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The False Dichotomy of Secular and Sacred

Thursday, August 3, 2017 @ 1:19 PM
The False Dichotomy of Secular and Sacred Teddy James Writer, AFA Journal MORE

I lead a compartmentalized life. As soon as I wake up I exercise. I only think about the workout. I count reps, add weights, drink water, and repeat. My brain is in fitness mode. 

At work I am an employee. I think about projects, meetings, and deadlines. I write, edit, and repeat. My brain is in work mode. 

In the afternoon I am husband and father. I focus on my wife, my kids, and the many projects a fixer-upper house presents. My brain is in home mode. 

I know this is the common situation for most men. Women have the ability to think differently. Everything is connected in a woman’s mind. The widely-known way of discussing this is to think of a man’s brain like waffles with many boxes and to think of a woman’s brain like spaghetti with everything connected.  But both men and women tend to compartmentalize our lives when it comes to the idea of sacred and secular. 

We tend to think worship, fellowship, and meditating on Scripture are reserved for Sunday. Secular things such as work, hobbies, and projects belong in the other six days of the week. These are boxes in our minds and they may be close to one another, perhaps even touch one another at different points. But we rarely, if ever mingle them. 

God does not see it this way. 

When the writer of Ephesians says, “God placed all things under [Christ’s] feet…” in Ephesians 1:22, he does not make a distinction. He does not say God placed Sunday things under Christ’s feet. He says all things.  Paul utterly destroys the notion that it is permissible to compartmentalize God when he tells the church in Corinth, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). He does not leave the option for us to do some things for the glory of God, but to do some other stuff without worshiping Jesus. 

But what does this mean? How can we keep from compartmentalizing our lives?

The first step is recognizing that we have bought into the myth that we can give God part of our time and reserve the rest for ourselves. We must also stop believing the lie that working, spending time with family, or enjoying a hobby is not a time to worship God. 

 Brother Lawrence, a French lay monk who lived during the 17th century, exemplified this well. Being a lay monk, he did not preach, teach, or write much. He worked in the kitchen of his monastery. However, he sought to do everything to God’s glory. 

For Brother Lawrence, no task was beneath prayer and worship. Whether he was scrubbing pots or picking up a wooden stick, his mind and heart were focused on the God who loved him.

“[It is not] needful that we should have great things to do,” he wrote

We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of Him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before Him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God. 

I’ll be honest, I wish I had the heart for God Brother Lawrence had. Fortunately for us, he wrote that his worshipful attitude was not one that came upon him overnight. He stated, with his plain and humble style, how we can continually participate in worshiping God no matter the task at our hand. 

As often as I could, I placed myself as a worshiper before Him, fixing my mind upon His holy presence, recalling it when I found it wandering from Him. This proved to be an exercise frequently painful, yet I persisted through all difficulties. 

The key to rejecting the myth of a division between sacred and secular in our lives is to recognize God in every hour, in every moment, in every task of our day. If you have a job that requires mental focus, pray before you begin. Ask God how you can glorify Him in the act you are about to undertake. If you are about watch a ball game or enjoy a hobby, seek Christ. He has given you a desire to enjoy this hobby and partaking of it should draw your heart to Him. When you are with the family He has blessed you with, praise Him for them. 

And when you recognize your mind and heart are not set upon Him, correct your course. It will not come naturally because we are inclined to focus on ourselves. But over time, God will change your nature to be more and more focused on Him.

As we begin to hone our focus on Christ, we will quickly see where we have attempted to live our lives in two boxes. Those will melt away and we will live one life with one purpose: to worship our one God.

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