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How Do We Worship?

A lawyer, defending a man accused of burglary, crafted a creative defense. "My client," he argued, "merely inserted his arm into the window and removed a few items. His arm is not himself, so you cannot punish the whole individual for an offense committed solely by his arm."


"Well put," the judge replied with a grin. "I therefore sentence the defendant's arm to one year's imprisonment. Your client may accompany the arm or not, as he chooses."


The defendant smiled, detached his artificial limb, laid it on the bench, and walked out.

How do you feel about that story? Does it seem unfair to you – like the defendant got off too lightly?


There is within us a sense of justice that says that people must pay for their wrongs. (At least, we feel that other people must. For ourselves, we prefer mercy.) That sense of justice is seemingly what led to the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. Some price, some atonement had to be made for the sins of the people, so God accepted animals as sacrifices.


Those of us living under the New Testament are delighted that we are spared the expense and unpleasantness of slaughtering animals. We are thankful that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins” (Hebrews 9:28). We breathe a sigh of relief, thinking no more sacrifices are expected.


But it would be a mistake to stop reading. If we continue, we learn that God still calls for priests (all believers) to offer sacrifices. The word “worship” in Hebrews 10:1 and 3 refers to the Old Covenant priests offering sacrifices in the temple. The same word is also used in 12:28 to refer to what Christians are expected to offer. We are to “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” that verse says. We, too, have sacrifices to offer.


And, not just on Sunday. When we hear “worship," our minds jump to what is done “at church”. Or, more specifically, to singing. But that’s not what the text says. What we lay on the altar is to “Keep on loving each other,” to practice hospitality, to keep marriage pure, to avoid greed, to obey leaders, and a variety of other things listed in the verses following Hebrews 12:28.


It’s not an animal –or our arm- that God asks. It’s our hearts - that we sacrifice our entire lives to him every day.


May we learn to “worship God acceptably.”




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