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Forms, places and reality
- Jacob Ninan
"Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship," the Samaritan woman said to Jesus (Jn.4:20). For many believing Christians, it is still all about holy places, festivals, communion, dutifully keeping a 'quiet time', dress code, positions in the church, singing, etc. Such are the things that give them a feeling of being 'spiritual'. For many, their access to God is still through the priest or pastor, who prays for them and blesses their house or car! This was understandable in the case of Samaritans, but how can we, in these days of the Bible, continue at such primitive levels?
God, the Creator of the universe, has adopted us as His children (Ro.8:15), and do we now come to our Father, taking off our shoes, offering Him sacrifices, greeting Him with words of praise to in order to appease His wrath, talking to Him with 'Thou's and 'Thee's, and making our prayers to Him formally? What kind of a relationship would that be? Why would we want our pastor to intercede for us as if He was someone else's Father?
Jesus told the woman that worship was not about places but about the heart (Jn.4:23,24). In our days, let's remember worship is not about listening to the choir singing praise and worship songs! When we have a relationship with God as our Father and we get to know Him, worship will automatically rise from our heart. Recognition of His holiness, majesty, perfection, compassion, love, mercy, patience, etc., will overwhelm us, and we will worship Him from our heart, whether we sing, tell Him how much we love Him or break into tongues for want of words.
But, instead of this, if our 'spirituality' is all about external forms, places and people, we must recognise that we are missing what God has prepared for us. If what we debate about in our mind is whether we should wear white clothes or grow a beard, if we give special attention to taking off our shoes when we go into the church hall or when we pray, if we argue about breaking bread every day or every week, if we follow superstitions such as letting the milk boil over when we move into a new house (!), keeping a Bible under our pillow to ward off bad dreams, hanging a crucifix in the house to drive away evil spirits, if we ask the pastor to pray for us whenever we face a problem, etc., we must remember we have a Heavenly Father and we are His beloved children! Let's not live in insecurity like orphans!
Of course, there is the danger of becoming too familiar with God and talking to Him as if He was our buddy without the reverence we ought to have for Him. But should we continue to live a low level of life now as if God was only there in theory? Shouldn't we spend more time with Him reading His word and talking to Him in order to get to know Him better? Shouldn't we keep a conversation going with Him all through the day (1Th.5:17)? Should we miss the privilege of really having Him as our Father?