In reading Scripture, it is difficult to escape the counterintuitive logic of God. He is constantly using the unexpected in order to accomplish his salvific work. Moses the stutterer becomes the eloquent leader of his people. Rahab the prostitute becomes the saving spy for Joshua’s army (as well as an ancestor of Christ!). Gideon, the smallest man from the smallest tribe of Israel becomes a great defender of his people. David, the smallest brother of Jesse slays the giant and becomes king. A bunch of uneducated fishermen from the backwater region of Galilee become Disciples and Apostles who bravely and persuasively spread the Gospel all over the word — a Gospel that eventually conquers the Roman Empire. And there are plenty more examples to be found. All of them, however, are mere reflections of Christ Himself:
in humbling Himself and becoming poor like us, He raised on high the things below; or rather, He gathered both things into one, mingling humanity with divinity, and by so doing He taught everyone that humility is the road which leads upwards — St. Gregory Palamas, Homily Fifty-Eight on the Saving Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord and God and Savior
In recent weeks there has been all kinds of discussion about Wikileaks and its public face Julian Assange. There has been speculation as to what it all really means. Do they validate the foreign policy of Bush or Obama? Will Israel try to take advantage of the growing alarm over a nuclear armed Iran? Is Julian Assange a terrorist? Is the U.S. being transparent enough? How did the U.S. allow this to happen? etc., etc., etc.
The one thing that is not being discussed is the one thing that Wikileaks makes abundantly clear: if you want to gain worldly power you must lie. We euphemistically call these lies “secrets” and “diplomacy” and justify them in the name of national security and general welfare. Indeed, there are plenty of cases where lies of omission save lives. One does not broadcast the location of military forces in a combat situation and expect them to live. Given this reality, however, is it any wonder that power corrupts? The whole process of gaining power and keeping it requires lies.
It is here that the counterintuitive logic of God begins to make sense. Humility, the willingness to sacrifice your needs for others, love, patience and all those other wonderful attributes of God are easy in comparison to the web of lies necessary to maintain temporal power. These attributes of God are eternal, whereas temporal power is limited by time and is therefore fleeting and finite.
One of my favorite examples of this reality is the story of St. Nektarios. He is an exemplar of humility. He freely gave whatever he had to those in need — he even cleaned toilets in the middle of the night so that a janitor would not lose his job. He was falsely accused of misconduct by those in the Church that were jealous of his position and influence. They sought temporal power and acclaim. Though St. Nektarios was removed as Metropolitan of Pentapolis in Egypt, had to move to Greece and lived many years in abject poverty, his humility and love allowed him not only to survive, but rise above these accusations and become beloved around the world.
Today not many remember the names of those who accused St. Nektarios. In contrast, people all over the world know that after his death, his remains were incorrupt and that his beard flowed with myrrh. The faithful all around the world sing with love and joy his hymn dedicated to the Theotokos, Agni Parthene:
Through the humility taught to him by Christ, St. Nektarios has gained so much more than those who seek temporal power can ever imagine.