Worship in Something and Something III: Even Abusers Worship

Note: This is a continuation of a series of posts I started a while back. This post constitutes a bit of a detour but I think it needs to be said before going any further. I suppose if this post series was a book, this would be arranged as a first chapter.

What is worship anyway?

The word itself is connected to the idea of ascribing worthiness. We are ascribing worth or value to that which we worship. In Christian worship then, at the most basic level, we are acknowledging God’s worthiness. But first, I want to go back to the broader sense of the word for a second: No one worships like an abusive spouse when they want to apologize for their despicable actions. The abuser will say sorry, how the abuse they perpetrate isn’t who they really are, there will be gifts, an insistence that a new leaf has been turned over. This time things are going to change. It’s a promise.

Of course the abuser makes a mockery of this the next time the abuse recurs – and barring some serious intervention there is always a next time. This is false worship, there is only value ascribed to the victim when such a sentiment is needed to keep the victim under the control of the abuser. Worthiness is ascribed to the victim to compensate for the treatment of the victim as worthless. The worship of the abuser is worship that sustains a connection that the abuser needs for totally selfish reasons, i.e.: the sense of power and control that an abusive spouse feels in controlling the victim.

But wait, this is supposed to be a post about Christian worship, you know, worship of the triune God, all that, right? The reason I put such an ugly metaphor in there was because I think there is a problem with Christians and worship that is like the “day after” with an abusive spouse. We treat God as worthless, so we better overcompensate the next time. Consider the words of the prophet Amos:

21 “I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.

22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, [a]
I will have no regard for them.

23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.

24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

If worship or the acknowledging of worth happens only on Sunday morning, such a gesture is meaningless. What Amos is saying is that God is wise to this scheme, and finds it offensive. Maybe this is no big secret but I think it bears saying, the more I delve into this topic (which I started writing about more as a rant), the more I want to get the sort of first principles right. What I say here on out about worship services has little value to any believer absent a whole life of worship.

Afterword: If you’ve somehow come to this page because you are actually (not metaphorically) being abused by your spouse, get help. Leave, leave now, you cannot make things better by hanging around.