As a general matter, I have a hard time with rules - I just don't like being told what to do or what to think or how to feel. I feel even more strongly about that when it comes to religion. Sometimes it seems like there are a lot of rules in religion, written or unwritten, about how to worship. Bow your head. Stand up. Genuflect. Be quiet. Say certain words. There also are a lot of rules about when and where to worship. Sunday morning. Saturday night. In a church. Facing towards Mecca.
I mean no offense if any of these are important to you and to your worship. But, they just aren't that important to me. I feel strongly that the Lord is not particularly concerned with the details of how, when or where I worship. If these traditions or rituals help you to worship, or remind you to worship, or provide a time and place for you to worship, that is great. But they are not, in and of themselves, worship. The prophet Isaiah wrote:
The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men." Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)
Both Matthew and Mark record Jesus repeating these words to the Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law. Matthew 15:7-9; Mark 7:6-7. He called them hypocrites for exalting the rules above the worship. As Jesus explained "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." Mark 7:8 (NIV)
One of the definitions of worship offered by Merriam-Webster is an act of expressing reverence to a divine being. Worship is about giving thanks to God. There are countless ways to worship - traditional and not so traditional. I worship in many different ways and places. Devotional time. Quiet prayer. Staring at the ocean. In mission. As I've discussed with some of the people that have read this blog, writing this is a form of worship for me. Sometimes I worship at a set time (at a church service) and sometimes I worship because I just feel called to do so.
The bottom line is, I believe that the Bible teaches us that there is only one rule about worship, only one thing that is important - that it be real, sincere, from the heart. However that love and devotion is expressed is the right way to worship.