Not Quite All of Human Life…But Close
On June 30, 1944, while sitting in a Nazi prison cell, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “Jesus claims all of human life, in all its manifestations, for himself and for the kingdom of God.”
But what do we really mean by “all” of human life? I was recently having this discussion with my friend Jared Mackey. People in his congregation, The Next Level Church, spend most of their human lives in one of three places: home, work and play. My guess is that we’re no different. Most weeks, we’re in our neighborhood or with our family at home, cooking, sleeping, mowing the grass, or shooting hoops. Or we’re hiking in the mountains, training for triathlons or camping in the middle of nowhere (that’s what play looks like for most Coloradoans!). Or we’re at work – schools, business, law enforcement, university, media, etc.
Though work certainly isn’t all of life, it’s an awfully big part of life. There are at least two ways to think about this: time and geography.
The average working parent spends 8.7 hours per weekday working, 7.7 hours sleeping, and only, in comparison, only 2.5 hours with leisure or sports. About 1/3 of our weekday hours are at spent at work: caring for patients, taking customer calls, making electricity stations, refilling cans of paint, designing websites, teaching kids, attend staff meetings. Work.
If we believe that Jesus is Lord over all of life, any kind of Christian discipleship that doesn’t take work into account won’t touch a major part of our lives.
The second way to think about this is geography. On Sunday, we Christians gather together under the same roof. We gather to worship, to learn the Bible, fellowship with other believers, and practice the sacraments. We’re, well, a beautiful big red dot:
But during the week, the Church Gathered becomes the Church Scattered: like mustard seeds Christians touch all areas of civil society – politics, education, retails, construction, finance, art, science, design – during a work week. As the apostle James wrote “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations,” Christians too are spread scattered among the nations each week.
We, the Body of Christ, touch the “all of life” that Bonhoeffer wrote about.
Yet with little doubt, evangelical Christians have given tremendous amount of time and effort to focusing on the family in the past 50 years, but have given comparatively little time and effort to focusing on the workplace. Though tides are turning, we still need to hear that it is as work that most Christians both encounter a post-Christian society and have the opportunities to provide for their neighbors everything from international security to tables to child care. Work is a strategic mission field.
British theologian Lesslie Newbigin once responded to the question of whether the Church should be involved in the public issues of its day. He said:
“A Church, acting officially in its corporate capacity, may decide to speak or not to speak on a public issue, but the Church is in any case involved in these issues because its members are citizens, workers, employers, teachers, writers, buyers and sellers – members of society whose words and behavior are constantly shaping public life in one direction or another.”
Any given local church may or may not weigh in on touch issues in finance, legislation, or health care coverage. But the Church – the church scattered throughout human society each week – shapes these issues every day because the Church is people who go to work each week.
There are few of us who would deny that all-life discipleship is both a basic requirement of the New Testament and what Christ calls us to. Yet there are also comparatively few of us who ask the question: how should the particular challenges and opportunities of my work and profession be informed and altered by my Christian faith?
This is one of the great needs DIFW was designed to meet – for the sake of Christ, who claims all of human life, in all its manifestations, for himself and for the kingdom of God.