Around the time of May 2016 I started to become increasingly critical of Christian worship. No, I’m not talking about the style or anything like that. I had issues with what I was singing. I started to feel like everything I was singing was solely a reflection of what God has done for me, and that got me thinking…
If I only worship what God has done for me, am I only thus worshiping myself? I mean what the heck, if I only worship because of what God has done for me then all my worship is predicated on what has been given to me which by nature would make it selfish. Why don’t I, and other songs that are used to lead worship, just praise God for who he is? Why does it feel like every time I worship it sounds and feels selfish? Is everyone that is singing worshiping themselves or God? Am I worshiping God when I sing about what God has done for me?
I came to the conclusion that when I sang about what God had done for me that I was only worshiping myself and that when I praised God just for who he was then I was no longer worshiping myself. In church and chapel I would sing because I like to sing but I was hesitant to take up an attitude of worship during most parts of pretty much every single worship song. Even when I would praise God just for who he is it felt like there was not a tangible connection. Now there doesn’t have to be a personal emotional connection during worship and not every worship experience is going to be an emotional joyride. However, the fact that there was a lack of connection to the divine that I had once felt during worship before this thought process was something that I took into consideration. Worship in the form of song was virtually meaningless for me during this process. This process went on from May 2016 to the end of March 2017.
I thought that eventually I would think through this whole thing on my own, but after eleven months I figured that I should seek some outside input. I emailed one of my philosophy professors and we set up a time in his office when we could dialogue about the idea of selfishness and worship. This conversation brought many insights that I feel like are worth sharing.
- God, I think is pleased when we think through ideas such as worship. Using our intellect to find more about God and understand him brings glory to him and thus is a form of worship in itself.
- It is impossible for a self to make a decision without including themselves in the thought process. This means that all human decisions are to some degree selfish. This does not give free license to make extremely selfish desires that bring harm to others. This does mean that it is impossible to be completely self-less. Even Jesus in the last few moments before he was going to be arrested had to wrestle with his selfishness when he prayed “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NIV). The Christian tradition looks at this verse as an incredible act of selflessness from Jesus, but in this prayer he still had to include himself in the decision to go forward with being crucified.
- God is pleased when we thank him for what he has done for us. My professor pointed out that when one of his children thank him for a gift it is a normal thing and thankfulness is a natural response.
My professor really helped me think through some of these ideas and without him I think that worship though song would still be something that I wouldn’t be comfortable doing due to the ideas on selfishness I had.
One of the most beautiful parts of Christianity in my opinion is the fact that God wants to partner with his people to see his mission accomplished here on earth. I get to be a part of what God is doing on earth, and that is cool.
Lord help me to not be so consumed with “am I being selfish” that it takes away from what you are doing in this world.