More Than Singing: The Link Between Worship and Justice

What follows is a letterform response to a reader of this blog. For the sake of privacy, this respective reader has been given the pseudonym, Joe.

Dear Joe,

I want to begin by applauding you for your passion and drive to willingly enter the dark cracks of your city, intent on serving those on the fringe. On this basis, however, I’m unable to overlook the following comment you shared regarding worship: "why worship? It’s just feel good fluff. The important place to be is at an idle-No-More rally or working at the food bank."

These words left me feeling somewhat miffed. In the past I’ve heard Christians speak haphazardly of worship, but when I read the words, “why worship?” I new they were not used by accident, which is of great concern to me.

As you continue reading, know that my thoughts do not stem from a denominational position, but rather I’ve given my best effort to form a response anchored on biblical truth.

Since I am a fellow Christian—and not to mention that I found the above comment disturbing—I feel a certain obligation to respond, meeting your words with a proper theological perspective of worship… but with a twist: a view in contrast with the norm—a view in which just community is made possible through the solidarity of worship and justice.

Firstly, I want to point you in in the direction of the Creator. It’s a well-known fact that life begins and ends with God, as does the beginning of the end to injustice. When I read the email you sent me, your heart was present from beginning to end. Like me, you love, and maybe even go out of your way to source out, a fight for a cause (i.e. we're both longing to see this world reconciled through the termination of injustice).

I would agree that this feeling—a compulsory and celestial impulse to do good—roots itself deep from within the depths of our soul, where it can’t help but be perceived on a personal level. This desired need to act for justice stems from a regenerated heart, which is freely bestowed so that humanity could identify with a fraction of what God felt when, through the Prophet Isaiah (see Isaiah 55), He called His people out of suffering—the restoration of all of humanity through reconciled relationship.

Further, Isaiah 55 relates to what I recently heard at a conference, where a speaker, named Ruth, explained, "God yearns to welcome each of us home. God also years to use our very arms to embrace those who are brushed aside."

When God calls us to relate to Him, it merits a response on our part to relate to others. And that response comes in the form of worship.

Ruth also quoted from Isaiah 55: "seek The Lord while The Lord may be found." The promise here is that God saves us, reconciles us, and delivers us: He steels us from a place of oppression and relocates us to a place we can call home—the final destination where, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace” (Is. 55:12).

However, as the author of Ecclesiastes wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Each of us is on borrowed time, and the time we have left to seek the Lord is unknown. Indeed, some people will seek God while time allows, while others, blinded by the many seductive allures of this world, will refuse to act on Isaiah’s words—an unfortunate choice, which will culminate in an afterlife spent in the “fiery lake of burning sulphur” (Revelations 21:8), or what I refer to as the armpit of eternity.

I must stress here that worship is so much more than an act of organized religion. Worship is a powerful declaration of faith! What worship is not is a time where believers congregate for the purpose of filling God’s ears with fluff filled hymns and sunshine and lollipop songs. Worship means intentionally seeking the face of God… pinning after and reaching out to our source of life—the one who sustains the air in our lungs and the beat of our heart.

Worship means intentionally seeking the face of God… pinning after and reaching out to our source of life—the one who sustains the air in our lungs and the beat of our heart.

Worship is you and I, humbly bearing our souls before our creator, crying out to Him as we furnish the heavens with shouts of praise (our deepest joys) and lament (our deepest sorrows).

In a world plagued by the labours of evil, worship is the beginning of the end of injustice. In other words, worship is where justice begins and where the writer of the narrative of poverty and oppression experiences a chronic case of writers block.

worship is where justice begins and where the writer of the narrative of poverty and oppression experiences a chronic case of writers block.

Does what I'm saying make sense? Without God leading our charge, our service will always lack supernatural substance. Alone, we are rendered ineffective to effect change in the theatre of good works; without the Holy Spirit there to lead us, our acts of service will forever be dead works. Only through the works of the indwelling Spirit are the limbs of the body of Christ capable of accomplishing anything good and just in this world.

Ruth also mentioned the Spanish word justicia, coming from the Spanish translation of the Bible, which spells: justice for all. In the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, the English definition of Justice denotes: (1) Just conduct; fairness, (2) the law and it's administration, and (3) judgment by legal process. English definition aside, the Spanish rendering of the word justice better articulates the connection between justice and worship.

The Lord looks to us—the body of Christ—to be actively engaged in His work to restore just community among the nations. With this missional responsibility in mind, worship then becomes our response to the Lords call on our life to rid the world of injustice while restoring humanity to its sole creator. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, in all that we do—an unceasing act of worship.

Serving is a must, but before we lend our energy and time to it, we should first offer our pleas to God. Like I mentioned earlier, it's vital that God be invited to dwell at the forefront of our plans, because, as stated in His Word, for us to love others we must first love the One who first loved us: "dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God" (1 John 4:7).

So, to set right that which went askew from the beginning (Gen. 3), we start by looking to our roots: we set our hearts upon worship... and subsequently, justice. Through the act of worship we become equipped and able to respond to a universal call to eliminate social injustice; through justice we gain the ability to hit oppression where it hurts: at its source.

Slavery, human trafficking, sexual assault, the sexual exploitation of children, police misconduct, and violent land grabbing can and will be put to and end, but only when God’s people are intentional about worship. Worship evokes a just heart—the only heart bright enough to penetrate and eradicate the dusting of darkness that washed over this world, centuries ago, during humanities first act of rebellion toward God in the Garden of Eden.

Joe, my hope in writing this letter is that you will walk away with a richer understanding of worship. My friend, worship is not some mundane spiritual church experience, but on the contrary, worship is the very anchor of both faith and justice. For apart from worship, justice cannot succeed in forming just community in this world—a magnetic pull that unifies the nations. Without justice, the world will continue to live under a hue of blue all the while, nation upon nation are overcome as they fall victim to injustice—the fruits of Satan’s insidious efforts to ravage God’s goodness.

Worship is the cornerstone of our faith and the catalyst for true change. Either it be at an idle-No-More rally or working at the food bank… apart from worship, your works will spoil because they will forever lack the essential supernatural empowerment that can only come from “on high” (Luke 24:49).