As Christians, we have been given all we need to grow in our relationship with God. We have His Word to nourish us and give us wisdom as needed. We have His Spirit in us, giving us power and assurance to meet the challenges in life. We have one another, the community of faith, to encourage and uphold us. But at the very heart of all of this is we need to have a connection between our faith and life, between claiming to follow Jesus and becoming like Him. We need to make the transition from belief to character, from profession to practice.
When the focus of the heart is on the eternal, secular activities become spiritual and the ordinary takes on a new dimension. Our relationship with Christ was never meant to be a component of our lives, but the central hub from which every spoke is connected.
As we journey through life, we realize that our world has become increasingly fragmented. It causes us to question what is truth and erodes our commitments and blurs our focus. The highest virtue is choice. Using it, we can change our identities, our values and perspectives. Os Guinness calls it pluralization. His argument is the modern idolatry of choice reduces obligations to options and diminishes commitment and continuity. The biblical solution is to get back to our identity as a people with a calling – to be a follower and servant of Christ.
It is easy to allow ourselves to be enslaved by the world and its ways. When we fail to nurture our relationship and commitment to Christ, other, seemingly more enticing, ways lure us away. On an individual and a corporate level, we try to play by two sets of rules – to have our cake and eat it too, to coin a phrase. We live in the world but we also want to be like the world.
This is possible when we compartmentalize our faith and separate or divorce it from other aspects of our lives. Things like work, finances, friendships, marriage and parenting, all get put into a different compartment. None are connected. This separation between the spiritual and secular leads to a disconnect between belief and behaviour and an amazing ability to overlook the inconsistencies.
An example: How many of us believe we honour God in our decisions we make in life regardless of how much it may cost us? How many of us know what pirating is and copyright laws? How many of us copy or purchase copyrighted material even though the producer/artist gets no part of the proceeds?
St. Ambrose said, “You are a sort of imposter when your profession and practice disagree.” Pretty hard words… but true. Part of our problem is we have become comfortable imposters who know the character of Christ should be our model, but in the end, our lives are little different than the culture we inhabit. It is only when it affects us and our wants do we act or react.
One of the classic examples is participating in Sunday worship. We rarely connect that with our regular everyday living. The truth is, we treat 9:30 AM on a Sunday way differently than 9:30 AM on a Monday. Compartmentalizing allows us to bend rules depending on circumstances or what it might affect. The problem with that is everything then becomes subjective. God’s commands become subjective. Where in our own lives do we ask ourselves, “Is this an issue?”
What it comes down to is our hearts. A holistic approach to spirituality stresses the relevance of faith in Christ to all aspects of life. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We make the mistake of reducing the spiritual life to devotions, singing worship songs, serving in the church and Bible studies. The spiritual life isn’t simply an add-on to our “normal” lives like we sometimes do with Communion to our Sunday service. We need to see it more as the wellspring of our lives. Everything flows from and through it. Whether it is how we spend our money, how we do business, how we drive or how we pray – everything should flow from Christ.
In Matthew 6:21, Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In all of these scenarios, it comes back to where our hearts are focused. When we are able to make the focus of our hearts eternal, the secular becomes spiritual. Our work, our play, our spending, our relationships – everything changes. As Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom…” and everything else falls into place.
By contrast, the spiritual becomes secular when our hearts become focused on the temporal. Church, the Bible, prayer and fellowship become tasks and time consumers rather than things that nurture and build up. Pastors and missionaries are no different. The desire to grow large ministries and buildings can actually miss the mark. In the end, it isn’t what you do that matters, rather it is the focus of the heart that matters to God.
When we realize that we can do all things for the glory of God, it gives us a different perspective and value in what we do. It becomes less about appearance or what we get out of it and it transforms into God’s glory being derived from it. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” That means regardless of where you are, working in the church, in school or in the marketplace, if your focus is right, everything becomes spiritual.