John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

All or Nothing

When the Apostle Paul was writing letters to churches in the first century, they hadn't come up with the clever idea of underlining words for emphasis. He could not italicize or make words bold or change the font color to draw special attention to a very important idea. So, he repeated himself. For example, near the end of one of Paul's letters, he writes, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4).

There's a place in one of his letters where Paul wants to emphasize his point so much that he virtually repeats himself three times:

"And whatever you do..."

That's pretty all-inclusive, wouldn't you say? But just in case you missed his point, he continues:

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed..."

That just about covers all the bases, doesn't it? But Paul pressed on because he really wants his readers to get it:

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all..."

There's no room for anything to be left out. Paul is making this wedge labeled "Spiritual Life" the whole pie. Nothing you do falls outside the bounds of this category.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17).

I said it before; I'll say it again. For Paul, there is no such thing as a "spiritual life". There is only life, and it's all supposed to be spiritual.

Ironically, the Jewish people had a greater understanding of this than most Christians do. They knew that working in the field was a spiritual activity. They considered where they dug the latrines a spiritual activity. Sexual expression was spiritual.

They realized there was nowhere they could go and no activity in which they could engage that did not interest God.

Christians profess a belief in the Emmanuel presence of God -- the idea that God is always with us -- always in us, having taken up residence in our hearts through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We read his promise to "never leave us" -- and yet we operate as if we can dismiss him from the room with a closing prayer.

Nearly 350 years ago a man simply called Brother Lawrence learned how to live with a sense of God's pervading presence in every waking moment and every mundane activity. In fact, he realized that -- because of God's presence -- there is no such thing as a mundane activity. Peeling potatoes in the kitchen where he worked was every bit as much of a spiritual activity as kneeling in prayer -- if it's done the right way.

When we try to balance out our lives -- neatly compartmentalizing things into categories and limiting "spiritual life" to one wedge -- we attempt the impossible. We try to squeeze God out of certain areas, limiting him to a time and place of our choosing. This has been a problem for churches since we bought God his first house.

We bought you a house, God. Stay there, and I'll come visit you every Sunday.

We gave you a day, God. You have your day, and I have the others.

We gave you a servant, God. If you need to get a message to me, send it to him. I'll pick up my messages from you on that one day in that one place.

Leave me alone, God.

Here's the biggest problem with all that: sometimes God takes us up on it. If you keep trying to squeeze God out of things, he'll eventually leave. He's not content to remain in a single wedge of your life. But when he's out, he's all the way out. With God, it's all or nothing. He's not really all that in to the concept of a balanced life.

There's no such thing as a "Spiritual Life". There's just life, and either it's all spiritual -- or none of it's spiritual.