I desire my faith to be 24/7. I don’t want to be a Christian who goes diligently to church on Sunday, then lives a secular life Monday through Saturday. I want my faith to be present at home, with friends and family, and when interacting in my community. I strive to be obedient to Christ in all I do, although I still fail and sin. My ultimate goal is to be a fully integrated Christian. And when I veer from this ultimate goal, I (or others) acknowledge my failures and after confessing, try again.
Dr. David W. Miller, Director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative, wrote a book about the Faith at Work (FAW) movement: God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement (Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2007, page 74). In Chapter 4, he writes about the quest for integration. “Businesspeople want the ability to bring their whole selves to work – mind, body, and soul – and are no longer satisfied with sacrificing their core identities or being mere cogs in the machine, nor do they want a disconnected spirituality.” I can relate to Dr. Miller’s premise. While working at Shell Oil Company, my colleagues would identify employees who were particularly zealous about Shell with the comment: “He wears a pecten tattoo on his butt.” The pecten is the yellow and red Shell symbol seen at Shell gas stations. My colleagues were describing employees not being individuals anymore.
Faith and work are actually two distinctive concepts. Faith focuses on the spiritual while work concerns the material aspects of our lives on earth. During the last 2000 years of Christian history, theologians have held opposing views: complete separation and total integration. For example, during Medieval Christianity, the church taught that the spiritual (contemplative) life was considered more important than secular (active) life. Integration fuses these two distinctive concepts. “Integration acknowledges the distinctive natures of faith and work, as well as other different spheres of life, while also bringing them together in a reconstructive, dialectical, and holistic fashion.”
Workers usually want to make a difference in the world while they work. Our short time on earth matters. Christians desire the kingdom yet fully understand that our world is not close to achieving the new creation. But it matters that workers take steps to move the world closer to the kingdom. “The quest for integration avoids the naïveté of expecting the kingdom of God to be realized here on earth, but it also rejects the alternative extreme of despair and cynicism. The quest for integration seeks to approximate wholeness and balance while recognizing the difficulty of attaining it.”
It is true that only God will bring in the new creation. It is beyond our control. But Scripture does make the promise. “But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” (2 Peter 3:13 NRSV) Although we wait, Scripture does not tell us to sit around and do nothing. Scripture states that Jesus Christ, who showed us how to transform the earth with “hopes for sanctification and transformation in light of salvation promises,” is the new creation. Our task is to follow obediently 24/7.