A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. (Luke 7:37-38)
A writer usually writes for an audience. My problem is, I have a hard time choosing which one.
My husband jokes that I remind him of Cerebro on X-Men – the bald paraplegic, a.k.a. Dr. Xavier, who has the ability to psychically connect to all mutants. I know, right?
My mind is on all kinds of wavelengths – the ultra personal one where there is only me and my Saviour – my audience of One; the fellowshipping one where I embrace those who are on the same spiritual path towards sanctification; the challenging one where I connect with those “lifestyle” Christians who choose to live only the “nice”part of Christianity, but who distance themselves with a twenty foot pole from the more unpalatable (in a worldly sense) Christian principles; finally, there is the witnessing wavelength where I attempt to reach the entirely unbelieving – those who might cringe when they read this and realize that it is being written by someone who lives next to them, or who shares an office with them at work. (If they are reading this now, I might be greeted with furtive, side-long glances tomorrow morning, like in horror movies where people wonder if you are “one of those” infected with the (Bible-thumping) virus).
In short, the question begging my mind when writing my devotionals is always, for whom do I write?
By definition, a devotional is to God. No one else. To Him and for Him. It is a writing, an expression of love, devoted entirely and uniquely to God. This, by definition, is also a form of worship: an intimate, irrepressible act of love towards God, my personal Saviour. The Lover of my soul. The One to Whom I am blissfully and eternally betrothed.
Worship is the experience of God, the habit that determines whether a Christian is alive in Christ or surviving in Christ.
For this reason, my inclination is most often to speak to the third group – the “social” or “cultural” Christians. I liken this group to people who have been invited to a wedding banquet, but who are sitting in the nosebleed section – near the restrooms – because they do not really know the bridal couple. They relish in the feast and sights and sounds of a celebration, maybe even help out with the preparations, but they do not know the deep joy that is experienced by those who have an intimate relationship with the newly wedded couple. I want so much for these people to know God – Jesus Christ – the Living God. Not only know, but to know in Spirit and in truth. I desire that my act of worship compell them to worship the only One worthy of our praise. To move from survive to alive.
Some Cultural Christians I know sometimes say to me, “I believe in God, but I’m not a fanatic like you.” I find this laughable, conjuring images of me foaming at the mouth and leaping onto unsuspecting passersby with blood-thirsty intentions (this image sooner describes my relationship to chocolate cake). Seriously, however, I don’t really laugh.
What is fanaticism? Is it loving passionately and wholeheartedly? Wearing, as they say, my heart on my sleeve? Why is it okay for us to love our spouses or children or parents or friends with a demonstrative love, yet are called “fanatics” when we outwardly express our love towards our personal Saviour?
If people are to truly understand what it means to be alive in Christ, it is the irrepressible compulsion to worship. It is not merely a desire or inkling or even an instinct. It is compulsion.
The passage that moves me every time, is that of the “woman who lived a sinful life.” When she met Jesus, she said not a word, but immediately broke an alabaster jar of priceless perfume to pour on his feet. She did not think about whether it was a good idea. Indeed, she was quietly chastised for her impulsive action, for “wasting” a commodity that might have been sold to feed a multitude. But it was an instinct. As natural as breathing.
I can relate to this woman; she is someone who has responded to the sinful world around her with her own acts of sin. She is inexpressibly grieved. Desolate. Dead in her filth. But every cell in her being comes alive again when in the presence of the One Who loves her. There are no words. Only recognition. Deep, heart-rending gratitude. She must worship.
Why an alabaster flask of perfume? And what’s with the hair towel? I’ve never asked this before, but it occurs to me that this precious oil and her hair was all she had of any value. She gave back to God that which had been given to her as a gift. This, too, is worship.
In response to my accusers, I might ask, “Have you never wept at a sunset or sunrise? At the the miracle of a birth or the beauty of a mockingbird’s song?” That is worship. It is a feeling of being wholly unworthy of a great gift. Only, I do not worship the creation.
I worship the Creator.
My prayer is that Christians no longer strive to acts of service that drain them from true service to God. The only true service to God is an authentic act of worship. I believe that the common church culture of lauding institutional service before worship, or even at the exclusion of worship, runs the risk of perpetually relegating believers to the ‘nosebleed’ section of the banquet. In so doing, it robs God of the true gifts due to Him.
Let us be drunk with worship of the Lord of our lives. May every act of service be one of authentic worship to the One who saved us from the pit and put a royal crown on our heads.
My writing, for now, is what I have to offer. I pray that it be a fragrance to His feet.
As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. (Psalm 42:1)