Why Faith is Not Private

By Bill Dalgetty

The idea that faith should be separated from most of the rest of our lives appears to have become conventional wisdom over the last 50 years. We hear the phrase, “separation of church and state” and apply it to other venues in our lives such as the workplace and the public square. We are told that our faith should be private and personal, not to be shared with others.

This perspective is 180 degrees contrary to God’s intention as evidenced in the words of scripture. Colossians 3:17 is just one example. Paul’s exhortation is not confined to what happens at church on Sundays; he is applying it to everything we do. Later he says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if you are working for the Lord. (Colossians 3:23)

This is a 24/7 exhortation meant for Monday as well as Sunday, the workplace as well as our personal prayer space or church. There are no boundary lines to Christ living in us and us in him. Once we invite him in, he is present in everything we do—working for our employer, taking our children to soccer practice, helping with the dishes, assisting a sick friend with yard work, testifying at a City Council hearing, helping our children with their homework, or listening to a work colleague share a personal problem.

God created us to work and care for the garden of his creation, including the physical world and one another. (Genesis: 2:15) This is how we make ourselves useful to one another and thus to God. It is a divine assignment.

From the time God became one of us through his incarnation in Jesus and the pouring out of his Holy Spirit, his intention has been to dwell not in temples or buildings, but in us individually and personally. I met him one evening 40 years ago and accepted his invitation to dwell in me. Today, I experience his presence in many ways—the sacraments of my church, my daily prayer time, and in many of the people he places in my life.

There are times when I have neglected his presence or separated my words and deeds from his presence because I have put him in a box. The unfortunate thing when that happens is that his presence may not then be available to the people in my life who would otherwise be blessed by him. God created us with the freedom to accept or reject his invitation to dwell in us, but his desire for his creation and for his created, is that we not separate him from our lives and work.

Bill Dalgetty spent most of his career as an attorney and executive of Mobil Corporation. He published Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You about the Holy Spirit empowering us to bring hope and transformation to our workplaces.

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