Reconsidering Worship

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. — 2 Corinthians 5:20, NRSV

When I use the word “worship,” most Christians envision what we call “church.” This is the designated, weekly time we set aside to sing songs, pray prayers, hear a sermon, and sometimes celebrate Communion or Baptisms. It’s a time when we do what we believe to be pleasing to God, namely saying or singing things about Him that we think He would like or appreciate.

Is this what the faith is about? Verbal praise? Sanctioned times and places when we acknowledge God before going about our typical lives?

I don’t think so.

In chapter 5 of the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, Paul refers to himself and the other leaders of the church as “ambassadors for Christ” (5:20), as God is “entrusting the message of reconciliation to” them (5:19). While Paul may have been talking about the leadership of the ancient church, the same idea applies to all believers. When Paul, in verse 21, says God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” he means all of us, when reconciled to God through Jesus, are to be that righteousness in the world. As such, we are all to be “ambassadors for Christ,” representatives of His message in the world, sharing the love that we experience.

So what does this have to do with worship?

It’s been my observation that many believers opt for the comfort of praising Jesus as opposed to the struggle of following Him, as if the two are separate. It’s easier to passively experience the reconciling grace of God in a pew than it is to actively imitate and share that grace in a hostile world. We can kneel and apologize every week, participating in the beautiful ritual of the church; we can raise our hands and sing along with the talented contemporary Christian band; we can hum our agreement to a perfectly tweetable sermon. Yet all of this is only part of the greater work of representing Jesus in a world that needs Him.

Now, am I advocating for a guilt-tripping attempt at perfection? Of course not. We aren’t going to “nail it” every time, and you should already be aware that I am just as guilty as everyone else. But transformation is found in the effort of faithful living.

Just as we have received the gift of reconciliation and rightfully praise God for it, so we are also to “pay it forward” and live in honor of Christ daily. We are called to act with love and self-control with regard to that co-worker, classmate, friend, or family member we just don’t get along with. We are called to support the cause of justice, treat all others with the dignity befitting children of God, and work to bring comfort to those in need. Such practices are difficult, costly, and inconvenient, but the best we can do is to never stop trying.

We have each been gifted with reconciliation to God, as well as the invitation to participate in His saving work in the world. This is an unparalleled gift that deserves every bit of our praise and gratitude, but it also places on us the responsibility to get busy loving as Jesus did (and still does). When we start to practice the grace we have received, our worship becomes complete, and we honor the One Who has truly given us an “indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Peace be with you!