An Integrated Life


How do we live successfully in this world while keeping our focus on Christ?

We sojourn in an increasingly fragmented world that has a way of eroding our commitments and blurring our focus. Ours is a culture that has been stricken by such an intensification of choices and changes that our identities, values, and perspectives are being engulfed in a sea of diversity. Os Guinness in The Call uses the word pluralization to describe this process of proliferating options that “affects the private sphere of modern society at all levels, from consumer goods to relationships to worldviews and faiths.” Guinness argues that the modern idolatry of choice reduces obligations to options and diminishes commitment and continuity. The biblical solution to this menacing dilemma is a growing awareness of our identity as people who have a calling to be followers and servants of Christ. 

Two Sets of Rules

When we fail to nurture this consciousness of calling to radical commitment to Jesus, we lose our way in this deceptive and alluring world. On an individual and a corporate level, we begin to play by two sets of rules and try to have it both ways— the world’s and God’s. This becomes possible when we compartmentalize our faith and divorce it from other facets of life such as work, finances, friendships, marriage, and parenting. This divorce between “the spiritual” and “the secular” leads to substantial disparities between belief and behavior and an amazing ability to overlook these inconsistencies.

As St. Ambrose put it, “You are a sort of imposter when your profession and practice disagree.” We become comfortable imposters who claim to know Christ but whose character is not noticeably different from that of the ambient culture. Comparative surveys of people who claim to have made a commitment to Christ reveal that far from being salt and light, it is difficult to distinguish them from anyone else when it comes to such things as unethical behavior, problems in the home, financial misconduct, addictions, and mental distress.

Somehow, a connection has not been made between faith and living, between claiming to follow Christ and becoming like Him, between belief and character, between profession and practice. People who participate in corporate worship rarely relate the experiences of church life to the experiences of everyday life. The disparity between 11:00 on Sunday morning and 11:00 on Monday morning can be enormous.

The Focus of the Heart

By contrast, a holistic approach to spirituality stresses the relevance of faith in Christ to the routines of daily living. The spiritual life is not limited to personal devotions, spiritual exercises, church activities, and Bible studies. It is nourished by these, but it should be lived out and expressed in the ordinary and in the everyday. We must not view our life in Christ as merely an add on to our life in this world; instead, we must learn to see it as the very wellspring of our being and the meaning of our existence. As we develop this biblical perspective we will come to see the falsehood of the sacred-secular dichotomy. How we spend our money or put together a business deal is as much a matter of the spiritual life as how we say our prayers. Everything depends on the focus of our heart.

As Walt Henrichsen puts it, the secular becomes spiritual when the focus of one’s heart is the eternal. What appears to be a secular job, whether it is in a factory or in a law firm, becomes a spiritual pursuit if the focus of the worker’s heart is on God’s kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33). By contrast, the spiritual becomes secular when the focus of one’s heart is the temporal. People in apparently “spiritual” vocations, whether ministers or missionaries, can become more ambitious about building the biggest church in the denomination or becoming president of the missionary organization than about seeking the kingdom and righteousness of God. Thus, it not the nature of the work, but the focus of the heart that matters in the economy of God.

It is liberating to see that all things can be done to the glory of God regardless of whether they appear to be elevated or ordinary, spiritual or secular, higher or lower, contemplative or active. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This means that living in the marketplace is not necessarily less spiritual than living in the monastery; everything depends on the focus of your heart.

Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth.

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