Does Secular = Worldliness?

Posted on December 13, 2011 by


I once posted the video of jazz great Louis Armstrong singing one of my favorite songs, “What a Wonderful World”, and heard from someone concerned about the promotion of non-Christian music. Our family is pretty diligent to avoid listening to music that promotes sensuality and worldliness, but we also have diverse musical interests and believe that music can be honorable even if not specifically categorized as Christian music.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this. We have friends and family who believe that Christians should only listen to Christian music and think we may be skirting a dangerous line by listening to any music other than Christian music, even though much of the “non-Christian” music we listen to doesn’t even have lyrics, Classical or Jazz for instance. The vast majority of music we listen to is Christian music. Still,  judgment persists because we are not more selective in this area.

These questions  can be asked in any number of areas. For example, we don’t drink any alcohol, ever. However, we are friends with godly people who are perfectly comfortable having a glass of wine every now and then at a meal.  Does this make us more righteous, or them any less so? If someone is loving and generous, and always on the lookout for an opportunity to share the gospel, does a glass of wine invalidate their witness? Of course not.

I was on a forum once where the issue of makeup was raised. A decidedly large number of respondents agreed that the sole purpose of makeup is to sensualize, mask imperfections, or draw attention to oneself. As such it was immodest and should not be worn. Well, as a woman who wears makeup, I quickly disengaged myself from that site realizing that I could be making better use of my time by folding laundry or baking cookies or something. If a man I don’t know views my makeup as sensual, should I not wear it? I’m talking tasteful stuff, here, not bright red lips and dark smoky eyes. I don’t want to get off on a tangent. Even that caveat leaves room for interpretation. What if another sister finds bright red lips and dark, smoky eyes completely acceptable? Who decides where the lines are? I guess that’s why so many Christians have decided to err on the side of caution.

The point of all this is to ask a question: If the Bible is open to each individual believer’s interpretation of it, then what good is it? If it’s a living and evolving book, like our Constitution has become, and can be interpreted differently and legally by any and every culture as they see fit, there’s no power, sacredness, or divinity in it. Why not just read the Q’uran? Or Confucius? Or do what many people in America do today: take the buffet line approach and pick the most palatable parts of any and every faith and create our own life’s philosophy?

I don’t find this acceptable, of course. It’s John 14:6 or nothing. It’s why I get so uncomfortable when I hear the words “led by the spirit” thrown around too much. There is such a thing as sound doctrine. Still, an overly rigid approach to the Word short circuits the gospel message, and in some areas we indeed must be conscious of the Holy Spirit’s leading to know where the line is. After all, Christianity is not about what we can’t do, but what we are freed from. This distinction must be clear when we present the truth of Christ to unbelievers or they won’t be inclined to receive our message with an open heart. Seriously, if a woman can’t even wear makeup and be a Christian, is it any wonder some people shut the door on the faith rather quickly?

Most committed believers agree that we are to shun evil and cling to that which is good. We can agree that we are to be distinct, holy, and set apart, but few are in unison about what that means; how it relates to the daily choices we make or how we interact, or not, with the culture around us. I don’t have any answers. I’m just asking the questions. While I believe there are very, very few grey areas in Scripture, there are some things that really aren’t quite so black and white.

Still, I shouldn’t refuse to make connections with a Christian sister who may (gasp!) wear shorts or watch American Idol or cut her hair. And neither should you. Do we agree on the meat of the gospel message? Does she live a life above reproach in the areas that matter most? Is she a shining example of the love of Christ? Then she’s worth getting to know better. And who knows? Maybe my iron can sharpen her where she needs it, and her iron can sharpen me. Because the truth is that if I’ve made a bunch of negative assumptions about a sister based solely on externals, clearly I’m not as spiritual as I may think I am.

Posted in: Religion