This post was written in response to the questions “Can all religions be correct and just worship one God in different ways? If so, does it matter how I worship God?” which were sent in by Lincolnshirepeasant. If you have a question which you would like answered, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To explore these questions, I would like to take you down a memory lane.
I was in 9th grade. It was 9am. Monday morning. Social Studies class. My best friend, who was more into the social scene than the academic side of school, was sitting beside me in class. Monday morning, 9am...and, my friend, was in class.
In case you are starting to doubt the credibility of my story, I will have you know that my friend would never skip this class. Why? Because she had a crush on the dark, young-ish, physical education teacher who taught us Social Studies. He also happened to be married, but that did not keep her from sitting at the back of the class and giggling, nor me from teasing her ruthlessly. Yes, we were immature, in case you were wondering.
My friend thought our teacher was nothing more than a good-looking jock. And maybe that is all he was, but I doubt it. I learned some stuff in that Social Studies class, and not just about the awkward social interaction between a giddy 9th grade best friend and a very weirded out teacher.
In between giggles, I heard the teacher say something about warship. I was confused. I mean, I knew that I was a bit distracted, but just a second ago he had been talking about culture, and I was not really following the jump to “warship”. The teacher kept talking, and I kept not-really-understanding until all of a sudden it hit me: the teacher was referring to worship. At first, I thought he was just pronouncing it wrong. However, I happened to be that kid who liked to test the teachers. So I asked him a question about worship. His response revealed that he did not have a clue what he was teaching.
And as I racked my brain for ways I could monopolize on the opportunity created by my teacher’s ignorance, I stumbled upon a second epiphany. I did not really know what worship meant either.
So what is worship?
While I am sure that we could ask a lot of people and get many different answers (or befuddled looks of confusion), I would like to offer a couple of thoughts.
Worship is not about you.
Worship is not about the worshipper. Worship is an act of adoring, honoring, revering or admiring. The important one involved is the recipient, not the worshipper. If the worshipper maintains the focus, then it is not really worship. Think about worship like giving a compliment.
A good compliment focuses on the recipient. A compliment which draws the attention back to the person giving the compliment, is not really a compliment at all.
Because worship requires the one who is worshipped to be kept in mind…
The One who is worshipped must be known.
The person who gives the compliment needs to know about the recipient in order to compliment them. The better you know someone, the more able you will be to compliment that person in a meaningful way. Likewise, worshippers need to know about who they worship. Worship which is directed towards someone who is unknown does not really mean much.
This brings us to the question of whether or not all religions can be correct and worship the same God. While I personally believe that there is one God, I do not believe that all religions can be correct about Him, because the gods which are professed by different religions are so completely different. How could such contradiction be worshipful?
The other risk you run if you do not know who you worship is that you may not be worshipping the God who you need to be worshipping.
In Exodus, God tells his people to quit worshipping others: “ You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).”
Worshipping God seems pretty important, yet…
Worship is humanly impossible.
You need God’s help to worship. Worship is by faith; faith must be received. Worship involves obedience; direction must be provided. When God directs, he must also provide the strength to do what He wills. Worship has a cost. It requires sacrifice. We are good at being self-centered; we need help to become God-centered.
Abraham is a man who really got worship. You can read his story here.
I am not saying there is one specific way to worship. I believe that there are many. The important thing is to worship God on his terms, not ours.
Anyone can choose to worship Jesus.
In one of my favourite passages, Jesus speaks to a Samaritan woman and says, “22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
That about sums it up right there.
It does not matter who you are. You could be a Jew or a Samaritan, a hot-shot jock teacher or a giddy teenage girl. If you choose to believe in Jesus and want to worship Him, you will be able to.
It does not matter where you are. You could be on a mountain, in a church, or sitting in front of a computer screen.
All that matters is who He is. You can depend on Jesus to help you worship in spirit and in truth.