Building off what Karen said in our last post, from the responses I get when I suggest what separates "Christian Writing" from "Non-Christian Writing" isn't what we write so much as Who we are writing for, it's evident how many of us truly are waffle brains: Secular and Sacred are in separate compartments,with each area of our lives clearly defined in our minds and totally separate from the other. In this mindset, God takes up residence in His very own compartment marked "Sacred", which leaves the person especially prone to thinking that God only is concerned about, relevant to, the stuff in His compartment.
Which means despite years of singing, "You are my all in all" and "In all I do, I honor you" ("Amazing Love") on an unconscious level, many think that means, "You are all in all in my religious life, as for the rest, that's why you gave me a Brain," and "In all I do in explicitly spiritual activities, I honor you."
To this mindset, the natural assumption is, if Christians must honor God in all we write, then all we write must fit explicitly in our Sacred box, and, apparently, be fit for CBA markets. Not so.
As my husband Adam put it on the Guild's discussion:
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men,Personally, I want "In all I do, I honor you" to be a summation of my life. But frankly, I'm an alcoholic's daughter. Like most daughters of alcoholics, I have some serious control issues--as anyone who has known me more than half an hour probably already knows. Left to my own devices, I want things my way, and if I don't get it, I might just go off to pout and stew about it a good long while. Taking my hands off the wheel and trusting Him enough to let him have control is something I don't always find easy to say the least. For me, one of the most difficult verses in the bible to live out is Proverbs 3:5,6 "Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." (The From Andrea's Memory Version).
Now, I would note that the verse [ Colossians 3:23] doesn't say, "Do all religious work." Indeed, the Bible was written to poor folks who were shepherds and other equally unglamourous secular position. Most were not priests or teachers. They had secular sheep, secular lawns to tend, etc.
The challenge is to do things as unto God. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
" What I’m saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; (Go ahead) sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, "Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well."
So doing it as unto the Lord implies a certain quality of your work. It also implies a certain set of standards. If a man claims to be a Christian and he is dishonest in his dealings as a car dealer, has he sinned? Is he doing things as unto the Lord? Does it please God?
These are questions we have to ask ourselves about our writing. Is it pleasing or displeasing to God? Is it of a high quality? What our motives. Is it Solo Deo Gloria (as J.S. Bach put it) or Solo Us Gloria?
As to the issue of work, even secular works as ministry or worship, I would say that we far too often limit our understanding and definition of what ministers to the soul. Laughter does good like a medicine, but who among us would see the ministry of a Christian comedian doing a clean secular routine? No altar call, no request to make a decision for Christ. Just a bunch of jokes about family and life, and things that provide comfort to souls wearied and burdened down by stressful jobs and difficult family situations?
The waitress in the restaurant can often minister to someone, can change their whole day some times. As someone who works in Customer Service, I've heard a few times. All too rare, few see the chances they have. Most see a job that feeds them and allows them to buy stuff, but God wants more for us than that. You don't have to be an evangelist, but there are little things that minister in ways most of us don't understand.
The difficulty I have, and many of us have, doesn't stop when we sit down at the keyboard to write. In fact, I've found the more I learn the craft, the harder not trusting my understanding of it but rather submitting to His leading becomes. The hardest thing He could ask me to do, writing-wise, is to break one of my "sacred" rules (such as, thou shalt not write in first person multiple. Though He knows our strengths: I probably won't be asked to not write in POV any time soon, but I need to be open to it if for some reason He did.)
Americans in general, I've found, have a hard time with not leaning on our own understanding, especially as relates to the God-box. Most of us still talk about honoring God in everything and Him being all in all. We usually still talk about writing to please Him, not man--especially when being critiqued. But the behavior of the American Church indicates most of us are in the camp of: "God gave me a brain. God only is concerned with explicitly Sacred things, so I only need to seek Him in regards to those things. Secular things He wants/expects me to handle myself using the whits and natural wisdom He gave me."
Now, if I'm not careful, I start thinking that way, too. But, Brethren, that notion isn't of God. God gave the Israelites a Law chock full of rules dictating practically every aspect of their lives at least in part to disprove that lie. Whether we write in the secular market or the explicitly Christian market, and even when we're writing company reports, news reports, or technical manuals for our day job, when we sit down at the keyboard, God wants us to "scoot over" as recording artist Mark Shultz put it--and let Him work through us.
You know what? I've found God often is faithful to our covenant even when I'm neglectful. You don't know how many times when editing something I wrote, something reaches out and speaks into my life as writing only does when God's had His hand in it--even when I'd neglected to specifically invite Him to when I wrote that.
Again, "Christian writing" can't rightly be defined in terms of the actual content of what we write. Rather, in the simplest of terms, it is our relationship with Christ that truly defines our work. Where we are not fully surrendered to Him, that shows in our writing whatever the genre. Yet, even at the same time, where we are walking in right relationship with Him, everything we do, say, and write truly does honor Him--whether sacred or secular. And if that be true, what distinction is there between the sacred and the secular for the Christian?