Do you believe that Sunday is more important than Monday through Saturday? Do you think the only work worth doing happens in a church or ministry setting? Do you see a sharp divide in your life between the things you do for God and the things you do everywhere else? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may suffer from a pervasive problem called the sacred-secular divide.
The sacred-secular divide draws a sharp distinction between the spiritual parts of our lives (praying, Bible reading, church attendance, evangelism) and the rest of our lives (work, chores, rest, fun). But the sacred-secular divide is flawed for a variety of reasons.
Practically, the sacred-secular divide leads to compartmentalization. We don’t connect faith with our work, money or everyday lives. We pull it out on Sunday, and put it away the other days of the week. It also leads to guilt. If you don’t work in a church or ministry setting, you are tempted to believe that somehow God is less pleased with you.
Most importantly, the the language of Scripture doesn’t allow for the sacred-secular divide. In his book Discovering our Spiritual Identity, Trevor Hudson highlights a handful of passages that push back against this divide. He writes,
Gradually it dawned on me that the people in the Bible saw things differently. Repeatedly the Scriptures witness to the presence of God being encountered everywhere and in everything.
In other words, the Bible breaks down the sacred-secular divide; God cares about every aspect of our lives, not just the parts we do within the context of a church or ministry.
Hudson points to four passages to help you break the sacred-secular divide. These can serve as a starting point for you in this discussion.
When we understand that God cares about every aspect of our lives, we will work, play and worship differently.
The Whole Earth Is Full of His Glory
“And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!'”
This passage doesn’t say that God’s glory is just found on church property; rather, God’s glory fills the whole earth. Geoffrey W. Grogan comments on this passage, and he writes,
This passage, insisting as it does on the awesome transcendence of the sovereign God, also emphatically teaches his immanence. His transcendence is not remoteness, or aloofness but is known through his presence in his created world and temple.’ (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 6)
Everything We Do, We Do In Him
“For ‘In him we live and move and have our being.'”
We do everything in and through God’s power, the Apostle Paul explains. Matthew Henry comments,
“We have a necessary and constant dependence upon his providence, as the streams have upon the spring, and the beams upon the sun.”
Over, Through and In All
“[There is] one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
God is not merely present in the times of corporate worship or moments of private prayer, although both are essential. Rather, God works in and through us at all times. A. Skevington Wood comments on this passage,
God reigns ‘over’ (epi) all in his transcendent sovereignty. He works ‘through’ (dia) all in his creative activity. He dwells ‘in’ (en) all by reason of his immanent pervasiveness. (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 11)
God Is Everywhere
“If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”
God doesn’t just meet us in the four walls of a sanctuary. He is with us everywhere we go. Willem A. VanGemeren notes,
The presence of God is everywhere; hence he perceives all things in all places. Man cannot hide himself from the all-seeing eye of the Lord, whether in the highest heavens, the deepest recesses of the earth, or in the depths of the sea…. The knowledge or discernment of God can never be limited to any particular place, because God’s sovereignty extends to the whole created universe. (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 5)
I don’t want to suggest that corporate worship, Bible study, prayer and such “spiritual” activities are bad. They’re absolutely essential for the Christian life. Rather, these passages show us that God’s concern and rule is not limited to those times. God deserves to be glorified in every aspect of our lives at every point in the week.
These Bible passages may not answer every question you have about the sacred-secular divide, but hopefully they will serve as a helpful starting point. When we understand that God cares about every aspect of our lives, we will work, play and worship differently.
Hudson acknowledges this point in Discovering Our Spiritual Identity. He writes,
This way of understanding God’s relationship with the world has profoundly altered my understanding of the Christ-following life. No longer is the Holy One to be encountered only within particular places, special times and certain states of mind. His living presence pervades all things and every experience, and waits only to be invoked. Wherever we may be standing—in the kitchen or at the workplace—is holy ground.
What other passages or biblical principles help you break the sacred-secular divide?