Eavesdropping is legal in some cases. And it can be beneficial. And it’s biblical. So here’s an opportunity to eavesdrop on a conversation. We’re launching a podcast.
Most folks imagine eavesdropping as snooping, or spying. It can be but doesn’t have to be. The term originally referred to the water that fell from the eaves of a house, or the ground where that water fell. An eavesdropper stood within the eavesdrop of a house to overhear a conversation inside. But the courts have ruled that hearing (or recording) of conversations that are clearly not private is not eavesdropping. In fact, it can be beneficial.
John L. Locke argues that eavesdropping is primal, that our brains are designed to draw inferences from partial information that we see and hear and smell. Eavesdropping can help us imagine a larger (or wider) picture of what’s going on around us, including what to do.
Is this why God lets us eavesdrop on his conversations? In Genesis 1, God’s name is Elohim—plural. God is three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—sharing one nature. They eternally enjoy a three-way conversation. But we get to eavesdrop on a bit of it in the creation account.
In Genesis, God accommodates their conversation. They put it in human language. We listen in as God names things—day, night, water, dry ground, and so on. Then the Father, Son, and Spirit say, “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule” (1:26). As human language, this is intended for us to hear, not the animals. We get to eavesdrop.
By eavesdropping, we discover we’re to be fruitful and increase in number, to fill the earth and subdue it—make the world a better place (1:27-28). We hear this in Judaism, where the phrase tikkun olam or “repairing the world” is central. “Jews understand this almost instinctively,” writes Rabbi Elliot Dorff. “Surveys show that Jews feel in their bones that they have a duty as Jews to make this a better world, that this is the essence of what it means to be a Jew.”
It’s the essence of what it means to be a Christian. The church was heavily Jewish for her first 300 years. As the Bride of Christ, she saw it as her duty to make the world a better place. For 1800 years, she did this remarkably well. It’s been less the case for the last couple of centuries.
Which brings me to a conversation I’ve been having with a friend, Pat Brown. Pat is a millennial, husband of one, and father of one very cute daughter. Pat and I believe the Western church is in exile, an outsider in our culture-shaping arenas. Pat feels this acutely at work (Under Armour in Baltimore). At this time, it’s not apparent that the faith is on the company’s radar.
We feel God wants it to be. This is how we make flourishing cultures. But it’s difficult to do when culture-shaping institutions don’t take the gospel seriously. Pat and I have been having a two-way conversation about this for years. You can eavesdrop. Make it a three-way conversation. Together, let’s consider what can be done when the church is in exile.
We’re calling this podcast series: Morning Mike Check. People routinely tell me that I am one of many prophetic voices for Western Christianity. Prophets were the voices that kept Israel in check. We invite you to eavesdrop. It’s not just biblical. Eavesdropping can be beneficial.
We’ve already recorded over a dozen podcasts for you. Just go to: https://claphaminstitute.podbean.com/
 Elliot Dorff, Jewish Approach to Repairing the World (Tikkun Olam): A Brief Introduction for Christians (Jewish Lights, 2008), vii.
 Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal, Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (HarperCollins, 1996), 66.