Even though Jesus prayed for his church to be one even as he and the Father are one, the church has always had problems, disagreements, disputes, factions, and fights. Paul dealt with the same exact disagreement in two different churches—both the church in Corinth and the church in Rome. It was an ongoing fight between meat-eating Christians and vegetarian Christians.
The vegetarians were judging the meat-eaters for eating meat that may have been used as a sacrifice to an pagan idol. The meat-eating Christians were despising the vegetarians for not being mature enough to know the foolishness in putting dietary restrictions on oneself for religious purposes. In addressing this pastoral problem with the church in Corinth, Paul begins by drawing on theological resources. He writes, “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that 'an idol has no real existence,' and that 'there is no God but one'" (1 Corinthians 8:4 ESV). He starts to address this church problem on theological grounds, specifically Jewish monotheism. We worship one God. For Paul, what it meant for God to be one had to be rethought and reimagined in the light of Jesus and the coming of the Spirit, but in the end the God of Christian worship is the worship of the one, true, living God, the God of Israel, the God of creation.
Theology matters. What we think and say about God matters. A temptation has always been alive in the church to reject theology because it is not practical. However the problem inherent in this temptation to make everything practical is itself driven by a theological problem. Those who want everything in the life of the church to be practical believe in a god who exists to meet my needs, fulfill my desires, and enable my plans. This god is not the God revealed through Christ by the Spirit. This is a modern god, an American god, a false god, a god whose every impulse is to give me what I want and let me do what I want to do.
This consumer-driven god is not the God worshipped by Christian saints throughout the ages. It is a false god. Theology always has practical implications, a way to live out what we believe, but the practicalities of the work of theology are the results of theological work and not the fuel for it. Worship itself is not practical, it is, in Marva Dawn’s words, a “royal waste of time.” Worship is however, connected to theology.
If we conjure up a faulty image of God in our minds, we will worship a faulty god, a wrong god, an idolatrous god. The worship of the wrong god fosters the sickness of sin, the very thing keeping us from being truly human. Giving devotion to a false gods lies at the root of personal sins and systemic sins affecting human culture.
When we worship the god of money, we experience greed.
When we worship the god of sex, we experience immorality.
When we worship the god of power, we experience domination.
When we worship the god of war, we experience violence.
When we worship the god of nation, we experience triumphalism.
When we worship the god of family, we experience apathy and isolation.
When we worship the god of success, we experience pride.
When we worship the god of self, we experience the black hole of narcissism.
Theology is not purely an academic subject. (It is that too!) Theology is what we think and say about God. It gives shape to our worship and worship shapes our lives, enabling us to remain trapped in a sub-human state or transforming us to become truly human.
The god you worship determines who you will become. What you give ultimate devotion and allegiance to has the power to form you into a certain kind of person. Worship the one, true, and living God and become whole, #trulyhuman, and fully alive. Worship one of these false gods and you will not only experience the destruction associated with them, you will become a person devoid of life.
When we worship the one God, the true and living God, we experience the life we were always searching for.