Each part of the Worship Is series will unpack a different biblical model of worship based on ideas found in scripture. To kick off our mini ‘Worship Is‘ series, we’re looking at the idea of worship as love.
Our first thought of worship is often that it is an action or a practice, but when it comes down to it, this is often not the case, which is why looking at the idea of love seemed to be a good place to start. Worship is not just an action, but true worship has to be wholly based on a natural, irresistible urge to love God.
We might all be pretty familiar with 1 Corinthians 13:1:
‘If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.’ (NIV)
Around Christian circles this is a pretty common verse, and isn’t overly controversial, what’s interesting though is when we carry on reading to verse 2 and 3:
‘If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’ (NIV)
The idea that someone could have unequivocal faith, a prophetic ministry, be so incredibly selfless that they give all possessions to the poor, but be no better off than others simply because they’ve done it without love, is quite a striking picture, and starts to explore how important love is to our worshipping lives.
The emphasis is fully on the heart. Paul is explaining to the believers in Corinth that their worship is not based on what they do, it’s not based on what they give away, it’s not even based on how much faith they have in God, but it is so essential that these actions and beliefs are founded in love.
The Reverend Curry preached a gospel of love during the Royal Wedding recently, part of his inspired message proclaimed this…
“There’s power in love. Love can help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.”
Worship which is founded in love has the power to build bridges, and break down boundaries. It has the power to heal communities, and save relationships. It has the power to give hope to the couple who have been outcast, and restore joy to the sinner wallowing in brokenness.
1 Corinthians goes on to say:
‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres’. (NIV)
In one way a familiar passage such as this sounds pretty easy to read. But to really understand this model of worship is to understand extravagant, outrageous, non-judgmental love. Love that is patient no matter how many time someone lies to you, or goes behind your back. Love which is inexplicably kind, and uncontrollably compassionate. Love that gives no time to racism, sexism or inequality. Love that accepts others no matter how much you disagree with their lifestyle, or how little you appreciate their theological persuasion. Love that loves. And then loves again. And again.
An Option and an Instinct
When it comes to unpacking how we can practically be ‘love-driven-worshippers’ it’s key to note that love is not just a choice or an action. Yes, of course that is part of it; we have an option as to whether we respond out of love or hate in every situation, and it is vital that we choose love.
But I think it is so important that Christians are a people to whom love is an instinct. 1 John 4:8 reminds us that ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.’ (NIV) Love is not just a choice for God, but it is his instinct, his very being. It is our instinct that tells of our true character. It might be the reason you’d describe someone as rash, angry, or hopefully kind and loving.
You’ll know very well that the media love it when a celebrity makes an offensive comment off camera, or when they thought the mic had been turned off, the reason being because it’s an insight to their true character, we get to see a glimpse of who they are when no-one is watching. Unfortunately much of this culture exists in the church too, when followers find out that pastors of mega churches have had affairs, or lied about their past, etc
It’s a matter of the heart, something which only God can know. More than that, it’s the only part that God is interested in.
God isn’t interested in the times you boast of your faith or prayer life, he’s not interested in the public giving away of all your possessions, or even the creative beautiful songs that pleases God, but it’s the heart behind those things that he’s really interested in. He wants to know who you are off camera, in the quiet, secret place. He wants to know who you are when you think the mic’s been turned off. He wants your instinct to be love.
Love is the only way.
Author: Gareth SImmonds