Everything is Connected


A few weeks ago, print advertisements were touting a new television program with the following slogan: "Everything is connected." From the fascination with all things Eastern to the digital explosion, it's a phrase that's seeing a lot of currency. Yet acolytes of the New Age and dot-coms ought not to be the only ones co-opting its meaning.

For the Christian, however, there is this major difference: God is in control. In Proverbs Chapter 15 (KJV):

3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
The question that often follows is, if God is in control, then why is there evil and suffering in the world? It's because God is in control that we live in a fallen world. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the Garden of Eden (cf. Genesis 3), there were not only physical consequences (death and disease) but spiritual ones, as well (separation from God, i.e. sin). A fundamental Biblical law is that all action and thought have consequences, as Jesus reinforced when He said a man commits the sin of adultery in his heart when he looks at a woman lustfully (Matthew 5:28). The inner mind of man is not hidden from God, and He is a true and just judge.

Clearly, Adam and Eve's actions had consequences for the whole of the human race. Despite modern "me"-oriented philosophy to the contrary, both an individual's private and public actions affect others -- known and unknown, directly and indirectly. There are consequences. "The Butterfly Effect," the popularized notion explaining chaos theory in meteorology was summarized thusly: "Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?" (Edward Lorenz) Setting aside its deterministic (and therefore non-Christian) underpinnings, chaos theory at the very least appreciates causality. In spite of the great complexity of the world and its inhabitants and the limitless variables, God is still in control.

As the Sovereign Creator, God enforces His laws unfalteringly and immutably. Again, everything is connected. Nowhere is this more evident than in prayer. As the Apostle Paul wrote memorably in Romans Chapter 8:
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Lest there be any confusion regarding prayer, the God spoken of here is the Triune God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the God who sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to die on the Cross for the sins of those who believe upon Him. Jesus specifically instructed believers to pray to their Father in Heaven (Matthew 6:6) Prayer is not supposed to be any old supplication addressed to "whom it may concern," "Mother Earth," "the gods," or some other entity. When a believer hears someone say that "their prayers are with them," that believer ought to wonder, "prayers to whom?" Even when we're using the right words, God knows when we're praying to Him or to one of our idols (Self, fear, desire, and so on). In other words, prayer must be taken seriously.

Keeping in mind this essential qualification then, the Bible tells us that prayer can have a powerful and righteous effect, especially when more than one believer is involved. Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 18:
19 Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
Remember King Jehoshaphat leading the nation of Judah in prayer and fasting before the Lord (cf. 2 Chronicles 20)? God spared them from destruction at the hands of their enemies. The devil constantly strives to make man doubt God's promises. There is, however, in the midst of today's negative news, an occasional nugget of inspiration. The following story was in the news again last month, and it not only affirms that everything is connected, but that God is in control.

On September 23, 2002, Alice Mowatt, a 19-year-old British tourist, was struck by an SUV in Los Angeles. Her head injuries were so severe that doctors induced a coma and several times considered taking her off life support. Sgt. Dan Horan, the investigating police officer, prayed for her, and over the next few days asked others, by phone or e-mail, to do the same. In a few short weeks, an international prayer circle had formed. Ten weeks after her accident, Mowatt had recovered enough to return home to England, where she was greeted by hundreds of letters and e-mails. Nearly two years later, Mowatt reunited with Horan, once a complete stranger who simply took the time to care about someone else.

It should be noted that in the articles, there were no direct references to God or Jesus Christ, but then there rarely ever are in the positive "spirituality" stories from the mainstream media. (Had the story been a negative one, say, involving a church scandal, then there almost certainly would have been.) In any case, even the most cynical among us must acknowledge the selfless motives behind Horan's actions and the fact that, among the hundreds of those praying, surely there were believers among them.

Stories like these have additional meaning. "Personal faith" is an oxymoron. "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." (James 2:26) Jesus calls individuals into a personal relationship with Him not only for their own salvation but for the salvation of other people's souls. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) The selfless agape love that Christians are to exhibit cannot be man-made; it can only come from the Holy Spirit.

When an individual follows Christ, they are not giving up their individuality but rather the (love of) Self. While believers are indeed commanded to love one another, their greatest responsibility is as an individual before Christ. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "let your light shine before men," but he added that "when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen." (Matthew 6:6) An in-depth article on this subject can be found at Pilgrim's Post. The contrast of these two verses clearly indicates that faith can neither be isolated nor used as a show of personal holiness. A believer's close walk with Christ must eventually, sooner or later, have an affect on others, not through proclamation, but by action. The light of Christ will shine from the believer as a result of true faith and obedience rather than ritual. Jesus also said at the Sermon on the Mount: "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting....But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting..." (Matthew 6:16-18)

Prayer is action but not a substitute for all action. Private and public actions have an effect, whether we are aware of it or not. David wrote in Psalm 139:4, "Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O LORD." But our lives are not predetermined simply because causality and order operate in this world. One cannot be both deterministic and a Christian. In His great mercy, God stays His judgment so that more may come into a saving knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ. If we allow ourselves to become fatalistic, to convince ourselves we know the exact timing of the final hour, we are hardening our hearts and deluding ourselves into a spiritual isolation. Reality will be all the more brutal if we do so -- the quickening downward spiral of the culture today painfully reminds us that we already have.