I have given them Your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth.
-John 17:14-19, HCSB
Many of you have seen my new feature “Music & Theology” (EDIT: Now referred to as “Musical Faith” on MDMRN.com) It was new toward the end of 2013 and (apart from last week) I have been writing a weekly piece throughout 2014. But why. Why am I writing about the theological implications of modern music? To what aim am I writing these articles. Let’s discuss.
First, we are living in this world even if we are not of this world. Christ said in John 17 that we are not of this world and that the world may hate us. That said, He also said we are not to be taken immediately from this world. We still live here, even when we are citizens of Heaven. We are responsible to live in this world and share the truth of God’s Word. This means we live in a world which is filled with music we may not always agree with or like. Like it or not, that is what is around us in this world. I’d prefer a world filled with the new hope and physical presence of God always around that we see in end times, but we’re not there yet. We have to learn to live in this world and we are surrounded by the music/things of this world.
Second, we need to have discernment when we listen to music. We are not merely meant to absorb music and regurgitate it out. We should pay attention to what we hear. Straight Outta Compton (NSFW lyrics) by NWA has a classic old school beat with great lyrical flow by Ice Cube, but do I relate to someone who “…since I was a youth, I smoked weed out…” or “…[takes] a life or two, that’s what the h*ll I do.” I don’t like how he’s living if that’s how he’s living. It’s not a God honoring life. They are not God honoring lyrics. The beat may be great, but the lyrics are vile. Not something I should be bopping along to and singing around my kids.
Thirdly, this can provide an opening to talk with others about Jesus. The world is listening to popular music, even if many in the Christian community are being insular listening to only music with overt Christian themes. Knowing what the world is listening to provides us opportunities to witness, to share our story, and to be able to relate to others. Knowing what the Word says about topics is one thing. Being able to apply it to today’s modern hits shows that you’re paying attention to the things the rest of world does, but are viewing it from a different lens. They may not always agree with that lens you are using, but if you go about it respectfully they will generally respect your views and hear you out. As I said before, by explaining why “The Man” by Aloe Blacc is incredibly catchy, but arrogant we can explain that the Lord (like most of us) does not like arrogance (Proverbs 16:5, Proverbs 26:12, Romans 12:3) allowing us to share our witness of Christ.
Fourthly, it helps me understand my faith better. By forcing myself to defend it, analyze music in regards to it, it’s helping me understand the Bible and Christianity better. For me, this is worthwhile endeavor. If others find it beneficial, then that’s even better!
Finally, and importantly, we need to engage the world. This feels like a rehash of my previous comments, but even if it is – it needs to be repeated. As followers of Christ, we need to engage the culture. One way to do so is through music. We have musical talent who are doing so all the time. That said, we need to engage through understanding what everyone else is listening to, what other people are watching. Whatever you find interesting in the world, find a way to relate it to Christ. Try for a moment. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth repeating, it’s worth considering, it needs to be considered.
If we don’t present the gospel to the lost in the world, they’ll get their own warped version or no version at all. We need to share Jesus with others. We need to engage the culture. We need to pay attention to what we’re listening to. We need Jesus.