by K.W. Leslie, 03 October
WORSHIP 'wər.ʃəp noun. Expression of love, respect, and honor, particularly in formal acts or rituals. (Usually expressed to a deity, but frequently to people or principles at a level comparable to religious homage.)
2. Feelings of love, respect, and honor for a deity.
3. [verb] Showing love, respect, or honor.

Properly, worship is anything and everything we do as part of our religious devotion to God. Whether we do it out of active love or passive custom, it’s all still worship.

There’s a tendency in charismatic churches to equate worship with worship music. Prayer too, but mostly music. And no, I’m not saying music isn’t a valid form of worship, or a really good form of worship; it totally is. But you know the reason Christians sing a song’s chorus over and over and over again… has nothing to do with whether God loves the song. It’s entirely about how much the music pastor loves it. Or the people of the church.

And when it becomes much more about our preferences than God… well, then it’s not so good a form of worship anymore. This is not to say God wants us to sing songs we don’t like; he’s not a sadist! He wants us to enjoy worship. We should sing songs we enjoy. But maybe just remember who it’s all supposed to be about, okay?

But worship’s anything we do for God. Could be something which doesn’t look overtly religious or obviously holy. But the way we’re doing it, we’ve made it something we’re doing for him, and turned it into worship. And therefore it can be literally anything. Could be singing in church… and could also be raking the lawn, correcting the kids, cleaning the tub, eating your vegetables, doing your taxes. Anything.

Provided of course we’re actually doing it for God. Sinning isn’t for God; don’t do that and call it worship. If God forbade it, whether to everybody or just you personally, don’t just declare, “This is for Jesus” and figure it whitewashes the sin into worship. Don’t do Christian rituals and figure that makes up for sinning yourself sticky; God hates that. Is 1 Don’t do stuff with the attitudes of bad fruit, and figure if you’re doing it for Jesus it doesn’t matter what bad fruit it generates: Being angry “for Jesus,” or partisan “for Jesus,” or treating any human being as less than God’s image “for Jesus,” is never something God approves of, so don’t try. You’re not fooling anyone, least of all him.

Worship and emotion.

You’ll notice definition #2 is “Feelings of love, respect, and honor”—’cause worship has emotion attached to it. Acts of love usually trigger feelings of love. (If they don’t, something’s wrong.)

True, plenty of Christians immediately want to object: Worship isn’t a feeling; worship is an action. They often make the same objection about love. And I remind you: A person who claims to act out of worship, yet feels nothing—who’s only doing it out of obligation or duty—is clearly doing it wrong. Or lacks the Holy Spirit, ’cause where’s the Spirit’s joy? If we feel nothing in worship, it’s hollow worship: We’ve got dead religion, folks.

Yeah, I’ve seen people worship without feeling a thing. So have you. Sunday mornings, especially early Sunday mornings, we’ve all seen people who are hung over dead tired from the night before, singing the songs and feeling little to nothing. The hope is they snap out of it before the songs are over… and often they do, ’cause the songs do their job. Our emotions catch up with our words, and our love for God comes flooding right back.

I’ve also seen other people who—wrongly—won’t sing, for fear it’s hypocrisy to start singing when they feel nothing. Well, it’s not. Hypocrisy is lies and fraud, and it’s no fraud to sing a song about how great God is: He is that great. It’s only fraud if you’ve claimed something that’s not so, like when Christians sing this bit of “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”

Oh I feel like dancing
It’s foolishness I know
But when the world has seen the light
They will dance with joy like we’re dancing now

when we don’t feel like dancing whatsoever, when we’re not dancing for joy, when we actually aren’t interested at all in singing of God’s love forever. If all your church’s songs consist of declarations about stuff you don’t actually feel, I totally get why you’re deliberately arriving 20 minutes late to Sunday morning services. But better other songs don’t obligate you to sing what’s not so, and you oughta have no trouble singing those songs.

Same thing with non-musical worship. If you don’t feel all that benevolent as you’re handing out sandwiches to the homeless; if you don’t feel very prayerful as you meditate on God as you do your household chores; if you don’t feel so patient as you’re helping out a needy friend: You don’t have to feel any of those things. You don’t have to manufacture holy emotions for yourself. You just gotta worship. And if the emotions follow, as they frequently do, great! And if they don’t… okay, they don’t. Big deal. Must all our good deeds come with an emotional payoff to justify being good?

But as I said, emotions usually follow. And if they don’t, something’s wrong. Sometimes we don’t know how to control our emotions. Sometimes we’re not really worshiping in the first place: We’re showing off, or trying to at least not look worthless or irreligious. Our ulterior motives get in the way and poison the fruit. And of course, sometimes we have medical problems which block our emotions, so let’s not assume we can hurdle every emotional block by just praying really hard: See your doctor!

Rituals versus “secular” activities.

Anything and everything we do for God is worship, but of course various Christians disagree: It’s not worship to them unless it’s one of our rituals. It’s gotta be done at church, or with other church people, or fellow Christians, and be overtly a Christian function. It’s gotta consist of worship music, reading bible, prayer and meditation, or sacraments.

But obeying God’s commands? Meh; we’re supposed to do that anyway. Holding back from murdering someone: That’s no act of worship. You gotta do that anyway. No matter how much you really wanna murder someone.

But this is how it becomes worship: You really wanna. And let’s say you could totally get away with it: You’re on a cruise ship, there are no videocameras, nobody’s gonna miss the victim, and cruise ships are notorious for not reporting crimes anyway. Plus God will totally forgive you for it. But you don’t do it: You love God and are struggling to follow him as best you can.

So… that’s worship. Same with all the other things we do in life. I could totally get away with doing a half-assed job at work, and my boss wouldn’t care so long as the work got done. But out of love for God, because I know he expects better of me, I make the effort. You might totally get away with only doing your dishes, and leaving the rest for your roommates or spouse, but out of love for God (and ’cause he expects us to love them), you’ll go the extra mile.

Remember, society’s standard is reciprocity. Karma. Do to them as they did to you. And if that’s all we do, and no further, nobody can really fault you for it. But God wants us to go above and beyond this norm, and he’s honored by it when his kids are gracious like this. He honors us for it. It’s being true children of our heavenly Father. It’s worship.