Why Worship God?

What kind of God would require people to worship him?

Q. My brother, although raised as a Christian, is now both an ex-Scientologist and an agnostic. He asked me this question: "What kind of God would require worship?"

—Karen Wright, Virginia Beach, Virginia

A. In an episode of The Simpsons Homer is asked a similar question. He replies, "God is very powerful, but also very insecure, like Barbra Streisand before James Brolin."

If you picture God as being like a giant human being, that makes sense. But in the Bible, the main thing people who've encountered God say is that he's the opposite of ordinary humans. He's holy. Those who meet him say, "You've never experienced anything like this before. It made my hair stand on end."

Their first reaction seems to be fear, since the first thing they are told is usually "Do not fear." Then, as they continue to stand in God's presence, they become overwhelmed with awe and love, and they start seeing their own failings very clearly. Strong light makes long shadows. Isaiah sees God "high and lifted up" and reacts, "Woe is me!" Peter sees Jesus perform a miracle and falls to his knees saying, "I am a sinful man."

That's what people who have "been there" report: God is "other," he's inexpressibly wonderful. When you experience him, you suddenly see how much you need to change. And that's worship in a nutshell. God doesn't command us to do this; it's more like he warns us that this is what will happen. Get ready, because his presence is going to knock you over. I hope your brother will continue to evolve and soon become an ex-agnostic.

Frederica Mathewes-Green is the author of The Illumined Heart (Paraclete Press).

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May 25

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