Marvel’s ever-expanding cinematic universe plans, later this year, to introduce the superhero Moon Knight. Sometimes hailed as Marvel’s answer to DC’s Batman, Moon Knight is a hero who displays DID: dissociative identity disorder. Formerly known as multiple personality disorder, DID is a mental disorder characterised by the maintenance of at least two distinct and relatively enduring personality states in a single person. In the comics, Moon Knight is sometimes billionaire Steve Grant, sometimes taxicab driver Jake Lockley, and sometimes consultant Mr Knight. In at least one version of the Moon Knight saga, these are three distinct identities, each surfacing at different times, none of which is aware of the other identities.
DID is perhaps the most controversial of the dissociative disorders. I do not wish to enter that debate here. I do, however, wish to note that many Christians, perhaps inadvertently, display a form of religious DID as they walk through this world. Too many Christians manifest one identity at church and church-related functions and a completely different identity at home or in the workplace. Malachi knew of this and addressed it head on.
We have seen that the theme of this prophecy was worship. God’s people were offering to him worship that was wholly unacceptable, and Malachi confronted them with their hypocrisy. In the section before us, we find Israel once again complaining—accusing God of delighting in evil and failing to perform justice (2:17). God responds by assuring them that he will appear as the righteous judge (3:1–4) before calling out the people for their own injustices (3:5).
Much can be said about these verses, but it is significant to observe that the same people who were bringing their (unacceptable) sacrifices to God in worship were involved in sorcery, adultery, lies, and oppression. At the temple, they put on a religious façade. Away from the temple, they involved themselves in a litany of sins that invited God’s purifying judgement.
It is a sad reality that many professing Christians repeat this pattern. On Sunday, and perhaps during the week at Grace Group, they put on a religious face, but when they are at work, or at home, or out in the world, no one would accuse them of following Christ. The sacred-secular divide is far more prevalent in their lives than God ever intended it to be.
Hugh Whelchel suggests three strategies to help us overcome a unbiblical sacred-secular mentality.
First, he suggests, we should recognise that the real distinction in our lives is not between sacred and secular but between righteous and unrighteous. We are called to live in union with Christ and to conform to Christ’s commands as we conform to his character. This is righteousness. To rebel against his commands is unrighteousness. We are called to live consistently righteous lives wherever God places us.
Second, he suggests, we should be reminded that those who are called to serve in God’s kingdom are called to do so in submission to the word. The Scriptures are inspired by God and profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. The Scriptures are able to mature us into saints, fully equipped to serve God (2 Timothy 3:16–17). There is no area of our lives that the Scriptures do not touch. The same Scriptures that train us for righteousness in the church building train us for righteousness in the home and in the workplace and in the world.
Third, he suggests, we should acknowledge that anything we are doing at any moment is a “spiritual” act. The Bible simply does not recognise “sacred” and “secular” parts of our lives. Spurgeon said it well:
To a man who lives unto God nothing is secular, everything is sacred. He puts on his workday garment and it is a vestment to him. He sits down to his meal and it is a sacrament. He goes forth to his labour, and therein exercises the office of the priesthood. His breath is incense and his life a sacrifice. He sleeps on the bosom of God, and lives and moves in the divine presence. To draw a hard and fast line and say, “This is sacred and this is secular,” is, to my mind, diametrically opposed to the teaching of Christ and the spirit of the gospel.
As you reflect on Malachi 2:17–3:5 this morning, ask God for the grace to see past the false sacred-secular narrative that so pervades Western-influenced Christianity. Whatever you do today, work heartily as for the Lord, and not for men.