No Such Thing as Secular

If you’ve grown up going to church or even if you’ve just visited a few times, you’ve probably heard Christians refer to events, music or activities outside of the immediate scope of the church’s particular endeavours as “secular”. 

Personally, I’ve always struggled with this idea.

Especially since I’ve seen Christian leaders themselves being unable to decide or agree on where exactly the dividing line between these two imaginary fields of existence lies.

What is it, for example, that makes a particular song sacred or secular?

Some Christians argue that if it sounds too much like today’s mainstream music then it’s secular, but somehow repeating three chords on an organ is regarded as sacred. I’ve also heard some say that only specific genres of music, like rock or gospel, can be used to glorify God. Sorry hip-hop/ jazz/ folk/ pop – you guys simply aren’t chosen. I’ve even heard a preacher go as far as to say that only the major keys on a piano can glorify God, because somehow the minor keys were the result of the Fall.

Unfortunately, the sacred-secular debate goes beyond the realm of music.

It gets applied to our jobs, our families, our careers, our daily routines, in fact, everything we do. And this is where the damage is done… because the more people view their faith as something that only applies to specific areas of their lives, the further they move from depending on God in their daily lives. Christianity becomes the all too familiar pattern of “It’s up to me in the week and I’ll check in with Jesus on Sunday” or if you’re very ‘spiritual’ – “in the mornings before work”.

The point is that this is unbiblical.

The sacred-secular divide is the product of religious tradition and not New Testament theology.

As Paul himself declares in 1 Corinthians 10:31: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Paul’s view of the faith that we’ve been called to is one which includes the totality of our existence, being, and movement on this earth. It’s as real when we’re sitting behind a desk in a 2m x 2m cubicle as it is when we’re worshipping with 200 other believers on a Sunday morning. It’s as effective when we’re buying groceries as it is when we’re feeding the poor.

Because our lives belong to Jesus, and everything we do and don’t do, is worship.

A.W Tozer in his book, The Pursuit of God says this: 

“One of the greatest hindrances to internal peace which the Christian encounters is the common habit of dividing our lives into two areas, the sacred and the secular. As these areas are conceived to exist apart from each other and to be morally and spiritually incompatible, and as we are compelled by the necessities of living to be always crossing back and forth from the one to the other, our inner lives tend to break up so that we live a divided instead of a unified life.”

He continues:

“I believe this state of affairs to be wholly unnecessary. We have gotten ourselves on the horns of a dilemma, true enough, but the dilemma is not real. It is a creature of misunderstanding. The sacred-secular antithesis has no foundation in the New Testament. Without doubt a more perfect understanding of Christian truth will deliver us from it.

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is our perfect example, and He knew no divided life. In the Presence of His Father He lived on earth without strain from babyhood to His death on the cross. God accepted the offering of His total life, and made no distinction between act and act. “I do always the things that please him,” was His brief summary of His own life as it related to the Father. As He moved among men He was poised and restful. What pressure and suffering He endured grew out of His position as the world’s sin bearer; they were never the result of moral uncertainty or spiritual maladjustment.

It does not mean, for instance, that everything we do is of equal importance with everything else we do or may do. One act of a good man’s life may differ widely from another in importance. Paul’s sewing of tents was not equal to his writing of an Epistle to the Romans, but both were accepted of God and both were true acts of worship.”

As believers I believe we need to stop talking about “putting God first” in the same way that we talk about breakfast being the most important meal of the day.

The fact is that every meal is important, and God isn’t looking to strengthen you only at set times. He is totally involved, totally committed, totally at work in every part of your life – He is smack-bang in the middle of it all, and is working to redeem every part – until our every aspect of our lives declare and reflect His strength and grace.

So live your life, and live it to the glory of God.