My granddaughter Lucy recently learned to wink.  She shows everyone her new skill and everyone winks back at her.  It gives everyone a chuckle.

But depending where you are (and “when” you are) and depending on who is winking and who is being winked at, winking can carry very different meanings.

We wink to indicate that there was irony, teasing, or an inside joke.  Winking can also be flirtatious with a wide spectrum of intentions.  Flirtatious winking can be casual and silly.  It can also be egregiously vulgar and insulting.
In some West African cultures, adults wink to get children to leave a room.
In ancient Israel a wink indicated the plotting of evil (Ps. 35.19, Prov. 6.13, 10.10).

Winking is one small form of body language.  I could have used many examples –forms of greeting, ways to point at things, ways to hand things to people, ways to sit, uses of the eyes – as all of these things differ from culture to culture.
Body language is more caught than taught; it is almost intuitive – until you cross cultures.  When people use body language differently than we “learned”, it is easy to miscommunicate, misread, and misunderstand.

Body language is, I believe, responsible for much of the conflict in the evangelical ‘worship wars’.

Traditional Christianity has seen worship as a matter of revering God’s highness (transcendence).  All of the body language is designed to communicate reverence for God and humility before God.  It is a body language of “reserve” – stillness, silence, self-control, sobriety.

Evangelicalism’s Holy Spirit movement sees worship more as the celebration of God’s nearness (immanence).  The body language is designed to communicate excitement and joy in God’s presence.  It is the language of celebration – energy, clapping, cheering.

To the traditionalist, contemporary worship seems like an out-of-control free-for-all – more like a wild concert or a party than the worship of the high and holy sovereign God.

To the lover of contemporary worship, traditional worship seems emotionally stifled, overly pessimistic, and lacking any genuine feeling toward God.

Our struggle is how we read people in the social context of worship because we read hearts through what bodies are doing – and we either express differently than another or we find certain expressions ‘inappropriate’.
God can see the heart apart from the body.

Perhaps our mistake is trying to limit worship to one pole or the other?
Perhaps we should be seeking more of a both/and instead of an either/or?
Perhaps there is a time to explode with celebration of praise at God’s work among us and other times to be still, soft, and sober as we contemplate God’s highness?




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