On the Guild we’ve been having a debate on what separates Christian Fiction from Non-Christian. I submitted a version of this piece on that blog, originally as Writing as Unto the Lord.
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men
What separates secular from sacred? When dealing with this question in any public forum, it quickly becomes evident how many of us truly are waffle brains: Secular and Sacred are in separate compartments,with each area of our lives clearly defined in our minds and totally separate from the other. In this mindset, God takes up residence in His very own compartment marked “Sacred”, which leaves the person especially prone to thinking that God only is concerned about, relevant to, the stuff in His compartment.
Which means despite years of singing, “You are my all in all” and “In all I do, I honor you” (“Amazing Love”) on an unconscious level, many of us think that means, “You are all in all in my religious life, as for the rest, that’s why you gave me a Brain,” and “In all I do in explicitly spiritual activities, I honor you.”
To this mindset, the natural assumption is, if Christians must honor God in literally all we do, all we do must fit in our Sacred box. If we’re a carpenter, we have to build churches. If we’re a doctor, we can only glorify god by joining an overseas mission. If we’re a writer, our work had better be fit for the Christian Booksellers Association. But none of that is true.
When the bible says “do all things unto the Lord” it doesn’t mean make everything you do fit inside your sacred box. It means let God out of the sacred box and into every other box, including the one marked “work, “job” or “career.” No matter how “secular” our work.
Even if you’re a street sweeper, to borrow from Martin Luther King Junior, go out and sweep those secular streets for the Lord–aiming to please Him with your work before anyone else. And allowing Him to sweep streets through you. You’d be surprised who He can minister to through your ordinary, secular street sweeping when you fully submit this area of your life to Him.
Note I’m not saying the typical Evangelical line–think of ways to “witness” to your coworkers and clients in your own strength and wits. Overt may genuinely not be appropriate, and using your own wits never is. I’m talking about a simple prayer, “Lord, use me in my work today to bring Glory to You.” Then let Him go to work as He sees fit.
Personally, I want “In all I do, I honor you” to be a summation of my life. But frankly, I’m an alcoholic’s daughter. Like most daughters of alcoholics, I have some serious control issues–as anyone who has known me more than half an hour probably already knows. Left to my own devices, I want things my way, and if I don’t get it, I might just go off to pout and stew about it a good long while. Taking my hands off the wheel and trusting Him enough to let him have control is something I don’t always find easy to say the least.
For me, one of the most difficult verses in the bible to live out is Proverbs 3:5,6 “Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (The From Andrea’s Memory Version).
As a writer, the difficulty I have doesn’t stop when I sit down at the keyboard to write. In fact, I’ve found the more I learn the craft, the harder not trusting my understanding of it but rather submitting to His leading becomes. The hardest thing He could ask me to do, writing-wise, is to break one of my “sacred” rules (such as, thou shalt not write in first person multiple.)
Americans in general, I’ve found, have a hard time with not leaning on our own understanding, especially as relates to the God-box. Most of us still talk about honoring God in everything and Him being all in all. We usually still talk about aiming to please Him, not man. But the behavior of the American Church indicates most of us are in the camp of: “God gave me a brain. God only is concerned with explicitly Sacred things, so I only need to seek Him in regards to those things. Secular things He wants/expects me to handle myself using the whits and natural wisdom He gave me.”
Now, if I’m not careful, I start thinking that way, too. But, Brethren, that notion isn’t of God. God gave the Israelites a Law chock full of rules dictating practically every aspect of their lives at least in part to disprove that lie. No matter how secular our work or ungodly our employer, God wants us to “scoot over” as recording artist Mark Shultz put it–and let Him work through us.
You know what? I’ve found God often is faithful to our covenant even when I’m neglectful. I’ve looked back on situations and things I’d written and realized He’d still worked through me even when I’d neglected to specifically invite Him to. It’s ultimately the willingness of the vessel that counts.
Again, our work can’t rightly be defined as Christian or not in terms of our actual duties or the content of what we produce. Rather, it is our relationship with Christ that truly defines our work. Where we are not fully surrendered to Him, that shows, especially for those of us who work in the arts or media.
Yet, even at the same time, where we are walking in right relationship with Him, everything we do truly does honor Him–whether sacred or secular. And if that be true, what distinction is there between the sacred and the secular for the Christian?