The Sacred Divide

I've devoted a lot of time recently to the repercussions of modernity on Christianity (e.g. knowledge, relationship, behavior). But possibly the most expansive modern concept we've been influenced by is the division of sacred from secular. And many would argue for its continuance based on the idea of sanctification (i.e. the setting apart of a thing to God). However, I will argue that this was not intended to be accomplished through categorical distinctions, but rather through people. To this end, I want to consider three negative outworkings of the sacred/secular divide.

1. World

The first outworking is that the Christian has been removed from the world. If you've grown up in the church like I have, you're probably familiar with this arbitrary hierarchy of Christian service:
1. Missionary (foreign)
2. Pastor (senior/teaching)
3. Missionary (domestic)
4. Pastor (youth, worship, associate)
5. Other Christian non-profits (e.g. Moody Bible Institute)
Now I would never say that these things aren't good or important. But I will tell you about a little boy who grew up believing that if you weren't in fulltime ministry (preferably overseas missions), you didn't love Jesus as much as you could. It became a litmus test for Christian dedication as there was a clear distinction between the secular work you did for yourself, and the sacred work you did for God. And the more people that were guilted into ministry, the fewer people there were infuencing the "secular" workforce.

2. Works

The second outworking is that the Christian's works have been removed from the world. When the youth worship band I was in began playing outside of church for fun, we soon felt the pressure to define ourselves as a Christian band. In fact, the church seemed to frown upon Christians that didn't play overtly Christian-themed music. But this proved to be problematic for us because we didn't have lyrics or a singer. I say problematic because without lyrics, we couldn't find any other criteria that defined our music as Christian or not. It was just music.

It soon became evident that what people meant by Christian music was "music that Christians (should) listen to." In other words, music that clearly identified and proclaimed a Christian worldview. The problem with this is that people who don't follow Jesus generally don't listen to Christian music. So Christians can rally all they want for a bolder witness in the Christians arts, but in the end, the only people hearing the preaching is the choir.

3. Witness

Thus, the final outworking is that the Christian's witness has been removed from the world. I had a lot of anxiety growing up when it came to "sharing my faith." Because the idea of walking up to complete strangers and talking to them about Jesus felt awkward. Years later, I've discovered an interesting fact: most people on the receiving end also find it awkward.

photo credit: jalalspages via photopin cc
It's kind of like doing this: "Hello, sir. Do you know my wife? Can I tell you about how much she means to me?" Now that doesn't mean I'm ashamed of my wife. It just means that the people on public transit don't care. And why should they? They don't know me.

It's different than getting to know someone you meet on your commute to work or a fellow co-worker you see every day. In those cases, you probably just share your life: your interests, your hobbies, things you care about. And my wife frequently comes into any conversation I have because I care about her a great deal.

What if that's how we viewed our witness? What if Jesus was just as common to our daily conversations as our loved ones? We might not feel the need to wrench him into other people's lives if he's unmistakable in our own.
[We] are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
Sanctification is not being separated from the world, but being separated to God. Categorical distinctions lead to sectarianism and a light only bright enough for those who know to look for it. But people passionately devoted to Jesus are sanctified to his purpose and shed light on the darkest places of the world. That's our calling. So let's fill in the divide.

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