In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus urges us to live like a city on a hill, letting our light shine for all to see. The idea is that when others see us, they would in turn glorify God. We learned the essence of these verses from an early age while singing This Little Light of Mine. "Hide it under a bushel. NO! I'm gonna let it shine." While I had no clue what a bushel was, I knew hiding my light (and index finger) underneath it was the last thing I wanted to do.
But if one continues to read through the Sermon on the Mount, you soon see in the very next chapter a cautionary warning. "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:1).
At first glance these two paradoxical statements found in the same sermon seem to point in polar opposite directions. The first passage tells us that a life of faith is a life lived out loud. Everyone should benefit from the illumination it brings. But only a few verses later Jesus urges secret service, hidden acts of generosity, love in action done in a way where the left hand doesn't even know what the right hand is doing.
By now you are used to me contradicting myself within the same sermon, (and you are quite gracious about that, thank you very much), but I don't think that's what Jesus is doing at all. What seems like a paradox is actually two sides of the same coin. It's possible to live a life of shining, city on a hill love, witnessed by all around that's also a generous life filled with secret service that few people ever see. I know it's possible because I've seen it in people like Danny Burleson. Danny was such a big personality you couldn't miss him. He lived and loved out loud and people saw his light from far and wide. But loving others wasn't just what he did when others saw it. It's who he was, so that much of what he did was never seen.
So here is my charge to all of us, inspired by one of the best to ever do it. Be a bright shining, big living, secret service agent of love. Or in the words of Danny: "Go do your duty."