Thursday, 30 January 2014

Compartmentalisation



Generation X'ers are an interesting bunch aren’t they? They were born in the years between 1961-81 and one of their characteristic is that they generally prefer not to be categorised or put in boxes (including the GenX box!). I'm one of those types.  Funnily enough our western culture actually seems obsessed with categories and boxes. Let’s take music for an example. You can enjoy a wide range of different genres, including Choral, Pop, Country, Jazz, Death Metal, Liturgical, Christian, Bluegrass, and a whole heap of others. If by chance the band you enjoy doesn't exactly fit into one of those categories, then there is always Alternative, to ensure that everyone has their own little box to fit in. Okay, what about friends? Have you ever heard others describe people as their work or school friends, rugby mates, church friends, Uni mates or any one of a number of other social groupings? Interesting isn't it? 

Life seems full of cubby holes and boxes and often without realising it I have been sucked into a life of compartmentalising and putting things and people in boxes. I have a hunch that you may have fallen into the same trap.  

You know that feeling when you read something and it stands out as if it’s been coloured in highlighter yellow?  Then a week or so later you read something else or hear something where the same point is reinforced again. Recently I read somewhere about how we have desacralized so much of our lives by categorising the sacred and the secular. Simon Guilliband, in his book More Than Conquerors, honestly approaches this issue by asking the fundamental question to all Christians. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ? Here’s the highlighter yellow bit!

"It's not the case that God matters more than everything else, so nothing else matters in the light of him. On the contrary; because God matters infinitely, everything else matters much more in the light of him."

I think many Christians in this culture have been sucked into thinking we have at least two compartments to our lives, our church life and our work life. The major problem with this way of thinking is that church is deemed sacred and work secular. Western culture is only partly to blame for this way of thinking.  Churches have also contributed hugely although possibly unintentionally. Guilliband says "the term ‘full-time Christian worker’ is a misnomer, as all Christians are full-time." Do we inadvertently think missionaries, pastors, and maybe elders, are the 'workers for the Lord', and say builders, lawyers, nurses, and mechanics are not? Honestly, do we even if it's just a tiny bit? If we are following Christ, we can't stop following him during our work hours because if we do this will give way to work being something separate and detached from our faith.  

Mark Greene identifies the danger in this way of thinking, "the impact on Christians of effectively robbing their work of spiritual and ministry value is to produce a sense of guilt.". He goes on to say, "the working Christian comes home at the end of a fifty-hour week and thinks, I haven't done any evangelism. I haven't done any ministry. I'm not serving God. I must make time outside work to do all these things, otherwise I'm not leading an obedient Christian life.” And so he or she then proceeds to either fill up their out of work time with multiple church commitments or their life is pervaded with a sense of guilt.

Isn't life busy enough without adding more guilt induced activities?  Your job is a key part of your ministry. Yes I know you get paid to do it, but even people in the Bible had jobs. Jesus had a job. Do you think that Jesus wasn't following the Father when he was a carpenter?  Do you think Paul wasn't following Jesus when he made tents (Acts 18:3) with Aquila and Priscilla to support himself? Why must our work be separate from our faith?

1 Corinthians 10:31 makes a very fundamental point, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Eating and drinking are basic needs, so if even those are to be done to the glory of God, then why shouldn't our work, even if we get paid for it? Colossians 3:23 goes even further by pointing out, not only do we work for God's glory, following Jesus as we work, but also we are to "work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."  So basically, we all work for God, missionaries and plumbers alike and we all work heartily, because if we are following Jesus, he is our example of integrity in all we do; church, rugby, fishing, coaching, parenting, skateboarding, hunting, and work. Even work.

If we are following Jesus with our heart, our mind and our strength, then all we have to do is think on where we express our heart, where we use our mind and where we exercise our strength and follow him there. Do what he would do. Say what he would say. Love as he would love.


Life isn't about boxes, it's about just the opposite. It's about freedom from the constraints of our culture. Following Jesus in every aspect of our day is an invitation to a fuller life. De-construct the boxes. Lay your life flat and allow what you do every day to be for God's glory.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think?