We were in an Indian restaurant yesterday and a video displaying Ghandi’s list of seven social sins came on the television behind me. My son read them out loud and as he did, I started to think, “Wow, it’s like he’s describing this year’s presidential candidates.” Politics aside, though, his list does provide a piercing insight for anyone who’s willing to consider how their own path contributes to the overall condition of the cultural environment in which we live. I commend this list to you.
For the purposes of this blog, I want to highlight “Worship without sacrifice.” To American Christendom, “worship” means “singing in church.” We call our meeting places, “houses of worship.” I doubt anyone would dare to suggest that spending one hour per week at the equivalent of a Christian concert would count as a sacrifice. Christians in the first century understood that worship must be sacrificial. Here is one of my favorite texts on gospel inspired worship:
The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. – Hebrews 13:11-16
There is an old chorus that goes, “We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.” For the author of the letter to the Hebrews, though, the real sacrifice of praise isn’t offered in the “house of the Lord” but “outside the camp.” We offer the sacrifice of praise when we profess the name of Christ among those who are hostile to him and his message. Those who have cast him from their lives will send us out of their presence as well. There we will find fellowship with him.
Outside the camp, we will find the new community – the church as God has conceived it. In that new society, our material resources must be forfeited for love’s sake. The community in the wilderness joyfully divests itself of physical adornments in order to build a house in which God dwells. We become the house of worship that God sacrificed Jesus to build:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. – Ephesians 2:19-22
If tomorrow, every brick and mortar religious institution was closed down, the church of God will have suffered absolutely no net loss. In traditional cell-celebration models of church, the home groups provide community and the Sunday morning experience provides a time to worship. This dichotomy only makes sense if a person equates worship with a Christian concert. Members of Life Teams don’t need an additional experience outside of the Life Team meeting in which to worship. Life Teams are worshipping communities. By sharing his life (making public profession of his name) and by sharing our lives (not forgetting to do good and to share with others) we offer the sacrifices that please God.