Should Christians walk the labyrinth? There are many solid and well-respected Christians who disagree on this issue. Below are five reasons that are given for Christians to not walk labyrinths. Along with explanations for why those arguments should be reconsidered
#1 Labyrinths are not found in the Bible.
This is absolutely true. There is no mention of a labyrinth being used in Christian worship in the Bible at all. There is also no mention of church buildings, organs, Bible journals, and devotionals either – yet all these things can be helpful tools in developing our relationship with God.
The earliest use of a labyrinth in a church is from the fourth century. Thus, they have been apart of Christian worship for over 1,700 years. When Christians walk the labyrinth, we follow in the footsteps of centuries of Christians who have gone before.
#2 Labyrinths are used by non-Christians in their worship.
This is true as well. Many different types of labyrinths have been found all over the world and from many different times. Some labyrinths are used in pagan and new age traditions. Moreover, some of these new age teachers also claim to be Christian.
Non-Christians use pews in their worship spaces. Non-Christians use candles in their worship ceremonies. Just because non-Christians use something does not mean it cannot be faithfully used by Christians.
Advent wreaths and Easter Lilies adorn our worship spaces. None of these additions to our worship times are found in scripture either. We recognize, however, that these are tools and nothing more. They do not help us have sound theology in and of themselves. We have to discern for ourselves if our worship is of the lights or the One True Light, Jesus Christ.
To be clear – a Labyrinth is just lines on the ground. When asking ourselves “should Christians walk the labyrinth,” we must remember a labyrinth only has the meaning and power that we give to it.
#3 Labyrinths are a part of the New Age movement affecting the church.
Discernment is always needed in the Christian life. Satan likes to take the truth and shift it slightly off center to lead us astray. We can also be lead astray by legalism and fear as well.
Without question, we do need to be wise about new age ideas in the church. To illustrate, there is a difference between Eastern Meditation and godly meditation as spoken about in the Bible. Moreover, as Christians, we quiet our minds to hear the still small voice of God. Although we recognize that as Christians we have asked Christ into our hearts, we certainly do not look into ourselves for answers or seek God in ourselves. In simpler terms, God is God and we are NOT.
Any ideas that we have about the labyrinth, and any metaphors for it, must arise from faithful Christian imagery. For some, it echoes the pilgrimage walk that Medieval Christians took instead of the long trek to Jerusalem. For Christians today, it could represent to them the act of baptism & salvation with the journey in representing the death of self and the pathway out representing new birth.
#4 Labyrinths are living by sight, not by faith.
Usually, Gotquestions.org is sound and spot on with their articles. Rarely, do I find one with which I disagree. Their disagreement with the Christian use of labyrinths was one I really considered seriously. One of the arguments they make was that “…worship is not a sensuous, physical activity…” The focus on the spiritual, while disregarding the body, is the same heresy that the gnostics promoted centuries ago. We are not required to engage all of our senses in worship, but we do engage a lot of our senses in worship.
Christian worship is known for our singing! So much of the Bible is put to music. We express our joy and our sadness in song. Voices beautiful and flat all join together to express our worship to God. We recognize the power of song to focus our wandering hearts on God. Can we sometimes fall victim to worshiping the music and not the Composer of the Universe? Absolutely!
We like our worship spaces to be beautiful. Our spaces are decorated to inspire – be it with intricate stained glass, soaring wooden beams, worship banners or even screens. Primarily, these visual images reinforce scenes from the Bible or spiritual truths. The design of our worship spaces transforms a room into a special place in which we feel a stronger connection to God. Undoubtedly, we know that God is present in all places, at all times. The visual design of a sanctuary is meant to focus us on the worship of God.
The grandeur of a cathedral can remind us of how small we are in comparison to God. On the other hand, the simplicity of a plain white rural church can inspire us to focus simple community of the early church. Granted Christians can speak to God and worship Him anywhere – but these visual aids set the stage for us to do so more easily in worship.
We use our bodies by standing in respect for the reading of the Gospel, lifting our hands in worship or dropping to our knees to pray. Walking forward to receive communion or going through the waters of baptism to become a Christian.
The act of walking the labyrinth is not necessary for me to pray. Clearly, I can pray at other times. However, walking the labyrinth in prayer is helpful to me. I am someone who needs help focusing and always has to be doing something. Engaging my body in the activity of walking forces me to be present in that space and to slow down. Certainly, physical engagement helps me to focus on prayer. When Christians walk the labyrinth, we are simply going on a prayer walk.
Teachers know the power of play-dough in a child’s hands that can help them pay attention and focus on what is being said. As a culture, we talk about how our schools disadvantage our boys by requiring too much stillness and seated time. In the same way, how might physical movement in our prayer time aid our boys, our men, our members with ADD/ADHD, and just those who are plain tired?
Jesus Himself set forth the command of worship that engaged our sense of taste. When we eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of Him, we are fulfilling the command that he gave at the Last Supper. Admittedly, I have a hard time drinking Welch’s grape juice outside of worship and not feeling like I am somehow doing something wrong! In an instant, the distinctive Welch’s taste takes me to communion.
For many, the use of smell in worship is less common. I remembering getting ready to go into Maundy Thursday services one year and walking past the assembled Easter Lilies waiting for their turn on Sunday morning. The encounter was jarring because their smell was reserved for the Resurrection and we were getting ready to remember the Lord’s death. In the times of the Jewish temple, incense was used in worship. Incense is still a part of some Christian traditions, including the orthodox tradition. Naturally, the incense is not worshiped, but just like the communion juice – when our senses perceive them, our hearts are called to prayer.
#5 The Labyrinth is a ritual.
We should not worship rituals as Christians, but rituals can help us worship. When God laid out the proper order of worship for the tabernacle and then for the temple, He was very detailed. Indeed, as Christians, we have a great deal of flexibility and freedom in how to worship.
Indeed, we should not be enslaved to rituals, but rituals can also be helpful. In my congregation, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper in keeping with the weekly remembrance celebrated by the first Christians in the Bible. There are many ways to celebrate communion; even so, the act each week helps us to remember that we proclaim Christ Crucified and Christ Resurrected.
Parents try to establish bedtime routines for our children. These rituals of brushing their teeth and reading books, we hope will help train them to fall asleep faster. If we want to start exercising, we hope that if we put our shoes by our bed & lay out our workout clothes that it will make it easier to establish a ritual of getting up and moving. After all, the rituals are not the goals; they are simply the processes that help us focus our energies where we want them. Certainly, when Christians walk the labyrinth walking is the process but the goal is to talk with God.
Should Christians walk the labyrinth?
Above all, Christians need to pray more. We need to talk more to God and to listen to God. Definitely, our world needs us to pray that the Gospel would go forth with power and impact. We need to walk in the light of God.
Yet, we live in a world that is spinning out of control. People cannot hear the still small voice of God over the buzz of their electronics. We are so busy that we do not form meaningful relationships with one another or with God. We need to slow down and focus on what is important.
Should Christians walk the labyrinth? If a walkway on the ground can help us slow down in this chaotic, crazy world and fix our eyes on Jesus, then let us walk that path.