This is the third in a short series on “worship.” The first was a brief introduction, coupled with a few questions. The second was a short story which frames my own journey down this thought path.
I still find it tragic that I can walk into a christian retail store, find my way into the music section and pick a CD off a wall of CD’s labeled “worship.” More than tragic, I think it’s damaging to our culture. I think labeling a certain kind of music “worship” places unwarranted and unhealthy expectations on musicians. It also narrows the definition of the expansive and powerful truth that worship is the orientation of one’s whole life toward or around an Idea, Power, Person etc..
Of course, I’m hardly the first person to point out that the semantic confusion between “worship” and “music” has been damaging to both “worship” and “music.” This is not to say that the relationship between the two must be severed. On the contrary, I believe worship and the arts are linked in essential ways. But I also believe a third idea must be introduced in order for us to come to a fuller understanding of that relationship. That idea is “justice.”
Though I believe I’ll spend the rest of my life unpacking these thoughts and trying to live them out, here’s what I have a grip on so far . . .
The measure of true worship is the transformation of people’s lives. Worship ultimately means aligning my life to something; in my case it is the life and Person of Jesus, which also means aligning my way of going about life to the Way of Jesus.
The measure of a transformed life is the transformation and blessing of the world in which those lives are led. The way I know my life is changing is that the lives of those I care for are changing, too. The same goes for the neighborhood in which I live: if my neighbor’s life is not better because of my being in it, if my city is not a sweeter place, if the larger world is not being blessed through my life, then I must seriously question whether my worship is true.
Transformation, in the Christian worldview, means the alignment of things to the Way of Jesus and His Kingdom. This is not the nebulous, immeasurable, and directionless change we’re used to hearing about from the mouths of pop psychologists or politicians. It is transformation in the particular and recognizable direction of justice — that is, all of creation being restored to rightness and health, including a right relationship with its Creator.
The Biblical vision for this “right relationship” with the Creator includes the cessation of violence and chaos. So long as there is violence and chaos in our cities, in our lives or in the nation next door, it is simply not enough to sing about the Goodness of God (much less listen to someone else do so) and call it “worship.”