Shortly before Jesus was crucified, a woman named Mary poured a bottle of expensive perfume on His feet. Then, in what may have been an even more daring act, she wiped His feet with her hair (John 12:3). Not only did Mary sacrifice what may have been her life’s savings, she also sacrificed her reputation. In first-century Middle Eastern culture, respectable women never let down their hair in public. But true worship is not concerned about what others think of us (2 Sam. 6:21–22). To worship Jesus, Mary was willing to be thought of as immodest, perhaps even immoral.
Some of us may feel pressured to be perfect when we go to church so that people will think well of us. Metaphorically speaking, we work hard to make sure we have every hair in place. But a healthy church is a place where we can let down our hair and not hide our flaws behind a façade of perfection. In church, we should be able to reveal our weaknesses to find strength rather than conceal our faults to appear strong.
Worship doesn’t involve behaving as if nothing is wrong; it’s making sure everything is right—right with God and with one another. When our greatest fear is letting down our hair, perhaps our greatest sin is keeping it up.
Search me, God, and know my heart. . . . See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23–24.
Our worship is right when we are right with God.
Worship can be an intensely personal and yet very corporate experience. We can worship alone, with a small group of friends, and with our local body of believers. Some of us dance, others raise their hands, some close their eyes and bow heads in reverence. There are many ways in which we can praise and worship God.
Mary offered her financial stability—pouring a very expensive perfume over Jesus, her physical being—using her own hair to wipe His feet, and her reputation—letting hair down was not something a “respectable” woman did in ancient cultures. Mary worshiped Jesus with everything she had. She knew who Jesus was and what He had done for her (He had just raised her brother from the dead; see John 11). Her worship was a response.
That’s what worship is—responding to who Jesus is and what He has done. How do you worship? How can you share your worship with another?