Doing Well and Doing Good

This Sunday is Launch Sunday at Westside King’s Church. After a summer away from regular routines, we check in, reconnect, and look to the year ahead. A BBQ lunch will be served on the lawn after our second service. Bring desert to share and your lawn chairs. And yes, this is the start of the work season, when the freedom of summer gives way to the structure and busyness of fall. Some of us lament this change of seasons, while others of us quite enjoy the challenges that come in September. We all know what this feels like, but what does it mean?

I have been musing for a while on a pregnant phrase by Richard John Neuhaus. His book, Doing Well and Doing Good, is an exploration of the uniquely Christian challenge of living in a free society. Or, in other words, how do we live responsibly when the overwhelming temptation is to live selfishly?

Neuhaus’ title is the phrase that haunts me: doing well and doing good. The real challenge of free society is to realize the opportunity to do good, and not just to do well (catch the subtle shift there?). And that means that for those of us who want to live a serious Christian life (and by serious I mean joyously free), we must take care to consider what freedom and work and responsibility have to do with each other.

Concepts matter here so let me give you one. We commonly misunderstand the term secular. Even dictionaries, which tend to default to popular versus proper usage, tend to define the secular as that which is devoid of the sacred. And while that is indeed how the word is commonly used, that is not strictly what secular means.

Strictly speaking, secular is a time reference. The latin saeculum refers to that which belongs to a period of time. As the word was first understood, and used, the secular referred to those things which were important for day-to-day living and functioning, the world of our “everydayness” we could say, the world of our work, our business.

The Christian worldview, properly understood, does not force a division between the sacred and secular, but instead puts them into proper order and relationship. A Christian view of things upholds the validity, even the deep goodness of the day-to-day. We are meant to work and serve and build, to live faithfully in the secular, to do the ordinary things that advance human well-being. We are meant to embrace the secular, so understood. And then, within this arena of the everyday, we learn to see true value, true sacred presence, the value of human life and the light of the eternal. We could say that a Christian view of things sees the secular as the theater of the sacred, for it is God who is working in and through our work. The secular only becomes problematic when it becomes secularism, when it flattens out reality into “just business”, and no more. Reject secularism, but embrace the secular.

At the heart of the prayer our Lord taught us is this phrase: “on earth, as in heaven”. It is a phrase that reminds us of God's deepest intentions (and what he intends, he does). And what is that? To integrate the heavenly and earthly, the spiritual and physical, the eternal and temporal -- to join together what has been separated in our imaginations. And what God joins together let no one separate.

I believe this is why we need to think Christianly about our work. This is why we need to be careful not to divide our spiritual calling from our everyday involvement in the world of work, cultural progress, and social participation. We need to think Christianly about the meaning of the secular (as you now understand it). We need to do good while we are doing well.

This year we are initiating a series of one-off seminar events, designed to help our community explore the deeper meanings and challenges of Christian faith. We are calling these events our Grow Seminars. On October 3 we host our first Grow Seminar, a supper event for men we are calling Men, Work, and Faith. It promises to be an outstanding event. Tickets are $25 and available now. You can reserve tickets by clicking here.

But first, lets embrace the season. Lets see the meaning in what we are called to do. And lets do it together. See you this Sunday for our Fall Launch.

Bob Osborne