Many of us, who decided to follow Jesus as teenagers in the past 15 years, have gone through “The Purge”– the removal of all things “Un-Christian”. My purge consisted mostly of music. I burned, threw out, and otherwise destroyed all of my cd’s that were deemed “Secular”. I was convinced that if a band was secular, they really only cared about one thing–money. On the other hand, if a band was “Christian” they cared about God’s Kingdom, furthering the Gospel, and making sure I didn’t “stumble”. My line was very clear, very rigid, and there was no room for negotiation if you disagreed with me.
The firm separation many of us have experienced in the world of music is a kind of silly example of the perceived split between the Secular and Sacred, but there are more examples that are nothing short of heart-breaking. The most destructive of those examples is the perceived split between our Spiritual Life and Physical/Emotional Life. This split, like all the others, can seem harmless–even healthy! But at the core of this split is a belief that at the center of our physical selves, we are opposed to God. God is “Out There” and what is going on inside of us cannot be trusted. We are convinced that we need to somehow tap into an external leading, because our deepest desires will lead us astray.
The tragic reality that often comes from this way of seeing myself is that I will buy into the lie that from birth I was opposed to God. I seek redemption from the outside, because what is inside is evil. The problem with this line of thinking is that it forgets one central piece of the Gospel–We are made in God’s Image. We don’t begin to construct God’s Image within us if we suppress our own desires and follow God with a greater passion. We were born that way…by no effort of our own. This is not to say that God’s leading will never come from outside of ourselves. Certainly it does, but the very Image of the God of the Universe lies at the center of who I am, so why would the desires that come from that place be untrustworthy?
I have met several people who are convinced that they are filthy and that God tolerates them because Jesus is cleansing them from the outside in. This belief often leads to a perpetual attempt to chase this redemption–to earn the free gift given to us at our birth. It causes us to see ourselves and others as un-Sacred which prevents us from seeing the true tragedy when either one is treated without love.
On the other hand, I have also met people who embody the understanding that the Secular and Sacred are often one in the same, and forcing the label often leads to an unhealthy view of myself, you, and the rest of creation. These people operate under the assumption that underneath it all is something not at all foreign to God, but the very Image of God. The goal becomes remembering; remembering our own worth as God’s sons and daughters bearing the divine Image of our Creator. This idea is beautifully expressed in the popular Christmas hymn O’ Holy Night.
Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
I have become convinced that our tendency to separate the world into black and white labels has driven us to view even ourselves through a lens built out of deep and tragic lies. The Gospel truth that at our center is God’s Image, that we can trust our deepest desires as they come directly from that divine center, that we are all beloved Children of God, this Gospel truth carries with it the ability to heal. It carries the ability to remind us of what Christ embodied as the truest of human desires. It carries with it the truth that this law, the law of Love, is written on our hearts–deeper than all of the ugliness of sin and falseness so many of us believe to be who we really are–and it can absolutely be trusted.