As the semester comes to a close, it is no surprise to find the chapel crowded with students trying to reach the 30-credit requirement. The new expectation for chapel attendance announced early this semester was unexpected and upsetting to many. Reflecting on early complaints regarding the change (some have faded but others have lingered), I am both troubled and convicted.
As a part of an institution committed to exalting the Triune God and charged with the responsibility of graduating individuals marked by their Christian character, I struggle to understand why we are burdened by this form of worship. It is a call to the members of the Gordon community to reevaluate our posture toward a just God deserving of our praise. Many of us have fallen into the trap of viewing our daily activities, including worship, as inconveniences rather than acts of rendering God His due.
In His work, City of God, Saint Augustine of Hippo elaborates on this concept. He describes two cities—the City of Man and the City of God—each characterized by the type of love displayed by its citizens. In the City of Man, love is directed toward the individual and nature, resulting in selfish praise and sacrifice. In the City of God, the citizens love their Creator. There is “only godliness, which offers due worship to the true God, and looks for its reward in the society of the saints, of holy angels as well as holy men, that God may be all in all.” Augustine’s language frames worship and all other actions as offering God His due as Creator. God does not need our acts of worship (Hosea 6:6). He is a just God who desires to show His people mercy as they worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23). A citizen of the heavenly city expresses love for true justice with a worshipful heart.
Augustine’s two cities may seem like outdated models of Christian living. However, believers would benefit from considering this framework. We should regard our actions as a means of giving God what He is due, not just during our time at Gordon, but in every daily affair. Whether it is through completing homework assignments, working in Lane, or attending Chapel, we should approach our responsibilities as opportunities to serve our Savior and love our neighbor. Far too many of us at Gordon fall into a habit of doing things for the sake of getting them done, or even worse, for our own glory. We act as citizens of the earthly city, prioritizing love of self and human definitions of justice. I believe Augustine would charge us at Gordon to live in a state of constant sacrifice to the Lord.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul asserts that Christians should present themselves as living sacrifices to the Lord, holy and acceptable (Romans 12:1). In the context of worship, how often do we present ourselves in this way?
As Paul continues in his letter:
“I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:3-5).
Just as Christ sacrificed his body and life to us, the Church must worship as one body in sacrifice to Him.
As complaints about the chapel credit requirement resurface, members of the Gordon community should be ready to respond with a hunger for true worship. God expects nothing more than for us to live for Him (Mark 12:30). He has purchased us at the greatest price (1 Corinthians 6:20). He has paid for all of our sins (1 Peter 2:24). He has adopted us into His eternal family and has a room prepared for us (John 14:2). God has already saved us and justice has been satisfied.
In response to these truths, we should become less preoccupied with perceived inconvenience, seeking instead to render to God what is God’s (Mark 12:17). Let us live as citizens of His heavenly city.