How Did I Miss That?
Part 19: Worshiping ≠ Following
Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there my servant will be also. John 12:26
Twenty-one times in the four Gospels, Jesus says, “Follow me.” Clearly, Jesus sought for followers. In order to follow, we must commit to two types of action, especially when the leader is not physically present. First, the follower must learn the values and priorities of the one he or she professes to follow. Second, the follower must actually act in ways that are consistent with the priorities of the leader.
In the case of Christians, sometimes we confuse following Jesus with worshiping Jesus. Do you know how many times Jesus asks us to worship him? Zero. Follow me = 21; worship me = 0. Therefore, worshiping ≠ following. I find this bit of math interesting and telling. Jesus does mention the importance of worshiping the Father throughout the Gospels, but never once says we should worship him. Jesus apparently was more interested in our actions on his behalf than in our praise. Jesus laid out a mission and vision for life that he wanted to insure would outlive his days on earth. It had nothing to do with enhancing his personal glory; it had everything to do with tending to and expanding his flock.
I believe this tells me that going to church on Sunday mornings – an act of worship – is not sufficient to claim myself as a follower of Jesus. I am not saying that attending worship does not have value or that it cannot help us grow as followers of Christ. Worshiping is not enough, however, at least not by itself. A good church can help us understand what was important to Jesus, but it is up to us to act on that knowledge. Some of the most spiritual, Christ-following people I know choose not to attend church on a regular basis. If going to church on Sunday mornings does not motivate us to follow Jesus into our world, we may be missing the point. We might as well stay home. I believe our churches need to be more than houses of worship. They also need to serve as an inspirational call to action to make our world a better place for everyone within it.
To worship is to revere, adore, or pay homage to someone. For many of us, worshiping is primarily an intellectual, non-self-sacrificing act, and that is not good enough for Jesus. Jesus wants our mind, yes, but not without our heart and body. A mind can think great thoughts and still accomplish nothing of value. A mind that guides the work of the heart and body into the world can accomplish great things. Jesus called for human verbs, not nouns – he was faith in action, and acts of faith are what he seeks from us.
Worshiping is not necessarily following. How did I miss that?