The Parallel Between Private And Public Life

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. (Proverbs 10:9)

It is said of the French Bishop of Geneva, Francis de Sales, that he lived parallel lives in private and public. When another bishop planned to write a biography about Francis, that bishop was determined to find out if Francis’ private life truly matched up with his public life. The bishop went to visit Francis and actually drilled a hole in the wall so that he could spy on Francis to see if he could discover the secret of his holy life. What he learned was virtually nothing . . . yet it was almost everything!

The bishop discovered that Francis was the same in private as he was in public. His talk matched his walk in both spheres of life. He rose from bed early in the morning, careful not to make any disturbance that would awaken his servant. He prayed, answered correspondence, and took care of his ordinary tasks in the same gracious manner that he displayed when he was in public.

Francis de Sales is known for his writings on the topics of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God. His walk and his writings witnessed to his sold-out life — both in private and in public — a life lived for the advancement of the Kingdom and the glory of Christ.

If this is to be the confession of our own lives, we must be committed to living parallel lives, publicly and privately. The word for this is integrity. If we are to understand integrity biblically, we cannot see life like a pie, cut up into different pieces and disconnected from the whole. We must not divide our lives into a slice for the professional setting, another slice for our personal life, a third slice for our church life, and then a slice set aside for our compulsions. This is a life that lacks integrity. We are one thing in one area of our lives and something different in another area of life.

To avoid this pitfall, we must be committed to living a whole life Coram Deo — before the face of God — and committed to doing it consistently, whether other people are watching or not. Remember, “The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse, but he delights in those whose ways are blameless” (Proverbs 11:20). May our public and private lives run on a parallel track — a track that runs straight and true for the glory of God and the good of others.

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!


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