatens to release the video and a backup of compromising files to all the victim’s contacts, “such as family members, colleagues, etc.”

When I read the email, I wanted to report this evil person to the authorities and did. My wife was more nonchalant. Even if this person were a real hacker who had succeeded in taking control of her computer; even if the hacker released her files and published a list of all the websites she had visited, it would not compromise her in any way. My wife is the same person in private that she is in public. She’s not hiding anything.

This scam only works because many people are hiding something and would suffer serious harm if their secret – in this case, their private internet browsing – was made public. How many people, I wonder, terrified at the prospect of being exposed, have purchased $1,000 in bitcoin to pay off the blackmailer? And I wonder if the blackmailer ever really stops at $1,000.

If everyone was like my wife, this scam would be powerless. To be the same person in private that one is in public is liberating. People who live like this need never look over their shoulder. There is nothing in the past that is going to overtake them.

This is exactly the kind of liberated life Jesus instructed his followers to live. When they sin – and everyone sins – they are to confess their sin to God and, when appropriate, to each other. By doing so, they make their freedom unassailable.

Jesus was plain-spoken about this. He told his students (more than once) that “there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” People who are busy looking over their shoulders might also want to look up. If earth doesn’t expose their secrets, heaven will.

This is the teaching of the biblical writers in both testaments. “God,” says St. Paul, “will judge the secrets of people’s hearts.” He “will bring to light what is hidden in darkness.” The author of Hebrews concurs: “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.”

When the writer and pastor John Ortberg decided, “I don’t want to have any secrets anymore,” and told his friend all the things of which he was most ashamed, he walked out of that meeting a free man. This kind of transparency is a necessity for those who wish to walk, as the Apostle John described it “in the light.”

St. Paul went even further. Not only are the people of Jesus to walk in the light, without keeping guilty secrets, they are to become light. He wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”

A life that shines, without secrets and the fears that go along with them. This kind of life is possible for people who undergo spiritual transformation in the way of Jesus.

Published by Gatehouse Media, 5/4/2019

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