In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy. 1 Timothy 2:8
A room filled with anger, agitation of the soul, violent emotion and indignation. Not a place I’d like to hang out. The word Paul uses for anger describes a reaching out with excitement. You can tell Paul is having some fun with wordplay as he is saying in essence, “Before you reach up to heaven in passionate worship you have to reach out to your neighbor who you want to strangle.” Paul is not describing a bar brawl or a bunch of drunk fans at a football game. He is describing the church gathering, “every place of worship”. Whether that be in homes or the temple we can’t lift holy hands to heaven if we haven’t washed our hands from the hellish ways we have been treating each other. Jesus puts it this way, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24). Paul doesn’t stop with anger. He then calls the Christian worshiper on our tendency to crave controversy. The original Greek literally commands us to not give ourselves “unto discussion of doubt”. Paul is describing an inward discussion that often makes it's way outward through gossip. I picture thought bubbles like in a comic book that reveal all of the inward deliberating and questioning, doubting and disputations that are going on in our heads while our lips sing “How Great Is Our God.” Jesus said it this way, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8).
Paul is asking us to clean the house before we come into God’s house. In a culture that has given free rein to rage and has built a multi-million dollar industry on exploiting controversies, the people of God are being asked to live holy, set apart. That’s why Paul reminds us our hands are connected to our hearts and minds. God doesn’t look at the outward appearance, but he looks at the heart. It’s very clear that worship starts way before we get to church. I honestly think some of the greatest spiritual warfare happens on the way to church. It might look something like this: Getting the kids ready while they are running around like crazies, getting the coffee off the shirt you just put on for church, getting that argument about the bills out of your mind while trying to find parking, getting those words out of your mind when someone parks in your spot and sits in your seat, getting that rumor out of your mind that a fellow believer shared with you about the worship leader. By the time the worship set starts your brain is filled with anger and controversy, your heart is hardened, your hands may be lifted but they are far from holy because holy hands require a holy heart.
Lord, you aren’t interested in a man going through the motions. You’re calling me to deal with my emotions. To forgive, to seek out reconciliation, to pray for those around me. I love to worship You and You have reminded that worship starts long before I ever get to church! I pray for unity in Your church. That we would worship as one because pursue the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace by getting real about what’s really going on inside. May the words on my lips match the thoughts and intentions of my heart for You see and hear it all. Every place of worship is every place I go to. Every place I go is a choice to give in to anger and controversy or seek out forgiveness and speak only truth.