Does the Bible distinguish between the secular and the sacred?
Biblically, labelling something sacred is akin to saying it is holy, or set apart for God's use. Therefore, just about anything could be considered sacred with the right perspective, attitude, and intentions.
People naturally desire to categorize things. For Christians, we often categorize items or activities as Christian or non-Christian, holy or not holy, godly or not godly, sacred or secular. Music is a good example. We sometimes talk about sacred music (that with easily-identifiable Christian themes) versus secular music (everything else). But is such a distinction biblical?
In some ways, yes, it is biblical to make certain distinctions between the "sacred" and the "secular." The Bible describes certain people, places, and things as "sanctified" or set apart. For example, the New Testament Greek word for "church" (ekklesia) literally means "a called-out assembly." Those who are a part of the church are "called to be saints" (Romans 1:7). Jesus called them the "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:13–16).
In a certain light, however, the entire world is sacred, that is, set apart for God. Romans 8:22–25 says the entire creation will be restored. Ephesians 1:22 says God put "all things" under Jesus' authority. All creation is under Jesus' authority so that "God may be in all," according to 1 Corinthians 15:28. When creation, everything that has been and is and will be, is put under Jesus' authority, it is His and therefore sacred (Philippians 2:10-11).
Along with music, our employment or work is usually a subject we want to place under some label such as sacred or secular. Biblically, though, it does not matter if your work comes under the auspices of a ministry, church, or non-profit Christian organization or not. All work is sacred with the right attitude, perspective, and intention. "Whatever you do, 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" (Colossians 3:23–24).
Not only our work, but everything we do—hobbies, relationships, even eating and drinking, is for the glory of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Too often we compartmentalize activities, items, and people into categories of secular and sacred. Then we tend to allow God to have "His things and times"—namely Sunday morning or other times at church—and keep the rest for ourselves. Instead, we should be intentionally trying to honor God with all our time and activities.
Now, of course, there are some specific holy things God has given special instruction about. The church, for example, is called to proclaim the gospel, disciple believers, and bless the culture in which it exists, among other biblically mandated tasks. The state, or government, also has biblically mandated responsibilities, such as serving justice (Romans 13:1–7). Still, care should be taken when categorizing even these biblically mandated institutions. The church should be involved in society, and the state should be concerned about matters of morality. Church and state operate in different spheres, but both have God-given functions. And both benefit when the other performs their duties well.
Today, we sometimes overuse the categories of secular and sacred. A Christian plumber can be just as God-honoring during his work as a Christian musician. A Christian baker can make cupcakes to the glory of God just as can a Christian educator teach to the glory of God. The possibilities are endless. When we walk in the Spirit and dedicate our minute by minute to God, the so-called lines between secular and sacred will merge into God-honoring time.
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