How Hate Becomes Worship

I have written several times about worship and its significance to the Christian way of life. My previous articles have centered around theology and a practical application of what worship is and what worship does to the church, spiritual formation, and a personal walk with Jesus Christ. Now, I would like to educate Christians of the dangers of allowing worship to be something it should never be, hateful. If you allow hate to pervade so deeply in your life that it transforms your worship; you will worship at the altar of hate and therefore hate will be the method of your worship. In short, if the biblical text does not build the boundaries of what and how you worship, hate will seep in and take over your conscience and you will begin to unscrupulously worship what you hate.

To begin with, let us recap what worship is: “worship is inherently theological. It is primarily about God. Specifically, it is about how Christ-followers offer to God their love, gratitude, and praise.”[1] Worship begins and ends with God, it always has and will continue in that way for all eternity. God does not change or evolve with time; He is the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13). Likewise, our worship of Him will not dwindle or become irrelevant. Worship will always enable us:

  • To quicken the conscience by the holiness of God,
  • To feed the mind with the truth of God,
  • To purge the imagination by the beauty of God,
  • To open the heart to the love of God,
  • To devote the will to the purpose of God.”[2]

Unlike most modern services, worship is not just one thing. It is not the “praise and worship” (although it can be) portion of the service preceding the sermon. It is much more than that. It is not merely raising your hands in prayer or song (although it can be). Worship is how we live our lives out as slaves to God. It is how we sleep, wake up, work, drive, argue, cook, clean, invest, give, live, love, and laugh. Worship should encompass every aspect of our daily lives and the scriptures tell us as much: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV).[3]

However, with all these definitions of what worship can be, it reveals one small (but significant) chink in the armor: “There is no ideal definition of worship. No one has defined worship so completely as to plumb the depths of this divine-human encounter. To make matters more interesting, ancient creeds and modern confessions of faith have not settled on a single orthodox understanding of and approach to worship that has won the approval of Christians worldwide. There is no Chalcedonian formula for corporate worship.”[4] This opens the door to the accuser:

Satan The Hebrew word שָׂטָן (satan) means to oppose, obstruct, or accuse. The Greek term (σατάν, satan) literally means “adversary.” In the New Testament, it refers to a title or a name—(the) Satan. The term שָׂטָן (satan) is rendered as diabolos in the Septuagint.[5]

man red people woman
Photo by Argie Padilla Yau00f1ez on Pexels.com

The enemy will always exploit a way to misappropriate human worship; thus, entering hate. Hate is such a driving force in society, even more than fear. Fear breeds hate and hate will replace (even to the faithful) God-centered worship with man-centered worship, which always opens up the door to evils.

For example, this was presented to us early on in the biblical text. The very first sibling rivalry was centered around this theme of hate and worship. Everyone knows the story of Cain and Abel. This story is so common that most people (especially Christians) fail to stop and analyze just what is going on. The story begins and ends with worship. When you break down Genesis chapter four, the theme of hateful worship slaps the reader straight in the theological face.

Both Cain and Abel bring offerings to the Lord in the form of sacrifices, this is ancient worship of the highest kind. Most modern Christians have no conception of this, nor would we possibly do what ancients did, and for all the selfish reasons. We think that a few bucks in the offering plate are equal to what the ancients did with animal sacrifice. With McDonald’s on every corner and a Kroger in every city, we have absolutely no concept of having to hunt, forage, fight, and possibly die for food, or the lack thereof. We think ten percent of our earnings somehow resembles that of Old Testament tithes and offerings. Imagine giving fifty-to-eighty percent of your weekly earnings to God with the knowledge that there might be a good chance that next week you will earn nothing. Imagine sacrificing all you have to for a simple blessing; even the most faithful modern Christian would not consider this.

Both Cain and Abel gave an offering to God, but God did not look favorably on both offerings: “And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard” (Genesis 4:4-5 ESV). They both gave their first fruits but God showed favor on one and not the other. The next portion of this story is so revealing and powerful that it forecasts sin and its effect on all humanity. It showcases the hate-filled roots of Cain’s anger (v.5) and foreshadows how mankind will battle with this evil for the rest of time, here on earth.

God has a conversation with Cain, and advises Cain of allowing his worship to be transformed into sin (hate): “The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it’” (Genesis 4:6-7 ESV). God is warning Cain of the ramifications of allowing hate to rule over him.

We all know that hate wins and Abel dies at the hands of Cain. The very first story of sibling rivalry in human history ends in murder, and progressives think mankind is intrinsically good? History would beg to differ.  

CainSlaysAbel-768x497

This is one of the most exposing portions of the entire Bible and portends the destructive path that hate (toward God and man) will have on mankind. It is here that the plague of sin is unleashed upon humans in the form of hate. Remember, Adam and Eve, sinned by disobeying God, not out of animosity toward God. True evil was born out of disdain for God and that hate is dispelled onto fellow humans. I do not need to point out the theological implications of evil and suffering inherent in this story but never-the-less; so many apologetical questions can be answered in this one story about why God allows evil and suffering in the world – we cause it! The answer is given to us within the first five chapters of the Bible.

This is also the first foundation of politics in the Bible. Cain actually takes a political position in this passage: “Am I my brother’s keeper”(v.9)? Ironically President Barak Obama would exploit this phrase to make a political/theological point just a few years ago. Too bad his theology was so poor that he contradicted the very point he was attempting to imply. See what bad theology leads to?

The point I am making here is not a theological one but a practical one. If you do not allow God to guide your worship, hate will. Now skip ahead a few thousands of years of murder, war, slavery, rape, infanticide, genocide, etc. Here we are today, still hating each other over political positions. Just look at the four years under Donald Trump as president. The progressive left, supported by the Democratic party, showcased so much loathing for him that it wore his supporters down. The hate from the left was on such display that it became commonplace. It used to be abnormal for everyday neighbors to openly wish for the death of his/her President. Celebrities, newsmen, politicians, even clergy allowed their hate to shine as glory as if it were virtuous. It became, not only mainstream but, morally sound to hate this one man with such vigor that people advertised it on social media. They began to worship the very thing they hated: Donald Trump.

I say this all, not to condemn them for this action (as God will certainly do) but to warn my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who now is showing some of the same contempt for the left. Hating someone back for hating you is never the right answer. I fear that many on the right, some devout men/women of faith, now show the same vituperation toward people on the left that they showed us. It might be hard but as Christians, we know they are lost and require illumination. That illumination will never happen if our light turns into darkness.

One of the most difficult passages in the New Testament is one of the easiest to interpret:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”[6]

This is one of those passages that needs no commentary. We all know what Jesus is instructing us to do. The difficult concept with this instruction is not the meaning but the practical application of it. This is the hard part of being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. I hear Christians say every day that they know they should pray for President Joe Bidden but that is simple lip-service. The question is not even if they do it, the question is if they do it (as all Christians should), do they mean it from the heart?

Do not allow hate to be that by which you worship.

Footnotes:

[1] Paul E. Engle and Steve B. Cowan, eds., Exploring the Worship Spectrum, Zondervan Counterpoints Collection (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 12.

[2] Paul E. Engle and Steve B. Cowan, eds., Exploring the Worship Spectrum, Zondervan Counterpoints Collection (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 12.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 10:31.

[4] Paul E. Engle and Steve B. Cowan, eds., Exploring the Worship Spectrum, Zondervan Counterpoints Collection (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 13.

[5] David Seal, “Satan,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 5:43–48.

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