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Why the Division of the Sacred and Secular in Our Culture Is Heretical and Damaging


Country superstar and American Idol judge Luke Bryan is on the cover of People magazine, but not for the reasons we might guess.

Bryan has endured a series of horrific tragedies over the last twenty-five years. In 1996, his older brother was killed in a car accident at the age of twenty-six. In 2007, his older sister died suddenly of natural causes at the age of thirty-nine. Seven years later, her husband died of a heart attack, leaving three children whom Luke and his wife have helped raise.

As a result, Bryan knows that “we’re not promised another day.” He’s right.

Wild Bill Hickok was murdered on this day

On this day in 1985, strong and sudden wind gusts caused Delta Flight 191 to crash at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, killing 135 people. A subsequent investigation showed that the weather had changed drastically in the eight minutes prior to the crash.

On this day in 1923, President Warren G. Harding died of a stroke at the age of fifty-eight. Famed gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok was murdered on this day in 1876. King Henry III of France died on this day in 1589, a day after he was stabbed by a friar. Adolf Hitler became dictator of Germany on this day in 1934, leading a regime that would murder six million Jews.

We can find evidence of our mortality in the past but also in the future: Astrophysicists are warning that while there are no known asteroids classified as Earth killers, this could change on any given day. Either an asteroid that scientists did not detect might threaten us, or a natural process could shift one from a safe orbit into a dangerous one.

And our mortality is proven by the present: Fire officials say the wildfires currently burning in Oregon will not be entirely contained until October. And Florida broke its record for current COVID-19 hospitalizations yesterday, a day after it recorded the most daily cases since the start of the pandemic.

We noted last week that we need God’s help in recognizing our mortality. David prayed, “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” (Psalm 39:4).

Today, let’s consider a companion principle: the best way to prepare for tomorrow is to redeem today.

"I like hitting the tennis ball"

Tennis star Novak Djokovic surprisingly failed over the weekend to win a medal at the Tokyo Olympics. However, if he wins the US Open in September, he will become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Grand Slam events in the same calendar year.

Djokovic said recently in an interview, “I can carry on playing at this level because I like hitting the tennis ball.” The interviewer said in surprise, “Are there really players who don’t like hitting the ball?” Djokovic answered, “Oh yes. There are people out there who don’t have the right motivation. You don’t need to talk to them. I can see it.”

In Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, Tish Harrison Warren discusses what Eugene Peterson called “vocational holiness.” She writes: “The idea is that we are sanctified—made holy—not in the abstract but through our concrete vocation. Christian holiness is not a free-floating goodness removed from the world, a few feet above the ground. It is specific and, in some sense, tailored to who we particularly are.

“We grow in holiness in the honing of our specific vocation. We can’t be holy in the abstract. Instead, we become a holy blacksmith or a holy mother or a holy physician or a holy systems analyst. We seek God in and through our particular vocation and place in life.”

She exposes just one way the sacred/secular division in our culture is so heretical and damaging. Satan wants us to restrict our spiritual lives to the brief hours we spend at church and in prayer and Bible study, segregating God from the many hours we spend at “work.” To the contrary, God wants us to see every moment of every day as the “workshop of the soul.”

According to Warren, “A fourteenth-century monk, Walter Hilton, wrote letters to a layman involved in commercial and political life who wanted to enter contemplative life in a religious community. Hilton challenged this man to stay in his profession and to embrace ‘a third way, a mixed life combining the activity of Martha with the reflectiveness of Mary.’ Hilton concluded that ‘such a spirituality needs to be consciously modeled and taught.'”

"Something very deep and mysterious"

Henri Nouwen observed, “Something very deep and mysterious, very holy and sacred, is taking place in our lives right where we are, and the more attentive we become, the more we will begin to see and hear it. The more our spiritual sensitivities come to the surface of our daily lives, the more we will discover—uncover—a new presence in our lives.”

In Matthew 11, Jesus invited us to “take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (v. 29). This metaphor illustrates at least seven life principles:

  1. We are to live and work under Jesus’ direct leadership.
  2. Jesus intends our lives to serve him.
  3. We are to serve him above all others.
  4. We are to serve with others (oxen were often yoked with other oxen).
  5. We are to work in the field of his choosing, not ours.
  6. Our work accomplishes a larger purpose than we as “oxen” can know.
  7. Our work is not completed until he says it is.

Would Jesus say you are wearing his yoke today?

If not, why not?

Publication date: August 2, 2021

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/molchanovdmitry

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries. Denison Ministries includes DenisonForum.org, First15.org, ChristianParenting.org, and FoundationsWithJanet.org. Jim speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at Denison Forum. He is the chief author of The Daily Article and has written more than 30 books, including The Coming Tsunamithe Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series, and The Fifth Great Awakening.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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