I was thumbing through my Instagram feed earlier today when I came across this:
It’s a good thought, and I’m a big fan of John Bevere and what he has to say about the Christian life, but that statement just isn’t quite right.
Too often, Christians want to think in dichotomies (die-KAH-tuh-mees), which is to say that we like think in terms of either / or—either you love Jesus or you’re a sinner; either you’re going to church or you’re backsliding; either you pay tithe or you’re selfish. People who think in dichotomies think in black and white, and the problem with that sort of thinking is that I’ve never met a single Christian person in my whole life who doesn’t struggle with sin, doesn’t wrestle with being part of a church that can be messed up sometimes, or who always wants to write a check for 10% of their income. The Apostle Paul told us in Romans 3:23, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” which means that we all live in a gray area at all times because we won’t be completely pure until we finish our journey here. Life isn’t as black and white as we would have it.
I often see that black and white tendency on Sunday morning during worship. Many people come to church on Sunday morning and think one of two things. 1.) I don’t need to worship because what’s really important here is the word of God, or 2.) I don’t need to worship in song because I worship God with how I live.
That second thought is where John Bevere’s post rubs me the wrong way a little bit, and where that black and white thinking really shows. Many church goers can be mistaken in thinking that worship is either all obedience or all singing.
However, worship, as we see it in scripture, is both obedience and singing.
We see this especially in the life of David, and most obviously in 2 Samuel chapters 11-12 and Psalm 51. The story in 2 Samuel is how David took another man’s wife, named Bathsheba, for himself and had the man murdered when Bathsheba told David she was pregnant. God brought a prophet to confront David with his own sin. David responded with confession, repentance, and fasting, and then he wrote a song, Psalm 51, which became quite possibly the most famous psalm in the whole Bible, next to Psalm 23.
Not only was David disobedient, but he responded to his own disobedience with singing. He worshipped with song even though he hadn’t worshipped with his life. In fact, he used it to help reset his life, and in turn, gave us one of the greatest testimonies of grief over sin, mercy in spite of sin, and grace that covers our sin.
Does the Lord want us to worship with obedience?
Absolutely, He does:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)
But He also wants our singing:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
The two go hand in hand. It’s a “both / and” sort of thing, not an “either / or” dichotomy. The Christian life is incomplete without both. Worship with your obedience Monday through Friday, and then come to church on Sunday morning and worship with all the singing that you can muster.