When high school neared its end, a trend started within the Christian music industry. Some committed Christian bands began to get recognition outside of contemporary Christian markets. P.O.D. was of the first of several bands with a Christian message that signed with a secular label. For many of my friends, we saw this as a victory for the Kingdom of God because now we could point to the creativity of fellow Christians.
Over time, many more bands started putting out records that sounded awfully Christian. Perhaps the quintessential Christian-sounding-yet-popular-in-the-secular-music-scene-band was Lifehouse. They had a hit song with the ambiguous lyrics, “I’m falling even more in love with you…” Christians told their non-Christian and barely-Christian friends, “The song is totally about Jesus!” To this, many replied “No, its about a girl.” Back and forth the arguments would go, until bands like Lifehouse made a clear distinction. We are not a Christian band, we are Christians who are in a band.
This distinction used to feel a bit silly to me. Really? You’re a bunch of Christians who just happen to make music together, influenced by your shared faith in God, but you’re not a Christian band? Come on.
The more I think about this silly qualification the more it might be a positive corrective to a tendency in Christian culture. Stating that they’re Christians who just happen to be in a band, rather than being a Christian band counteracts the dichotomy between the secular and the sacred. Many of us grew up with the belief that the world is split up into neat little categories of “Christian things” and “secular things.” But for the earliest Christians, this distinction didn’t exist. Our tendency to divide reality in this way can be seen most clearly in our Western approach to political beliefs. N.T. Wright puts it this way:
The first is the assumption of a split-level world in which ‘religion’ and ‘faith’ belong upstairs and ‘society’ and ‘politics’ belong downstairs. This assumption has effectively privatized religion and faith on the one hand, and on the other has emancipated politics from divine control or influence. God lives upstairs (many of the Enlightenment philosophers were Deists) and doesn’t bother about what goes on downstairs.
This dichotomous paradigm – if we’re not careful – can lead to the belief that what we believe, promote, and do as citizens of the United States is different than what we do in our private Christian lives. Splitting up the world in this way has often been legitimized by the famous words of Jesus in Luke chapter 20 on whether or not to pay taxes:
24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. 25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Luke 20.24-25
Many have assumed that this passage is an attempt by Jesus to split life into two spheres. What a mistake! This principle has been used to justify many things in the name of government and empire, especially war, because that kind of activity fits into the public / political box, not the spiritual one. Jesus’ answer to “…give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s…” basically meant, as Joel Green has said: “Give to Caesar what is his already.” For Jesus, there was a greater issue at stake: to give to “God what is God’s.” This begs an important question: What exactly is God’s?
In Genesis 1.26 God sets up humanity as image bearers. If this is true, then Caesar’s claims to allegiance are weak compared to the claim that God has on his image-bearers. And what are image-bearers to do? Bearing God’s image means that we show the world what God is like by reflecting the love of the Divine. Greg Boyd paraphrases this passage in the following way:
Why should we who bear the image of God fight over what to do with coins that bear the image of Caesar? The only thing we should worry about is giving God everything that bears his image—namely, our whole self.
Here’s the point: For the disciple of Jesus who bears the image of God, all of life is sacred. No divide between the “secular” and the “spiritual” exists because in every single action, both private and public, we are called to live in the world as reflections of God’s love and care for all of creation. The Kingdom of God encompasses the totality of life! To call ourselves a Christian ____________ too easily lends itself to the temptation to split other areas off as not part of our Christian image-bearing vocation. Therefore you can say…I’m not a Christian teacher, I’m a teacher who’s a Christian. I’m not a Christian musician, I’m a musician who’s a Christian. I’m not a Christian athlete, I’m an athlete who’s a Christian. I’m not a Christian husband, I’m a husband who’s a Christian. I’m not a Christian animal advocate, I’m an animal advocate who’s a Christian.
And I will add one for myself: I’m not a Christian blogger, I’m a blogger who’s a Christian.