As a christian, I believe that whatever I do, I should do it for the glory of God. That is, I should not be pointing at myself to make myself look better, but pointing always to God, giving him the credit for all the good things he has given me and enabled me to do.
So if everything I do should be pointing to the greatness of God, this must include the words out of my mouth, right? The conversations I have with others, what I write in texts, emails,essays, blogs, tweets and good old fashioned letters. And, the words I use when I'm singing.
I'll happily be the first to admit that often I spend probably too long analysing the words of worship songs, for their theological accuracy when I should be concentrating on the reason I'm there singing them in the first place! It strikes me that if there were some words I did not entirely understand, or wasn't in exact concordance with, I might be more reluctant to sing them with such sincerity and joy.
On the whole however, in terms of what we say, it's easy to make God the most important thing using the words we sing in church; the songs we use are written for this specific purpose!
But here's the big question; If I pay so much attention to the words I sing in church,what about the words of the songs we sing when we enjoy the highlights of our ipods, listen to the radio, dance in clubs, or perform on stage?
It would certainly, certainly be too extreme to suggest in any way that Christians should not be listening to or singing along with secular music, but recently I have found my integrity challenged in this area; not in terms of what I listen to but in terms of what I sing.
Jamie Cullum performed an excellent version of George and Ira Gerswin's 'It aint necessarily so' alongside a company of superb brass musicians. However tounge in cheek, the song throughout details various episodes from the bible, suggesting 'the things that you're liable, to read in the bible, it aint necessarily so'. Asides the blatant theological issue with this, I have to say I love the song's lyrics, which include these diamond lines.
'Jonah he lived in a whale
He made his home in
A fish's abdomen
Jonah he lived in a whale'
In light of a conversation on this subject earlier in the week, I considered my hypothetical self in the position of Jamie Cullum singing 'it aint necessarily so'.
For me to sing the song's major hookline...would that be to compromise my belief that the bible is God's word,true from start to finish and the number one way that we can know God? Or by choosing not to sing these words am I embracing a new form of legalism and undermining the freedom I have as a christian living under grace? The short answer is I just I don't know.
Perhaps out of any songwriter I can think of at the moment, I have been enjoying Frank Turner's lyrics the most. (I'm listening to his album 'Love Ire and Song' as I tap away on my trendy blackberry). His are certainly songs which require lashings of gusto and a level of lyrical sincerity to capture the spirit in which they were written. Having seen him live, there aren't really any half measures when it comes to the yelling of this line from an excellently crafted song called 'The Ballad of me and my friends'.
'and we're definitely going to hell but we'll have all the best stories to tell'
On Sunday night I singing was alongside a friend at a party providing some fairly rough and ready light entertainment for mostly close friends and their families. After some consideration I actually chose not to sing the aforementioned song, letting Sian work her magic solo. It's certainly not a song about the great hope we have as christians; and although singing other people's songs often involves an element of theatre, I made the call that for me to sing it with enough conviction and sincerity to perform would be impossible. Asides the witness of the words coming out of my mouth, singing the song, would possibly be to compromise my core beliefs as a christian and the spirit in which the song was written.
Having said this, realising a while later on the dancefloor that the pussycat dolls 'Buttons' and indeed most other songs that I love to dance to have lyrics with implications far from God's best plan for my life! So then am I not to dance, the response of a couple of Amish people I watched on a culture clash style television programme a while ago. I think not, for I would presumably have to sit alone in my room all night and day listening to Tim Hughes (a well known christian songwriter)or silence!
So where do we draw our lines in the sand? Do we? If performing perhaps to sing songs alongside a disclaimer, or to count it all fun and games and to put the discussion to rest. After all, we are in the midst of a diverse world created by God in his image, we are to live in love with all people, and this must include involvement with and embracing the creativity produced by the experiences and emotions of others?
But then if as christians we are to be 'in the world but not of it', 'living up to what we have already attained' letting our yes be yes and our no be no, doesn't our new life demand this radical stand against all that God hasn't planned for his people?
The most important thing is that of course, under grace, this discussion is perhaps pointless. These questions are not asked so that I can behave right, do all the right things and ultimately earn favour and forgiveness from God. They are asked from an already righteous stand point before God, because of what he has done for me. This isn't about following rules, in black and white, but looking at the cross, and learning to respond, asking 'how can I best glorify God with my life?'
All these decisions about what I will and will not sing are decisions not based on any rules in seemingly the greyest of areas. Neither are they specific to the issue of singing on stage. I could only ever sing christian songs but still use my mouth in gossiping about friends behind their backs, just as I could buy fair trade chocolate and tea but decline to lend a moment's attention or penny to a homeless person I pass in the street. I know there is much more to say on the matter.
This is the way I'm challenged and should continue to be challenged my whole life. Of course the answer to the above question is no, but in light of God's undeserved kindness to me, there is no need to want to carry on in the old way of living, the governing disposition of my spirit is a will to live for the greatest cause I know.
As with all choices about what I will say, how I will act and how I will respond to various situations, my question should not be 'what can or can't I do so that God won't be angry with me' but 'does what I'm doing or saying match up to the salvation and amazing status as a child of God that I have already been given?'
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