I am finally resuming my reading of Calvin’s Institutes. This isn’t a summary, but some thoughts provoked by what I read in chapter XII of Book 1.
When we ascribe service and honour to anything or anyone other than God, we dishonour God (I. xii. 1). We are spreading his worship among lesser gods. Calvin contends that this is so, even when our words honour the one true God. What we do often exalts other things.
Calvin uses the example of the veneration of saints and angels (I. xii. 2). People with a Roman Catholic or Orthodox heritage might find this a live issue. I don’t, so I am thinking of what things I spend myself serving and honouring, honour and service which belong to God alone.
This is not easily discerned.
In the very least, I found one thing very useful. Calvin points out that, in the original Bible languages, “honour” and “servitude” were both used to describe worship (I. xii. 2). Both words are used for true worship of the living God and false worship of men and other created things (I. xii. 3). Worship is honour and service.
Worship is more than what comes out of my mouth. It is who and what I spend myself for. So, who or what am I enslaved to? What will I simply not say no to? What are the “givens” in my life? What does the rest of my life bend for?
A person? Work? Home? Children? Body size? Leisure? Food? Travel? Major life events (wedding, baby, moving house)? Study? An idea? Comfort and pleasure?
If my whole life is geared to circle around something other than God, then my words of honour to him are lies. I am scattering what belongs to him to lesser gods.
Let’s lay it in concrete. Jesus identifies himself with his people (eg. Matt 25:31-46, Acts 9:1-4, Eph 4:1-16. Honouring and serving Jesus will largely express itself in how we treat people who belong to him.
If I say Jesus is Lord, I love him, I worship him, he is my priority, but then don’t gear the details of my life around serving him as I am knit together with his people, then my words don’t make sense. I am honouring him with words, but serving something else.
Which parts of my life rarely bend for Jesus’ people? Does work, home beautification, gym, a consuming hobby, extensive travel abroad, study, self indulgence habitually stop me from being in frequent, regular relationship with a particular gathering of Jesus’ people? (If you have been reading long enough, you will know I am not referring to just a Sunday service and midweek Bible study!).
At the same time, I am encouraged. If these wonderful parts of life do bend to serve and obey the true and living God, by serving Jesus’ people, then they are a part of true worship (Romans 12).
You can find other posts on Calvin’s Institutes here. (I still need to update some links from Meredith and Wendy’s blogs, until I do-soon, I hope-you might want to have a look directly at their blogs for their Calvin posts).