Germs & Gems

Friday, April 24th, 2020

Audio Version

Far-off places often seem irrelevant. And practically speaking, far off places usually are irrelevant. One unexpected turn of events, though, can drastically and quickly flip our perspective on a location’s personal relevance. A location we once dismissed from our thoughts — that we once ignored as obscure and irrelevant — instead becomes entirely relevant. For example, take Wuhan.  

Six months ago, Wuhan was irrelevant; wasn’t it? As far as I was concerned, it was. It wasn’t even on my radar. At that time, I would have had no particular interest in the events occurring in, say, a cagey wet market or a batty viral laboratory in distant Wuhan. But in the course of a single season, events in far-off Wuhan became increasingly and chillingly relevant — and now drudgingly relevant to almost everyone worldwide. What we couldn’t have known then, we’re all too aware of now. Wuhan suddenly became relevant.

This notion of perceived relevance can be transferred from locations to ideas. What is true of places is true of ideas, at least in terms of perceived relevance. Ideas often originally seem irrelevant. And practically speaking, a lot of ideas actually are irrelevant. Then a turn of events changes everything dramatically. A once seemingly irrelevant idea goes viral, like a virus. Alliteration, anyone? “Viral like a virus.” How’s that for a redundant redundancy?  

But I was talking about obscure ideas. Here’s what usually happens: Academically-inclined people propose their ideas in dissertations, journals, or books. Some other academically-inclined people then discuss and argue said proposals. And usually, very few others care or pay any attention. Only the specialists are interested.    

Some of these ideas are gems, though. Other such ideas are dangerous germs. But we often fail to recognize them for what they are.

If we understood the implications of an idea that is genuinely a gem or actually a germ we would likely be interested. If we could perceive the ramifications of it, we might devote our undivided attention. Our problem is that we lack adequate interest and understanding. We do not see the idea for what it is. Our problem is our perception. We do not perceive it a gem, nor a germ. We do not perceive it correctly. A correct perception would change our attitude. 

Lots of examples could be provided here of ideas that are gems and ideas that are germs.

Christians are stewards of a particular set of ideas. This set of ideas was entrusted to us. In turn, we are meant to pass these ideas to others. These ideas are precious. They are genuinely gems, though they are not alway perceived by others to be gems. Sometimes instead our ideas are perceived to be germs. The onus is on us, then, to convince people that our ideas are gems and not germs. We find ourselves in a contest of competing ideas. Ours is the ultimate gem. 

That is what a martyr does. A martyr attempts to convince others of the truth and the worth of an idea. A Christian martyr is a witness to a particular set of ideas. And a Christian martyr is a faithful witness to him who is Faithful and True — the person originally behind that set of ideas. 

Our set of ideas is meant to go viral. It is supposed to spread from person to person. It is supposed to go from place to place until it has reached every corner of the world. But unlike a virus, it is not something that is simply caught. It is taught. It is explained. And it is celebrated.      

Are you doing the work of a martyr effectively? Are you convincing people that what you have to offer is a gem and not germ?

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