Worship: the head or the heart?

We are so good at making God into our own image. If you’ve been a believer for any length of time, just look around–better yet, look within. If you happen to be a person that is in touch with your emotions, then you probably believe that God is a God of mercy, compassion and second chances. If you are a person who naturally thinks very left-brained and you go through life making very rational, logical choices, then you are more apt to believe that God is a God of principle, righteousness, and judgment. These just simply come easier for us, because they’re consistent with our personalities. I’ll admit, these are very sweeping generalizations, but if we look within and look around, by and large, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that it is largely the case.

Leading corporate worship on a weekly basis allows me the opportunity to witness this first-hand. I see people throughout our auditorium responding to God in various ways: some acknowledging the truth and doctrine of a song with a gentle head-nod; some acknowledging with reckless abandon, their brokenness before God with great outward demonstration; and some in vehement protest to the response of others. Most of the time, this is very consistent with our own personalities. I do not necessarily believe this is a bad thing. However, I believe that in the body of Christ, we have a lot to learn from one another, and more importantly, from God Himself.

The truth is that God is all of those things. He is merciful, compassionate, holy, and righteous. Take the apostle Paul, for instance. Before his conversion, Paul (Saul) was a zealot against Christianity. He had people killed and thrown into prison for their beliefs. He was “principled” in his disdain for Christianity. After his conversion, Paul was still a zealot but with a different focus and direction. Take Peter and Barnabas, on the other hand, who were more in touch with their emotions and the thoughts and feelings of those around them. Paul said (Galatians 2) that Peter even led Barnabas astray in his fear of what people thought. Paul, consistent with his personality, withstood them “to the face” concerning their hypocrisy toward the Gentiles (for fear of what the Jews thought).  In this story, Paul, acting consistent with his personality AND the Scripture was right. Peter and Barnabas were living hypocritically. Score: Paul 1 – Barnabas 0.

Now take a look at the other side of the coin. Barnabas and Paul in Acts 15, had a disagreement so sharp concerning the “worthiness” of one of their companions (John Mark) that it caused them to go their separate ways for a time. Barnabas, acting consistent with his personality, saw something in John Mark that Paul did not see (or didn’t want to see). John Mark had abandoned them before and Paul didn’t want anything to do with him. Barnabas, acting in compassion and grace, saw John Mark’s potential and determined to give him a second chance. In time, Paul later recognizes John Mark’s value by his own admition, no thanks to him (2 Tim. 4:11). Score now: Paul 1 – Barnabas 1.

What does this all have to do with worship? We often respond to God’s truth in ways that are consistent with our own personality. This is not necessarily wrong. However, in the Spirit-led life, none of us get “off the hook”. Brokenness does not get off with a “head nod”. Nor does an outward demonstration get off with inconsistent living and poor choices. Throughout Scripture God is always demonstrating the balance of the head and the heart. Take John chapter four–Spirit and truth; Philippians 4–hearts and minds; 2 Tim. 1 – love and a sound mind. The list could go on and on. 2 Timothy chapter 2 summarizes this well–“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” Don’t be angry (heart) or unbelieving (mind). Also, don’t be judgmental of the worship of others. When God’s people come together in spirit and truth, without wrath and doubting, something very powerful happens. That is what God desires from his people.

We are all different. God wants to use all of us and created us with a specific purpose and plan. We all have a lot to learn from God by walking daily in His truth and being led by His Spirit. We also have a lot to learn from each other. That is the beauty of the Body of Christ. The fact is, God wants ALL of us–our head and our heart. Let’s remember that we are ALL made in God’s image, but let’s be careful not to make God into our image.

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