Blurred Lines

“In nothing has the Church so lost her hold on reality as her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation. She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as a result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious or at least uninterested in religion… But is it astonishing? How can any one remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with the nine-tenths of his life?” ~ Dorothy Sayers –Why Work?

Dorothy Sayers was a prolific novelist famous for her detective novels, but was also a Christian apologist – a contemporary of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. Her observation of the compartmentalization of the Christian life just after the turn of the previous century was, in my opinion, ahead of her time. Okay, maybe not ahead of her time, but it certainly illustrates how long Christianity has had this problem. Perhaps, if the church would hear her words of warning, we would be living in a different world.

Could you imagine a world where the estimated Christian population of 2.2 billion people would be better at blurring the lines between their “Christian Life” and their “Secular Life”? What if the Christian would allow Christian principles to overtake all 10 parts (the number here is clearly arbitrary)  of life rather than just the 1/10 that Sayers speaks about? How would the world change? In theory, I don’t think any Christian would admit that Christianity has no regard for 9/10 of life. But in practice? I’m not so sure.

Sayers talks specifically about work as it applies to employment, and I think her point is valid. Sayers links the quality of one’s work with the life changing actions that make Christians – Christian. The quality of our work and the way we live our lives is, in every way, inherently connected to the regeneration found at salvation and the process of sanctification. It doesn’t take too much to observe what can happen to commerce when Christian principles are removed. The world ends up with executives that embezzle unimaginable amounts of money, people lose their jobs, and families splinter when the bottom line is raised above the people that serve it. In Sayers’ world, the quality of work from a Christian is of the highest possible quality because that’s what Christians do – no questions asked.

Admittedly, there is still more to life than profession. The full life, the abundant life, is one where the boundary of the secular life is pushed out because the Christian life takes over. This is holistic living: when holiness and sanctification prunes and re-shapes every area of our life. This life is where Christian principles are so evident in our thought process that we can’t help but think about the ethics behind every single choice, every single statement, and every single breath and how it relates to Christ’s Kingdom. It involves how we use our time, the food we choose to eat, the products we choose to buy, the books and media we choose to consume. We’ve messed up Christianity. It absolutely appears that the Christian religion has no concern for nine-tenths of life. Its seems that all Christianity can speak to anymore is the salvation of the soul. If all we are is a soul to be saved what exactly is the point of living an incarnate life?

We need to change. We need to change our minds and approach to Christianity. What if Christianity was truly a lifestyle? What if we never asked the question, “Did you know he’s a believer?” Because it would be so evident that the question is rendered meaningless? What if Christianity actually changed our lives – entirely? What if Sayers’ ratio was reversed? What if the lines between the Christian life and the secular were blurred so that all that was left was the Christian life?

“For you were once darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of light are found in all that is good and right and true.” Ephesians 5:8-9

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  • craig sapp

    Shane, I am a hospice chaplain and evangelistic (I don’t pastor one specific church) preacher so I am usually expected to “act like a Christian” in these positions. But as I read your post here at the recommendation of my friend Tab Miller, I thought about jobs I have had previously and the expectations and allowances (so to speak) there – even in the office where I am headquartered as a chaplain today. And as I am givingthis consideration, I can actually see the ongoing transformation in my own life administered by the Holy Spirit – because not too long ago I was one who “compartmentalized” my life into “Christian times” and “non-Christian times”. My friend, thank you for prompting this consideration in me because it is a very beneficial consideration!