Part Six: Living A Sacred Life in A Secular Society
Within the Bible Belt especially, we live in a strange combination of widespread religiosity in the midst of a predominantly secular culture. These mixed influences make it difficult for a Christian to distinguish the secular influences on their Christian living. Even the large presence of nominal Christians lends toward a Christian culture with blurred lines between what is worldly and what is godly. In this context, two tendencies come to mind when it comes to living in the middle of sacred and secular influences.
1. A COMPARTMENTALIZED CHRISTIAN LIFE
Growing up, if my parents told me to clean my room, I would clean based according to what I considered an acceptable standard of “clean.” Sometimes cleaning my room simply consisted of making my bed or throwing all of my clothes in the closet—not because that was all that needed to be done, but because that’s what I figured would suffice. Of course, my room wasn’t actually clean after I finished, but I did what I thought was expected when I heard “clean your room.”
Likewise, there are some who hear “Christian” and envision a life that does not even encompass foundational aspects of Christian living. To them, being a Christian means going to church on Sunday or praying before a meal. It means quickly throwing away a few things into the metaphorical closet in order to be able to say “I’m a Christian.” It’s like Christianity is a side job that comes with benefits. They’ll play part of the game, but keep areas of their life untouched by the Christianity they claim. They’ll do “Christian” things but keep them isolated, compartmentalized aspects of life.
CHRIST SHOULD BE IN ALL THINGS.
A good response to a compartmentalized Christian life comes with a submission to the reality of Christ’s preeminence. Colossians 1:15-18 explains that Christ created all things, sustains all things, and will reconcile all things to Himself. He is the reason we were created. He is the reason we are sustained. And He is the reason we are being redeemed. Everything is “for him” (v. 16).
This means God doesn’t just deserve part of our life—or even our best—He deserves all of it. To have a part of your life that is not “for him,” is to have a part of your life that is outside of the boundaries that God created it for. Christ is the “why” for everything.
He shapes what you do Sunday as well as Monday through Saturday. He’s the reason you read your Bible and pray in the morning as well as the reason you work, eat, play, and sleep afterward. Christ is too great to only be enjoyed and served some of the time—or even most of the time.
Yes, worship at church, but also brush your teeth in worship or ride your bike in worship. Christ deserves our best, but also our normal. Be careful though, because at this point there needs to be an important caveat or else we’ll fall off the other side of the road.
2. A CONTAMINATED CHRISTIAN LIFE
There is another category of Christian living that is not so much nominal as it is antinomial, not so much considered compartmentalized as it is contaminated. Instead of throwing on a Christian appearance for some activities, the latter category wants to claim Christianity in every activity. On the surface that sounds good, but there is a way of bringing Christ into everything that dishonors Him. Someone living a “contaminated” Christian life recognizes that being a follower of Christ means more than just giving over parts of their life. They also don’t want to separate “normal” life and “spiritual” life. But, there is a concern with integrating Christ into every area of life—because, left unqualified, living for Christ in every area of life can mean claiming Christ in movements and actions in which He is not honored.
For example, if others are engaging with objectionable entertainment (perhaps Game of Thrones or Black Mirror), a contaminated Christian may join in for the purpose of finding the good elements and using it to point others to Christ. They’ll bear through many pornographic scenes in the series, but claim Christ is pleased because it is done for the purpose of being able to build better relationships with people in the world. After all, Christ ate with sinners, and He encouraged us to go into the world for the sake of the gospel.
What’s happening is, instead of living a fractioned life (every once in a while putting up the Christian flag), they are living a polluted life (always living under the Christian flag but in places Christ says to avoid).
CHRIST SHOULD NOT BE IN ALL THINGS.
“Do all for the glory of God” can be interpreted two ways. It should mean that all should be done for God’s glory, but it should not mean that anything can be done for God’s glory.
Misunderstanding this leads to singing and celebrating Beyoncé in church. (I didn’t make this up—click here.) The problem is that Christ’s preeminence—His worthiness to be worshipped in all things—does not actually mean that all things should be done in His name.
Part of Christ’s reconciliation of all things is going to involve His purification of all things. For people, that means the “old man” becomes old news. And, for culture, that means what is worldly will be taken out of the world. Not only will everything once again be purposed for His glory, but it will also be purified for His glory—and destruction is part of that purification process.
Consider Revelation 18. Concerning wicked Babylon, an angel calls out to God’s people not to enter and transform it, but rather to “come out of her” because it will be judged and destroyed. Likewise, when it comes to a restored creation, parts of our world will not be made new, but rather “will be found no more,” which is why Christ’s preeminence doesn’t mean we should be enjoying and redeeming every aspect of fallen culture. Reconciling all things to Himself is actually going to include the destruction of things that have no place in His holy and redeemed creation.
The challenge for us is to pursue what Christ wants to redeem and to avoid what Christ will one day destroy. Not everything that’s secular needs to be won back as spiritual. But there are many things that are no longer considered spiritual in which Christ needs to be brought back into view as the central purpose. Overall, we should decide to do everything for God by letting God decide everything we do.
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)
Cowritten by Garrett Martin.