In the opinion of many people, religion should remain confined to the pew, and doctrine should rarely escape out of the doors of the church building.
“Politics and religion don’t mix,” they will say, meaning that all political decision should be made in an entirely secular atmosphere devoid of faith and religious morality.
“Civil servants should not allow their religion to influence their behavior,” they will argue, meaning that when a person’s conscience tells them that a secular law is wrong, they should side with the law regardless of what they actually believe.
“Keep your religion out of the workplace,” they advise, meaning that a persons faith should have no bearing on how they approach their job and their coworkers.
There are even those who would go so far as to think that the act of proselytizing should be illegal; indeed there are places in this world where the act of one person trying to share their faith with another is quite against the law; and even in this country there are those who consider it a form of harrasment.
One who does not share this opinion regarding the impropriety of faith and religion escaping the house of worship is God, who desires the faith of His people to influence every aspect of their lives.
Thus the word of God teaches us, saying, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2; NKJV)
In this context, our bodies represent all that we do and say: our very act of living is to be a sacrifice to God, a gift offered to him. All that we do and say needs to be holy and acceptable to God. Our very way of thinking is to be transformed so that all of our words, all of our deeds, all of our interactions with others are a reflection of the values that God teaches us to have.
There is no room, in God’s eyes, for a compartmentalized faith, one which separates out different portions of our lives so that how we act, speak and believe at work is somehow different than how we act, speak and believe and home, and that this too is different than what we say and believe when we are gathered to worship. God wants a consistent, uniform faith that influences us in the same way, no matter where we are, or who we are with.
In fact, the Bible teaches quite forcefully that if you will not practice your faith outside of worship, God will never accept your faith when you worship. Thus did the Holy Spirit prophesy through Isaiah: “When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies — I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.” (Isaiah 1:12-13) He continues, “When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good.” (Isaiah 1:15-17a)
Nor was Isaiah the only one to prophesy such things; throughout the Old Testament the prophets over and over taught that one cannot live sinfully and then expect God to accept worship or answer prayers.
In the New Testament, James was inspired to remind us of the need for right living before God. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts,you double-minded.” (James 4:8) The hands represent that which we do and the hearts that which we think. In order to draw near to God, our actions and thoughts must be pleasing to God; and we cannot think that God only wants us to please Him when we are at worship. If we will not draw near to God outside of worship, we will never be close enough within the worship service.
Those who think that religion should remain confined to the pew are, in the end, individuals who will never be pleasing to God. Those who want to be pleasing to God should instead to make themselves a living sacrifice to God, giving Him every aspect of their lives.
The church of Christ seeks to worship God in pleasing obedience and conformity to His Word and we invite you to join us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.