We Americans love a label, don’t we?
Our foods are labeled with advertising and masses of nutritional information. Our clothes are labeled with name-brands, prices, and laundering instructions. For any store you walk into, there are labels on every product extolling their virtues and pricing their values.
We label our children as cute or athletic or shy.
We label our students as exceptional or challenged or disabled.
We label ourselves as fit or fluffy or model-thin.
While there’s nothing wrong from gaining information or a price from a label, we get into trouble when we gain our identities from our labels.
Or when we use labels to compartmentalize our lives.
Several weeks ago I had a heart-piercing conversation with Daudi, a new friend and leader of a ministry in Tanzania. Daudi shared stories about the women and girls he’s helping along with details about the ministry he and his wife lead. I asked lots of questions to try and understand a life very different than my own, and I shed tears as Daudi recounted true stories of broken lives.
Finally, I asked Daudi how his Christianity plays a role in the help he and his team offers. He paused for a moment, seemingly surprised by my question. Then he said, “We don’t teach Bible studies or preach, but we are part of each other’s lives. We go to our children’s school events and our family funerals together. We talk and listen and pray together. We make a safe place to tell our personal stories, and we cry together. And then the Holy Spirit does what He does. He is powerful, and I don’t think we could stop Him even if we tried.”
Daudi went on to describe outreach by believers permeated by a personal faith that is winning others to Jesus through close relationships.
How my heart was pierced. And I thought about how I over-label my life.
Bible study? Sacred.
Grocery shopping? Secular.
Church attendance? Sacred.
PTA attendance? Secular.
In the church building? Sacred.
In my neighborhood? Secular.
I don’t think through it that way, but I know it’s true. I’ve over-labeled as if God isn’t always there. As if every detail doesn’t count to Him. As if He can’t work unless I have an open Bible in my hand.
I thought about this separation I’ve created but Daudi has conquered all the rest of the day, and I was still thinking about it the next morning when I picked up the book I’ve been reading, When Helping Hurts.
God, as He often does, reinforced His lesson as I read. Here’s a section from my reading:
“Darrow Miller argues that North American Christians have engaged in… a modern worldview he calls ‘evangelical gnosticism,’ a sacred-secular divide in which God is lord of the spiritual realm–Sunday worship, devotions, evangelism, discipleship, etc.–but is largely irrelevant to the ‘physical’ or ‘secular’ realms–business, the arts, politics, science, and poverty alleviation.”
Oh my heavens… there it was in black-and-white. Evangelical gnosticism exactly describes my over-labeling of the pieces of my life.
In fact, there are no pieces. God is over all.
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20 italics added)
Can you see places of your life you’ve labeled “secular”? I can. It’s subtle, but it’s there. Now that my eyes are open to it, I’m working on it. God in all and over all.