Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | May 27, 2008

Sacred and Secular

Jesus is a sign to us that sacred and secular aren’t as different as we think they are. We create this false divide out of our fallen desire to hide from the imaginary God that we fear.

Here’s an interesting quote from the 2nd Cen. writer Justin Martyr:

. . . to God nothing is secular, not even the world itself, for it is His workmanship. On the Resurrection, 5.1.

In the religion of ancient Israel, as in all religions, God was “contained” within certain sacred spaces, times, and ways of living: temples, holy days, foods, etc. Secular spaces and times did not “contain” God, or if they did then they contained “less” of him than other locations.

Yet the good news of Jesus says that “he ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe” (Eph. 4:10) and that “in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17) because in him we all “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

The Father, Son, and Spirit are in connection and communion with all people and all places at all times. I believe it is our fallen nature that makes this so hard for us to see.

Like Adam and Eve, we imagine a God who is not our Dad but is our judge, out to punish us and (like them) we think we can hide from God. We feel that we can contain God in our “sacred” spaces and then have our “secular” spaces to ourselves, without having to acknowledge our continual and unbreakable participation in the Triune Life.

That’s why I say that Jesus is a sign to us that our differentiation of sacred and secular is a deception. In him the sacred (Divinity) and the secular (Humanity) live in a permanent and complete communion that will never end. He is the revelation to us that the secular has been made sacred by the indwelling presence of the Divinity.

So why do some times and places feel more sacred than others? Because the blindness of our sin prevents us from seeing the truth that is all around us. We think that because a certain location in time or space feels more sacred that it is more sacred. The truth is much bigger: the Son of God has sanctified (made sacred) everything in heaven and earth (Rom. 5:18, Col. 1:20).

Music is a great example of this. It expresses the deepest desires of our hearts: to be loved, accepted, included, secure, and valued. Even the most violent, angry music expresses these themes because it is the cry of anguish from those who are not experiencing this love and acceptance for which we are made.

We tend to call music “secular” if it doesn’t speak explicitly of God and “sacred” if it does, yet the incarnation of the Son reveals that he is present in both our “goodness” and our “sinfulness” (2 Cor. 5:21).

All of our music, and our life, is really about him and his Dad and their Spirit. And it is all about all of us in him and connected to each other. There is no separating wall between the sacred and the secular, but simply one Father who is “over all, and through all, and in all” (Eph. 4:6).


  1. Great insight, Pastor Jonathan. It all comes back to Jesus, doesn’t it? No one knows the Father (and His heart) except the Son and those to whom he reveals him. Jesus always has more to reveal, doesn’t he? I am reminded of the comment a confused person made circa 1996: “What’s all this Jesus stuff???” Well, it’s all about Jesus.
    Thank You, Lord, for revealing Yourself!

  2. Amen!
    Thanks for the great comment.

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