So right after Leslie and I had gotten married, we lived in Searcy for one final semester before moving to Texas. We had broken free of the shackles of curfew, and we went crazy. Of course by crazy, I mean that we went to Wal-Mart after midnight. And that’s where this story picks up.
Because it was at Wal-Mart, in the notebook aisle, that a guy, that we had never met before, came up to us and said this:
“I think God is an insecure Hypocrite.”
I’m serious. That’s what he started off with, not “my name is Jimmy” or “Notebooks huh?” His opening line was that God was an insecure hypocrite, proving once again that Wal-Mart always has more than low prices, after midnight they also have crazy people.
Now we actually got to know this guy. Over the next semester he came over to our apartment several times, and we even had a Bible study with him. Turns out he and his girlfriend were small-time drug dealers, and, in their own words, they thought we might be stoners (I think it must have been Leslie that threw them off).
However, I did find out later what he meant by his whole opening line. He said God was insecure because he never understood why God required worship. To him, it designated a God who just needed people to get together in a room and sing about how great he was. And the only paradigm that he could understand that in, was that God must be insecure.
A few years ago, I was leading a mid-week gathering for Young Adults that had hit a snag. Our regular worship leader had left, and so now we were trying out a few different people in that position. The problem was that whomever we brought in would be liked by some, and despised by other.
And what was interesting, is the things the detractors would say about the different people leading worship. They thought the worship leader was too charismatic or wasn’t charismatic enough. They didn’t lead the right songs, or they sang them wrong. And the worship was all about them.
I have a lot of Calvinist friends. And to be honest, this is one of the areas that I tend to sound like them. I love the way they talk about worship. They don’t approach worship like consumers. However, the problems with Calvinism, in my opinion, isn’t that they have a big view of God, but that their view of God tends to be pretty Greco-Roman. The God of the Scripture seems to resist the kinds of categories that we try to put Him in. And while I believe that God is really, really big, what do you do with stories like this, or this.
And here’s why that’s important: Because the language that we use to describe God, too often can actually describe a lot of the ancient gods. But YHWH isn’t Zeus, He’s unique, different…set apart. And that means that worship isn’t just about an insecure hypocrite needing some recognition. It’s something much more.
The problem with the worship question today is that it’s framed by consumerism.
People assume that either God is the consumer or they are. But what if both ways of talking about it are wrong?
In his book, After You Believe, N.T. Wright makes a great point about why we worship:
“The way the world is, is a powerful, insidious force, and it takes all the energy of the new creation, not least of faith and hope, to remind oneself that the age to come really is already here, with all it’s new possibilities and prospects. The antidote to the power of the present age, then, is to have the mind renewed.”
And the way we renew our minds, according to Wright, is Worship.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think that when God creates He does it well. And I think that too often we can slouch on creating well, and hide behind the “consumerism” argument. I appreciate worship that inspires or moves us. But it’s more than that isn’t it? Worship is not about God needing accolades or recognition, or us getting a quick mid-week pick me up.
Worship is about celebrating the way things really are.
This is why worship doesn’t fit into the categories we tend to make for it. We tend to approach life as consumers, and maybe we think God should too. But this is ironic. Because at it’s very core, worship is reminding us that we are not consumers.
When God made humanity, we were made in His image. And so when we worship we are becoming more fully human. We are allowing ourselves to be formed into the kinds of people we were always intended to be.
We are reminding ourselves that God is the only one who runs the universe, and we are made and sustained for and by Him.
That God is not an insecure hypocrite, and I am not a consumer of experiences that he dishes out arbitrarily. And to worship is to draw the strength to live out now the way we believe the world will be one day.
Start telling that to people at Wal-Mart