Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Worship, What Is It?

I was speaking recently with a man who gave the impression he had disdain for the term “worship.” From the context of the conversation, I concluded he felt that way because to him worship was little more than formalized rituals that have no relevance to today. Although that seems to be the major application in most religions today, it is NOT consistent with the etymology (or, original definition).

So I checked a few dictionaries, both in-print and online, and discovered that the word is rooted in the terms “worthiness” and “acknowledgement of worth.” With regards “worthiness,” the sources pointed to the Old English (British) use of “your worship” in reference to people of station and high esteem. In this case, the word is used as a noun, but to me actually seems closer to a descriptive adjective.

In the case of being used as a verb (an action word), “acknowledgement of worth” is very close to what true worship, the worship promoted in the Bible by Christ, is all about. (Yes, I readily admit that under the Mosaic Law, there were numerous ritual-based instructions. They served a purpose, however they are not the focus of this article. My focus is the instructions Jesus left his followers. Those instructions define what true worship means for Christians.)

So how does a Christian make an “acknowledgement of worth” regarding God, regarding the Bible, regarding everything Jesus taught? I have talked about these things before. (See links at end of article.) The point I want to make in this article is that worship is NOT ceremonialism, rituals, customs, or even memorized prayers. First, regarding our own lives, we demonstrate respect for God by living within the moral and social guidelines mentioned in the Bible. A true Christian should also studiously read the Bible. Regarding the love we have for God and fellow humans, we use our “whole strength” by freely, willingly sharing what we’ve learned with others. So essentially, we intelligently use our resources in practical and tangible ways, not in frivolous rituals. We honor God both by word of mouth (promoting his ways as beneficial) and by our personal obedience. Those things demonstrate "worth" that others can appreciate and understand.

I just realized I neglected a very important component to this discussion and that is Greek original words used to convey "worship" in the days of Jesus. Bowing down to, or making other demonstrative gestures were common in acknowledgement of humble submission to another. The various Greek words used in the Bible all convey nuances of humble submission. So again, worship is not ritual.

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