Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the
glory of God.
I Cor. 10:31
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 the seas 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.
Our trouble springs from the fact that we who follow Christ inhabit at
once two worlds, the spiritual and the natural. As children of Adam we
live our lives on earth subject to the limitations of the flesh and the
weaknesses and ills to which human nature is heir. Merely to live among
men requires of us years of hard toil and much care and attention to the
things of this world. In sharp contrast to this is our life in the
Spirit. There we enjoy another and higher kind of life; we are children
of God; we possess heavenly status and enjoy intimate fellowship with
This tends to divide our total life into two departments. We come
unconsciously to recognize two sets of actions. The first are performed
with a feeling of satisfaction and a firm assurance that they are
pleasing to God. These are the sacred acts and they are usually thought
to be prayer, Bible reading, hymn singing, church attendance and such
other acts as spring directly from faith. They maybe known by the fact
that they have no direct relation to this world, and would have no
meaning whatever except as faith shows us another world, `an house not
made with hands, eternal in the heavens.' (2 Cor 5:1)
Over against these sacred acts are the secular ones.They include all of
the ordinary activities of life which we share with the sons and
daughters of Adam: eating, sleeping, working, looking after the needs of
the body and performing our dull and prosaic duties here on earth. These
we often do reluctantly and with many misgivings, often apologizing to
God for what we consider a waste of time and strength. The upshot of
this is that we are uneasy most of the time. We go about our common
tasks with a feeling of deep frustration, telling ourselves pensively
that there's a better day coming when we shall slough off this earthly
shell and be bothered no more with the affairs of this world.
This is the old sacred-secular antithesis. Most Christians are caught in
its trap. They cannot get a satisfactory adjustment between the claims
of the two worlds. They try to walk the tight rope between two kingdoms
and they find no peace in either. Their strength is reduced, their
outlook confused and their joy taken from them.
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. (John 8:29) 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.
Paul's exhortation to `do all to the glory of God' is more than pious
idealism. It is an integral part of the sacred revelation and is to be
accepted as the very Word of Truth. It opens before us the possibility
of making every act of our lives contribute to the glory of God. Lest we
should be too timid to include everything, Paul mentions specifically
eating and drinking. This humble privilege we share with the beasts that
perish. If these lowly animal acts can be so performed as to honor God,
then it becomes difficult to conceive of one that cannot.
That monkish hatred of the body which figures so prominently in the
works of certain early devotional writers is wholly without support in
the Word of God. Common modesty is found in the Sacred Scriptures, it is
true, but never prudery or a false sense of shame. The New Testament
accepts as a matter of course that in His incarnation our Lord took upon
Him a real human body, and no effort is made to steer around the
downright implications of such a fact. He lived in that body here among
men and never once performed a non-sacred act. His presence in human
flesh sweeps away forever the evil notion that there is about the human
body something innately offensive to the Deity. God created our bodies,
and we do not offend Him by placing the responsibility where it belongs.
He is not ashamed of the work of His own hands. Perversion, misuse and
abuse of our human powers should give us cause enough to be ashamed.
Bodily acts done in sin and contrary to nature can never honor God.
Wherever the human will introduces moral evil we have no longer our
innocent and harmless powers as God made them; we have instead an abused
and twisted thing which can never bring glory to its Creator.
Let us, however, assume that perversion and abuse are not present. Let
us think of a Christian believer in whose life the twin wonders of
repentance and the new birth have been wrought. He is now living
according to the will of God as he understands it from the written Word.
Of such a one it may be said that every act of his life is or can be as
truly sacred as prayer or baptism or the Lord's Supper. To say this is
not to bring all acts down to one dead level; it is rather to lift every
act up into a living kingdom and turn the whole life into a sacrament.
If a sacrament is an external expression of an inward grace, then we
need not hesitate to accept the above thesis. By one act of consecration
of our total selves to God, we can make every subsequent act express
that consecration. We need no more be ashamed of our body-- the fleshly
servant that carries us through life-- than Jesus was of the humble
beast upon which He rode into Jerusalem. `The Lord hath heed of him' may
well apply to our mortal bodies. If Christ dwells in us we may bear
about the Lord of glory as the little beast did of old and give occasion
to the multitudes to cry, `Hosanna in the highest.'
That we see this truth is not enough. If we would escape from the toils
of the sacred-secular dilemma the truth must `run in our blood' and
condition the complexion of our thoughts. We must practice living to the
glory of God, actually and determinedly. By meditation upon this truth,
by talking it over with God often in our prayers, by recalling it to our
minds frequently as we move about among men, a sense of its wondrous
meaning will begin to take hold of us. The old painful duality will go
down before a restful unity of life. The knowledge that we are all
God's, that He has received all and rejected nothing, will unify our
inner lives and make everything sacred to us.
This is not quite all. Long-held habits do not die easily. It will take
intelligent thought and a great deal of reverent prayer to escape
completely from the sacred-secular psychology. For instance it may be
difficult for the average Christian to get hold of the idea that his
daily labors can be performed as acts of worship acceptable to God by
Jesus Christ. The old antithesis will crop up in the back of his head
sometimes to disturb his peace of mind. Nor will that old serpent the
devil take all this lying down. He will be there in the cab or at the
desk or in the field to remind the Christian that he is giving the
better part of his day to the things of this world and allotting to his
religious duties only a trifling portion of his time.And unless great
care is taken this will create confusion and bring discouragement and
heaviness of heart.
We can meet this successfully only by the exercise of an aggressive
faith. We must offer all our acts to God and believe that He accepts
them. Then hold firmly to that position and keep insisting that every
act of every hour of the day and night be included in the transaction.
Keep reminding God in our times of private prayer that we mean every act
for His glory; then supplement those times by a thousand thought-prayers
as we go about the job of living. Let us practice the fine art of making
every work a priestly ministration. Let us believe that God is in all
our simple deeds and learn to find Him there.
A concomitant of the error which we have been discussing is the
sacred-secular antithesis as applied to places. It is little short of
astonishing that we can read the New Testament and still believe in the
inherent sacredness of places as distinguished from other places.This
error is so widespread that one feels all alone when he tries to combat
it. It has acted as a kind of dye to color the thinking of religious
persons and has colored the eyes as well so that it is all but
impossible to detect its fallacy. In the face of every New Testament
teaching to the contrary, it has been said and sung throughout the
centuries and accepted as part of the Christian message, the which it
most surely is not. Only the Quakers, so far as my knowledge goes, have
had the perception to see the error and the courage to expose it.
Here are the facts as I see them. For four hundred years Israel had
dwelt in Egypt, surrounded by the crassest idolatry. By the hand of
Moses they were brought out at last and started toward the land of
promise. The very idea of holiness had been lost to them. To correct
this, God began at the bottom. He localized Himself in the cloud and
fire and later when the tabernacle had been built He dwelt between holy
and unholy. There were holy days, holy vessels, holy garments. There
were washings, sacrifices, offerings of many kinds. By these means
Israel learned that God is holy. It was this that He was teaching them.
Not the holiness of things or places, but the holiness of Jehovah was
the lesson they must learn.
Then came the great day when Christ appeared. Immediately He began to
say, `Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time...,but I say
unto you...' (Mat 5:21-22) The Old Testament schooling was over. When
Christ died on the cross the veil of the temple was rent from top to
bottom. The Holy of Holies was opened to everyone who would enter in
faith. Christ's words were remembered, `The hour cometh, when ye shall
neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. ...
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship
the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to
worship Him. God is Spirit, and they that worship him must worship in
spirit and in truth.' (John 4:21-23)
Shortly after, Paul took up the cry of liberty and declared all meats
clean, every day holy, all places sacred and every act acceptable to
God. The sacredness of times and places, a half-light necessary to the
education of the race, passed away before the full sun of spiritual
The essential spirituality of worship remained the possession of the
Church until it was slowly lost with the passing of the years. Then the
natural legality of the fallen hearts of men began to introduce the old
distinctions. The Church came to observe again days and seasons and
times. Certain places were chosen and marked out as holy in a special
sense. Differences were observed between one and another day or place or
person. `The sacraments' were first two, then three, then four, until
with the triumph of Romanism they were fixed at seven.
In all charity, and with no desire to reflect unkindly upon any
Christian, however misled, I would point out that the Roman Catholic
church represents today the sacred-secular heresy carried to its logical
conclusion. Its deadliest effect is the complete cleavage it introduces
between religion and life. Its teachers attempt to avoid this snare by
many footnotes and multitudinous explanations, but the mind's instinct
for logic is too strong. In practical living the cleavage is a fact.
From this bondage reformers and puritans and mystics have labored to
free us. Today the trend in conservative circles is back toward that
bondage again. It is said that a horse after it has been led out of a
burning building will sometimes by a strange obstinacy break loose from
its rescuer and dash back into the building again to perish in the
flame. By some such stubborn tendency toward error, Fundamentalism in
our day is moving back toward spiritual slavery. The observation of days
and times is becoming more and more prominent among us. `Lent' and `holy
week' and `good' Friday are words heard more and more frequently upon
the lips of gospel Christians. We do not know when we are well off.
In order that I may be understood and not be misunderstood I would throw
into relief the practical implications of the teaching for which I have
been arguing, i.e., the sacramental quality of every-day living. Over
against its positive meanings I should like to point out a few things it
does not mean.
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 an Epistle to the Romans, but both
were accepted of God and both were true acts of worship. Certainly it is
more important to lead a soul to Christ than to plant a garden, but the
planting of the garden can be as holy an act as the winning of a soul.
Again, it does not mean that every man is as useful as every other man.
Gifts differ in the body of Christ. A Billy Bray is not to be compared
with a Luther or a Wesley for sheer usefulness to the Church and to the
world; but the service of the less gifted brother is as pure as that of
the more gifted, and God accepts both with equal pleasure.
The `layman' need never think of his humbler task as being inferior to
that of his minister. Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is
called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is
not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or
secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything. Let a man
sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common
act. All he does is good and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For
such a man, living itself will be sacramental and the whole world a
sanctuary. His entire life will be a priestly ministration. As he
performs his never so simple task he will hear the voice of the seraphim
saying, `Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full
of His glory.' Lord, I would trust Thee completely; I would be
altogether Thine; I would exalt Thee above all. I desire that I may feel
no sense of possessing anything outside of Thee. I want constantly to be
aware of Thine overshadowing Presence and to hear Thy speaking Voice. I
long to live in restful sincerity of heart. I want to live so fully in
the Spirit that all my thought may be as sweet incense ascending to Thee
and every act of my life may be an act of worship. Therefore I pray in
the words of Thy great servant of old, `I beseech Thee so for to cleanse
the intent of mine heart with the unspeakable gift of Thy grace, that I
may perfectly love Thee and worthily praise Thee.' And all this I
confidently believe Thou wilt grant me through the merits of Jesus
Christ Thy Son. Amen.