Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Sovereignty of God and the Washing of Dishes

"We need to accept that God's lordship extends over every area of our lives. This means there is no act so mundane that it lies outside the scope of the gospel."
-- Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church

One of the attendant aims of missional evangelicalism is to challenge the compartmentalizing of the Christian faith within the life of the Western Church. We are fantastic at itemizing our schedules, and even if we don't assign God a very large bracket, we are constantly remorseful that we "haven't made much time for him."

While such compartmentalizing -- as if "time with God" can or should be hermetically sealed off from everybody and everything else calling for our attention -- is a natural symptom of our culture and environment, it also reflects bad theology.

The truth is, the day does not belong to us. It is not our day to do with as we please. We serve a sovereign God. He created the end from the beginning, knows our future exhaustively, and is firmly in control. He made our days and they belong to him.

As such, isn't it a wee bit arrogant to begin with the idea that each day is ours and then worry about fitting God in? Instead, we should work at the humble awe of knowing all of our moments, each millisecond, waking or sleeping, are perfectly accounted for within his economy. It is a wonder then, that God makes time for us.

When we begin with the truths that the day belongs to God and that he is sovereign over it, it has two effects:

1. It makes us more conscious of how we use our day.

When we believe the day belongs to us, we tend to believe we may spend it any way we please. Our time becomes precious, our self becomes an idol, all demands and persons subservient to us. We place ourselves at the center of our universe. And even at our busiest, we tend to waste lots and lots of time.

This is not to say that rest and leisure are not important. They're vital, in fact, and a regular rest is commanded by God. In that sense, sometimes failure to rest constitutes the wasting of time.
But how much of our time do we spend in acknowledgment that it does not belong to us, doing what makes us most happy even if it is at the expense of others who need serving, comforting, helping, healing, feeding, etc.?

When we recognize that the day belongs to God and that Jesus is Lord over our time, it prompts us to reevaluate how we spend our time, prompts us to flesh out what it means to submit our schedule to him, not he to our schedule.

2. It makes us more conscious of him within our day.

The other theological mistake some people make when they realize that the day belongs to God is to assume this means they must now start focusing entirely on "big" things. We get grand notions of following God to far-flung places or doing something mighty on his behalf. Missional living, however, entails believing that all of life is mission, from visiting far-flung places to cleaning out the pantry.

If every day and every space within that day is subject to the lordship of Christ, there is no such thing as holy space and less holy space. In fact, what many of us really need to do is not drop changing diapers to go into the world and "make a difference," but submit our changing of diapers to the lordship of Christ. Every act, no matter how menial, should be an act of worship, and it can be if we are doing it in gratitude and prayer and committing it to the glory of God.

The work of the Christian, in a million subsequent echoes of the Incarnation, is to make sacraments of our moments, infusing the spiritual into the ordinary and treating the ordinary as spiritual. The idea, Sinclair Ferguson writes, is that we are "doing the Spiritual thing naturally and doing the natural thing Spiritually."

Abraham Kuyper famously preached:
There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"

And therefore there is no square inch of our daily lives over which we should not cry, "His!," and act as if it were so.

Jesus Christ is lord over my heart, and he is lord over my hands, and he is lord over what I do with those hands, and he is lord over what I say in my heart while I'm doing it. In submitting to the lordship of Christ, then, I do not treat washing dishes as wasting time I could be spending doing something "meaningful," but rather as a service to those who eat in my home, as a service to those who would have to wash the dishes if I did not, as an offering of thanksgiving to God that I have food to eat, dishes to eat it on, and running water inside my home to clean with.

To paraphrase C.S. Lewis (I think), there is not a square inch of our lives that is not claimed by God and counterclaimed by ourselves. If we believe God is sovereign, however, we will see all of life as mission and be led to submit the square inches we otherwise hold so tightly to the Maker of inches and hands.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
-- Psalm 118:24 (NIV)


diane said...

WOW have no idea how timely and relevant this post is for me. Thank you.

bif said...

I needed to read this today as well, Jared. Thank you.