Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Wei Of Christ

When it comes to religious activities, Jesus preferred privacy over publicity. There is an attitude of anonymity in Jesus' teaching and living. He was constantly telling his disciples and others NOT to tell people about him. He told his followers to be quiet and let his actions speak. Their words would just mess things up. Scholars label this pattern of his ministry "the messianic secret." Christians struggle with the idea. It seems so anti-evangelistic.

Jesus tells people to pray privately and not publicly.  He tells people to give to charity privately and not publicly. When it comes to fasting, he tells his followers to go to great lengths to hide it from others. There is no way around it; Jesus' religion was a very private affair. His attitude is summed up in this teaching: "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing." Keep it so private that even you don't know what you are doing!

There is to be an unselfconsciousness in our spirituality. Religion is meant to be as natural as the lilies blooming, seeds growing in a field, and the breeze blowing through the trees. That is why there is no word for religion in Biblical Hebrew.

The Chinese call it wu wei - nonaction. Or more fully, wei wu wei - acting without acting. Effortless effort. It is acting from our spirit rather than our minds and wills. Christ described it as his Father working through him. He said he could do nothing but what his Father was doing.

There is a natural flow to the spiritual life. An actionless action that is in harmony with the Creator's will. No laws or rules. No work to do. Just get out of the way, and let God act through you.

How different from modern religion. Today's Christianity is a very busy and public affair with lots of things to do. And we feel guilty when we don't do enough. We have very public prayer, deductible charitable giving, and hardly any fasting at all. The messianic secret has been transformed into a publicity campaign to market the Christian message.

I am not against sharing the good news of Jesus. I have spent nearly my whole life proclaiming the gospel publicly and privately. But I am wondering whether I have been speaking the right language. How much of the inner life of the Spirit is lost when religion becomes identified with what we say. As Francesco d'Assisi said, "Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary use words."

When Job is finally granted an audience with God to air his gripes about how the Lord is ruining his life, God answered his questions by pointing to the world of animals and nature. God's eternal power and divine nature are clearly revealed in the things that have been made, as the Roman apostle said. The heavens declare the glory of God, says the Psalmist.  If Job had learned their language, he would not have needed God to translate. 

Artwork is "Wu Wei, Sort of" by Max Dane, acrylic on homemade paper

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