In secret: the value of humility and anonymity
In my readings for the upcoming symposium of faith and science that I’m attending, I’ve discovered that the deeper one goes down the rabbit hole that is physics, the closer one gets to the mysteries of revelation called theology. For example:
After Einstein initially posited that the speed of light was the fastest thing in the universe, the reality that two halves of a split atom will always respond in immediate resonance with each other (meaning that a shift in one always means there’s an instantaneous sympathetic shift in the other), led Einstein to publish a paper in 1935 revising his initial thoughts. His findings came to be known as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox.
The point of all this is to posit the possibility that things are more connected than we might believe, and that because of this connectedness, our acts of compassion and generosity contribute to the blessing of “whole of humanity.” not just the single recipient of your kind act.
Caveat: This isn’t some sort of new-age, “we can change the world” idealism. I know all about wars and rumors of wars, and the reality that Christ’s return and intervention is our full and final hope. I know about sin: mine and humanity’s. There are no illusions here, having to do with realizing my own divinity. Instead, all this has me thinking about a seeming paradox Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5 he says, “Let your light shine before people so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven,” implying that we’re to be public in our good works, sort of branding ourselves by wearing the Jesus t-shirt while we work in the soup line, and then letting everyone know about it.
But then, in the very next chapter, Jesus says, “Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people,” and he goes on to encourage our giving and praying to be done in secret, never with fanfare.
How can I let my light shine AND give, serve, pray, and love in secret?
I wonder if the part of the answer is humming around this paradox of Einstein’s, and this bird theory of Sheldrake’s? I wonder if the very act of our ‘being’ in Christ, and our subsequent responsiveness to God’s revelation adds light, not just to our immediate circle, but to the whole world? Couldn’t this be at least part of what Paul meant when he said in Ephesians 3 that “through the church the multifaceted wisdom of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities of the heavenly realms”? Who are these rulers and authorities, and how can God’s people teach heavenly rulers and authorities anything, fallen creatures that we are?
I’m starting to believe that the answer resides in the notion that when we live into our calling to display the goodness of God’s reign by displaying Christ’s character, even in small ways, even in secret ways, some sort of blessing emanates outward (perhaps in a Fibonacci spiral 🙂 ), touching everything in its path in small, but nonetheless real, ways. If this is true, then every moment of worship, gratitude, prayer, contentment, and real love, have far reaching consequences. So does every act of generosity, service, creation care, and sacrifice.
How does this tie back to the meek inheriting the earth? We live in a world that, for 7,000 years has said, “The strong will inherit the earth. They’ll inherit it by force, slavery, domination, colonialism, war, and genocide. Last man standing, king of the mMountain, and all that kind of thing.” In such a world, it takes guts and bold faith to exalt cooperation over competition, to swim upstream against the fear and individualism that saturates our culture in everything from families, to businesses, to churches. It takes guts to say, “enough,” and live simply, generously, counter-culturally–and to do it all quietly and without fanfare, just for the love of God. Those who do are looking for a “better country” as Hebrews says: better than upward mobility and heart-attacks; better than endless consumption and loneliness; better than environmental degradation and oppression; better than any of the kingdoms of this world.
I’m looking around these days and, more than ever, believe there’s a better way than what conventional wisdom has to offer. It will be seen fully later, but it’s available, in a measure, like a mustard seed, or a spore of yeast, right now. What are we waiting for? Let’s jump into it!