I once nearly caused a riot in Sunday School.
Well, my wife would say that’s an exaggeration. And it is. No one threw anything, No one got hurt or arrested. But people were upset.
For a few years, I had been part of a group called Salt & Light Fellowship, hosted by the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. It was (and still is) led by a man named Jerram Barrs, a native Brit who studied under and was disciple by Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri in Switzerland.
The core focus of the fellowship was simple: God owns all parts of life, all parts of reality. He’s not confined to the church. He owns the culture, government, the economic system, everything.
We all nod and say that’s true. It’s easy to say. How it plays out in our day-today reality is another thing altogether.
One of our church pastors asked me to teach a summary of the Salt & Light for an adult Sunday School class. It wasn’t easy – consolidating two or three years of study and understanding into a fall Sunday School class. But I agreed.
Things went fine for a while. And then we came to the subject of work.
All work is holy and important to God, I said, repeating what I thought would be easily accepted. The work that each of us do is important and matters to God, I said.
And then I said this: Because it all matters, because all work is important, in God’s eyes no one kind of work is superior to another. No one kind is “holier” than another. What I did in my public relations job – and how I did it – mattered just as much to God as what a missionary or pastor did.
That was what caused the riot. No, it wasn’t a riot. I am exaggerating, at least a bit. I wasn’t lynched. But it did offend several people in the class. One man, a young doctor, never returned to class. And the evaluations at the end of the session showed that a lot of people thought I might be harboring heretical thoughts. Well, that’s an exaggeration, too.
A.W. Tozer explains it this way in The Pursuit of God: “This is the old sacred-secular antithesis. Most Christians are caught in its trap. They cannot get a satisfactory adjustment of the two worlds (sacred and secular). They try to walk the tightrope between two kingdoms and they find no peace in either. Their strength is reduced, their outlook confused and their joy taken from them.”
We compartmentalize. We see our “church life” as something radically different than our “day-to-day life.” I’ve seen Christians in the workplace behave as badly as non-Christians, and be major figures in church life. I’ve heard the “you have to do what it takes to succeed in business” argument and it’s just as wrong as the first time I heard it.
If God is indeed sovereign, then he’s sovereign over everything. Including what we do outside the church. Including the kind of work we do. It’s not only the missionaries and pastors who have “spiritual” jobs. The fact is, we all do.
Saying that out loud might cause a riot, though.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been discussing Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. Chapter 10, “The Sacrament of Living,” is the subject for today and next Wednesday. To see more posts, please visit Sarah’s site, LivingBetween the Lines.