During my senior year of college, some friends and I were in our dorm room, watching a live worship conference on a laptop computer. Our suite mate (Dan), who was not a religious person in the least, walks in and sees what we are watching.
“What are you guys watching?”
“Oh, we’re just watching a worship conference for college students. About 20,000 students are in attendance.”
(long pause) “Man, that stuff is just propaganda.”
To Dan, we were only brainwashed sheep busy taking our “opiate of the masses” religion pill, as Karl Marx famously stated many decades ago. (As an aside, Marx should’ve waited for TV, the Internet, cable news or social media. He hadn’t seen anything yet in terms of mass opiates)
Worship for many secular people is difficult to understand. It can be quite odd if you don’t know God.
Why would a morally perfect God need us to worship Him? Why are all these people on their knees each Sunday? Why should we worship a God who, according to the Bible, needs nothing?
The only incentive secular people can think of why God demands praise is because they think God is needy (and Christians have deluded themselves). If we demand praise here on earth, people will think we are conceited and self-righteous. Why should we be ok with God saying, “Praise me!”
Think about it this way: what if admiration were the highest pleasure and what if God were the most admirable being? Could God’s beckoning us to worship not be selfishness but could it be an act of love?
The author CS Lewis had the same stumbling block and discovered a solution, “The most obvious fact about praise whether of God or anything strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless …shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it.”
Fear of appearing strange can stifle our worship because we forget that the world rings with praise: for our loves, for our children, for the latest fad, our favorite band, work of art or restaurant. We should not be ashamed to worship. Every body worships something; Christians just worship the only One that really matters.
The concept of praise is not so foreign to anyone, religious or otherwise. In fact, we do it all the time. Our football stadiums ring with the roars of approval, as they should (I like sports), and yet our churches can fall silent at the fear of appearing strange. We love to “humble brag” about our latest trip or event online. Isn’t that all Facebook is now? If we don’t hesitate to praise the various aspects of our lives, why are we so reticent to praise the One who deserves it the most?
God’s pursuit of our praise of himself is not weak self-seeking but the epitome of self-giving love. If God is the ultimate good (and He is), and God knows we need the ultimate good (good gracious, do we ever), wouldn’t a loving and good God draw us to Himself? When we interpret worship through a distorted lens of the sinful self, worship seems like foolishness. When you interpret worship through the lens of the biblical picture of the goodness of God, it all makes sense.
When God calls us to worship Him, God is doing what you would expect perfect love to do.
We hope to see you and your friends at church this Sunday at 8:30, 9:45 or 11:00! Please join us as we hear more about worshipping the goodness of God!
Rev. Clark Chilton