Jesus was once having a conversation with a lady who wasn’t Jewish. She was a Samaritan, and wanted to know where the best place to honour God was – the Jews said on one particular mountain, and the Samaritans said a different mountain. All she knew was that she wanted to adore God.
Jesus’ reply seems obvious to the Christian mindset: it doesn’t matter where you are, all that matters is how you worship. But then he gets a bit cryptic:
The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-26)
What does this whole ‘spirit and truth’ thing mean? I think it’s more straightforward than it appears at first.
Truth is objective – if something’s true, that’s the end of the story. So to worship God we must worship within strict, true boundaries, properly defined by the Bible. That means true worship must engage with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. No matter how much we love watching X Factor it’s not worship of God in and of itself because there’s no input from the Bible into that moment.
Our spirits are far more subjective – I change my mind more often than I care to admit, and my feelings and opinions are certainly very different to everyone else’s. But in order to worship God properly we must also engage ourselves; it’s not good enough to speak through some true words in an emotionally-detached way, because that would be worshipping only in truth.
Spirit and Truth
When we gather together to worship we could do all manner of things. We could speak words of the Bible together, or dance together, or perform some community action together…but all of these somehow don’t guarantee true worship in spirit and truth…but singing’s different. When we sing, we can sing songs that are filled with biblical truth. But also, we can engage emotionally with the sound of the music.
For one person, they may be able to emotionally engage with simply reading the Bible (I’m that one person), but others may find it easy to emotionally detach from that. For another, a carefully choerographed dance may enable them to express truth…but I’m not that person. So singing is the easiest way to enable a large congregation to all worship simultaneously in spirit and truth.
How do you find it easiest to worship in spirit and truth?