I recently had this question posed to me in a conversation. Christians believe in a God who wants to be worshiped. To most modern ears, that sounds arrogant, narcissistic, and even a little scary. What could be more self-absorbed than demanding worship? How are we supposed to think about and answer this? Is God a narcissist?
Our Culture has Changed
Just to add a bit of context, I think it’s important to note that while this is not a new objection, it is much more difficult to explain and understand in modern times. Our culture is very focused on the self. You do you, and anything that gets in the way of your own autonomy is bad. When a person is coming from that cultural mindset and then examines the deeper aspects of Christianity, they are going to have questions like this one.
Is Worship Justified?
Although we are very self-focused, we recognize that there are some people and positions that deserve our respect. A person with a P.H.D. has put a lot of time and effort into their field, thus we give them the respect of calling them “Doctor.” We call judges in a court of law “Your Honor” out of respect for their position and authority over us and many others. Them wanting their due respect is not arrogance. It’s only narcissistic if they have an unreasonable or imbalanced view of themselves. But is God a narcissist?
My question is, how much respect is due the creator of the universe? Somehow just calling him “Sir” doesn’t seem very proportional to his status. Moreover, within the Christian view at least, he is not just a creator, but a maintainer and a savior who has direct contact with his people. We owe our entire past, present, and future to this one being. To acknowledge that and praise him for it is not an unreasonable expectation when you put it into perspective.
Not a One Way Street
I think it would still be fair even if we gained nothing from worship, but there is more. A lot of people have the wrong idea about what worship is. They see it as a way to appease an angry God, that way we can avoid punishment or Hell. But this assumes that a relationship with God is largely a one-way street. We aren’t worshiping God so that he’ll leave us alone. We do it both because it’s earned, and because it draws us closer to him. If there is a perfect standard of goodness in the universe, and he wants to know me and offer me eternal life with him, that sounds worth my time. This isn’t even getting into the benefits of a church community worshiping together. Given everything he has already done for us, perhaps God wants worship not for his own sake, but as with many other things he knows it’s what’s best for us.
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