Public Square

‘How Is Your Spiritual Life?’ Is the Wrong Question to Ask

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If you took an inventory of what you did yesterday, what percentage of your time would you label as spiritual? What percentage would you label as secular?

I recently read “10 ways your Smartphone can help your spiritual life“, an article implying that we already know how to use our smartphones in the other part of our lives…the “secular part.” This part of our lives is somehow separated from our spiritual life.

To this point, someone with the best of intentions recently asked me, “How is your spiritual life?”

This sacred/secular divide, the idea that some things are sacred or spiritual while everything else secular, is widespread in evangelical Christianity today.

According to this divide, the answer to my question above is that most of what we did yesterday is secular.

Is that the right answer?

But It’s Not ‘Spiritual’

In an article for Relevant, Oregon pastor John Mark Comer acknowledges this problem when he writes,

[We all sometimes] feel a twinge of guilt, because every time we come home from work and drink a glass of really good wine or watch a great film or eat a delicious meal, we feel this nagging sense of shame because we enjoy it so much—it feels right and earthy and human—but it’s not “spiritual.”

This is not the way we are supposed to think. 

Try to find the word “spiritual” in the Old Testament. It is nowhere to be found.

Does this mean the children of God from Genesis to Malachi were not concerned with their spiritual lives? Of course not.

But in their worldview, all of life was spiritual.

There was nothing in their lives they considered secular. This false dichotomy is also absent from the New Testament.

One of the Great Sins of the American Church

This sacred/secular divide is one of the great sins of the American Church in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Christians walked away from the public square in the 1920s. They justified this in part by saying the public square, work, politics, etc., was secular.

This way of thinking has tainted everything we do. It severely limits our ability to be salt and light in the world as Jesus commanded.

Comer writes,

The cosmic, gargantuan 24/7 Kingdom of God cannot be shrunk down to a few hundred people singing songs in a nice building for an hour every weekend.

Everything we do is transformed by the redeeming power of the gospel in our lives. Therefore, everything we do should be seen as spiritual.

Comer makes an interesting observation: some Christians overreact when they realize the problem of sacred/secular divide. They they try to make all their work overtly Christian.

If they are a musician, they only perform “Christian” music.

If they start a business, they have to have something Christian in the logo or the business card.

Comer suggests this isn’t all bad, but:

If all of us lived this way, we could end up in a world where the Church is a kind of cultural ghetto—a relic from the past, where we used to be known for stunning art and pushing the edge of science, but now we’re known for bad music and cheesy design and an odd tribal dialect that nobody else really understands.

This is where much of the church is today. We’re bouncing back and forth from our secular jobs back to our Christian cultural ghettos.

A Great Noun; A Poor Adjective

One last great quote from Comer:

Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective.

He’s right.

There should be no such thing as Christian music, there should be no such thing as Christian art, and there should be no such thing as a Christian occupation.

You do your work, whatever it is, as a follower of Jesus understanding that everything is spiritual. The way of Jesus should permeate, influence, and shape every facet of our lives.

Will the work you do look different than that of the non-Christian who works next to you? Sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t.

God cares about every part of our lives. We have the incredible opportunity to join him and play a part in his all-encompassing, redemptive plan for our world.

When we begin to destroy the sacred/secular divide in our own lives, we will also begin to find true fulfillment in everything we do. We will begin understanding what it means to have life and have it abundantly.

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  • Russ McCullough

    Great post Hugh! Neat insight to think about a world where we were all too overtly Christian, so much so that we may contrain our creative potential. A gentle touch, is something everyone can work on.

  • Jane Clayton

    Thank you. This made my day . You put in words what my soul ha been feeling.

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