Forget the “bandwagon effect;” these days, it’s all about “going viral.” In today’s technologically-driven society, information spreads more rapidly than ever before. If someone (or a marketing firm, for that matter) creates something interesting, then pretty soon people start clicking it and sharing it—passing the information around the World Wide Web.
Need an example? No problem. Remember Susan Boyle? She was a contestant on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent. The judges dismissed her initially, but their faces lit up when they heard her sing “I Dreamed a Dream.” And everybody went nuts. The British television show placed the clip onto Youtube. Six days later, the video had been viewed over 100 million times—by people around the world.
The success of “going viral” still appears to be elusive. But the point remains clear: sometimes small things can eventually take on a global scale. That’s at least partially the point Jesus makes in telling two important parables to his disciples:
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” (Matthew 13:31-33)
Jesus’ point is simple: sometimes something small, insignificant can eventually grow and flourish into something magnificent and nourishing.
In the 1960’s, a social researcher by the name of Mary Stuart Douglas wrote a very important book called Purity and Danger. She discovered that long before anyone understood such things as “bacteria” or “viruses,” people had very clear understandings about what is “clean” and “unclean.” They seemed to understand the idea of “infection”—and often applied the idea to moral systems. In other words, we tend to think of “good” things as “clean” and “bad” things as “dirty.” In fact, many of the Laws of the Hebrew Old Testament revolve around such ideas.
Here’s where I’m going with this: we tend to assume that when the clean encounters the impure, the impure always wins. And really, who can blame us? The world around us isn’t getting much better. If you identify as a Christian in today’s world, you can surely be prepared to be labeled as intolerant or bigoted. The forces that oppose the will of God seem to be growing—rapidly. It’s easy to be discouraged.
But wait; what if what Jesus is saying is still true? What if God can allow his kingdom—his rule, his reign—to expand in such a way that our world sees the flourishing good news of his gospel? And what if we can be participants in that, and find joy in seeing outsiders nesting in the branches of God’s expanding kingdom? If we believed all that, well then that’s just the sort of message that could go viral.