Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” – Genesis 4:1-7
Maybe you’ve gone through the worship wars. Most people think those wars started in the 1980s when contemporary Christian music began to be used in public worship services. Starting in the Charismatic movement, and leaking over into evangelical and even some Roman Catholic churches, these new forms of worship created quite a stir among the faithful. Some said that the old ways of worship with organs, chanting, smells and bells, was outdated and no longer meaningful. Others said those time tested liturgies and traditions are the only way of true worship.
This is nothing new. Jesus encountered the woman at the well in Samaria who brought up a worship war of her day. Jerusalem or on the mountain near Sychar? At Jacob’s well, or at the Temple? Even her question is predated by many centuries. For Cain and Abel had the first worship war. They each brought their offering to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s gifts.
The writer to the Hebrews tells us that this was not a matter of whether the gifts were from the soil or from the livestock. The issue was – and always is – one of faith (Hebrews 11:4). He got this from Jesus:
“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But 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. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:21-24.
Cain and Abel took the worship wars to war’s extreme. Cain took the war of envy, resentment, and self-righteousness to its ultimate end: death.
We must never make war over worship. There may be times we must speak up and offer even a strong objection. When Jesus’ name is missing, or used falsely, we must stand fast for faithfulness. When people make a mockery of true worship practices of any kind – contemporary or ancient – we must defend the truth. When people saunter nonchalantly into the presence of God, pretending that worship is a little thing, we must urge reverent propriety, perhaps even fear and trembling.
But whatever form, and whichever gift is given, in faithful love for God, let us worship our God who has given us all we have, has redeemed us by his Son, and who has poured out his Holy Spirit so that we may hold to the true faith and invite others to join us and the angels in heaven in hymns of praise.
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