The hard-metal Canadian band, Three Days Grace, might sound Christian in name, but Three Days Grace does not profess to be a “Christian” band, and their values and morals in their songs do not reflect Christian thinking. Like other bands such as Linkin Park, Three Days Grace often sings from the depth of their feelings and certainly hits the nail on the head with their listeners. In their song, “Animal I Have Become”, the lead singer laments his struggle to escape the “animal inside of me” and pleads “somebody help me tame this animal I have become”. Though he laments various (sin) problems he experiences in his life such as lying and rage, he also accepts his fate saying, “No one will ever change this animal I have become.”
Now, the numerous parallels and similarities between this song and the seventh chapter of the epistle of Romans written almost two-thousand years ago astound me. This seemingly secular (pagan) band and God’s word both agree about a common human experience–it is an experience I believe the evangelical Christian world refers to as “sin”. Should I throw this song in the recycle bin on my desktop because it never references God or Jesus, and doesn’t leave much room for hope in being redeemed from the nagging plague of sin? I don’t think so. It has a redeemable quality that I think is valuable. In this song I have a wonderful illustration of what the human condition is like apart from God’s redeeming work in a person’s soul.
In order to practice solid Christian living, we must mimic God’s redemption in our integration of the “Christian” world and the “secular” world. It is sad that we must speak of integration of faith with other subjects. To imply that we must “integrate” something implies that whatever elements we are integrating are not combined into a harmonious whole already. To counter balance this, we must pursue the re-integration of faith into all aspects of life. Christian thought has bought into Plato’s philosophy that ideas were higher and better then the material world thus creating a false dichotomy. Throughout history, Christians have condemned certain activities as “un-spiritual” and other activities as being more “holy” or “spiritual”.
“All our merely natural activities will be accepted, if they are offered to God, even the humblest, and all of them, even the noblest, will be sinful if they are not. Christianity does not simply replace our natural life and substitute a new one; it is rather a new organization which exploits, to its own supernatural ends, these natural materials.” C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
The idea of secular implies that something is worldly, material or of the world. This implies some sort of split between what is spiritual and what is of the world. Like I said, it was Plato who began this divorced thinking. It was his ideas that eventually lead to the division between the sacred and the secular. Plato reasoned in his analogy of the cave that the lesser—the material things were but a shadow of the better (higher) things the forms or ideas. So for instance, a carpenter’s idea (form) of a chair in his mind is better then the material chair that he makes—because the material chair is merely a representation of the carpenter’s idea. Christians, unfortunately, have applied this idea to their theology—making some sort of distinction between something being secular (bad) and being sacred (good). Christians often made the distinction between vocations arguing that one was better or pleased God more than another. Throughout history the ideas and the application of the divide between the sacred and the secular has changed. Holy artifacts were thought to be “extra holy” and common laypeople needed spiritual guidance from “holy priests”.
Whatever its’ form, the divide between the sacred and the secular has been misleading. David writes, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it…” (Ps. 24:1) Since God created matter, God saves garbage men and God uses normative—ordinary means to accomplish his will in the world—all the earth is indeed His since He created it and holds it together. Peter was confronted with this truth when God through a revelation commands Peter to eat non-kosher animals. The Jews had all kinds of separation regulations that went beyond something being sin or not—the point God was trying to make to Peter was that He had opened the way up to Gentiles as well as Jews—erasing the secular and sacred lines. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:30-31)
This does not mean that we erase God’s guidelines to distinguish between sin and righteousness. Some activities outside of their God given guidelines do not honor or please God. Sex is a gift from God. Sex outside of marriage is not only wrong—it ruins us and offends God. Food is a gift from God. Gluttony is a sin—that is not only unhealthy but dishonoring to God. However, to label some things as secular and other things as sacred is not what God intended. God intends us to “live in the world but not to be of the world”. He desires us to live with critical minds—and to be critical of how we live. Paul writes, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…” (Eph. 5:15-16) If we continue to live just accepting and drinking everything we see and hear—uncritically then we will continue to become like those who do not know God. Learning to see things as the rest of the world sees—not seeing God in much of anything. Thinking like they think—becoming self centered. Living like the there is a false dichotomy—where some things are secular (having nothing to do with God) where as other things are spiritual being filled with God—rather then being critical minded and learning to live as God would have us live going about activities in a way that is pleasing to Him.
It is important to consistently think of God in every thought and in every single action because if we divorce God from how we go about every thought and activity that we engage in we will be divorcing God from our very lives. If we do not see God in everything that happens, in our every thought, in our every action we will become like the non-believers that the Apostle Paul writes about, “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Eph 4:18) To understand how God sees your neighbor, to see how God sees starvation and aids in Africa, to understand how God thinks about your music, to see the world through His eyes and hear the world with His ears—this is what it means to consistently think of God in everything.
Paul saw that in order to convince his pagan audience, he had to convince them that God was already involved in every aspect of their lives—and that the god(s) were not compartmentalized as ruling various aspects of life—nor were the god(s) confined to the temples the Greeks had built. In fact, Paul argues effectively that there is only one God—who is Lord of the heavens and the earth and everything contained there in. It is so crucial that I integrate God into the areas He has been “divorced” from in the secular world and understand bad patterns of thinking where I’ve “created God in my own image”. It is important to see where my culture—my forefathers have affected my presuppositions—my assumptions and dispositions that shape the way I even read the Scriptures—in order to separate the truth from the lies.
Yet—so often, I live like a deist—not seeing God as being involved in every area of my life—seeing myself as the one responsible for everything. If I am to change this bad pattern of thinking, I have to learn to see God in everything and more importantly, I need to learn to see the world as God sees it, hear it as He is listening to it—and get involved in a way that pleases Him. Just like Paul mentioned, while He does not need us, yet He chooses to use us. I can become involved in helping to redeem the world and bring it back to shalom.