Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rock and roll music

I had an interesting talk with Max last night on the way home from his youth group meeting.  The leader of his discussion time had challenged the kids to not listen to music by non-believers, or as he put it, "people who do not honor God with their lives."  I used to believe that way.  I don't any more.  I don't claim to know the right answer, but I know why I do what I do.
Mark 2:15. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.
16. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
17. On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (NIV)
Jesus was tempted, but never sinned.  I sin regularly.  That's an important distinction between Jesus and myself.  He could go to parties with these people and resist the temptations He faced.  Sometimes I give in to sin while I'm sitting in church listening to the sermon.  But after 37 years of life and 24 years of walking with Christ, I have a pretty good idea of which temptations I am particularly susceptible to and which have no appeal to me.  I know what types of situations I should avoid, and which I can withstand.
Matthew 15:10. After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, "Hear and understand.
11. "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man." (NAS)
If an activity leads you to sin, don't do it.  Regardless of everything else I say below.  This is the first, and most important point.  Don't use your liberty in Christ as an excuse to sin.

Rock and roll music doesn't lead me to sin.

Now, with that said, I think that the Christian life is a balancing act.  We are in the world, but not of the world.  We have to live here, but our hearts and treasures are to be set in heaven.  We have been called by God to reach out to sinners, but we have the duty to not be re-ensnared by their sin.
Philippians 4:8. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (NAS)
I used to avoid much of the world, like rock and roll music.  Now I avoid less.  I'm no great evangelist, but I think that now I am less of a stumbling block.

People who do not trust Jesus for their salvation are doomed, according to the Scriptures.  They are not doomed because of their sin.  They are doomed because of their lack of faith.  Their sin is part of the equation of their unbelief, but that's a long theological argument that is beyond the scope of this article.  But it is an important distinction that the real, fundamental problem is unbelief, not the other sins.

Yes, unbelief is a sin.  But my point is that God has called us to help them believe.  He did not call us to help them stop sinning.  If they believe and receive the Holy Spirit then He will help them stop sinning.  It is important that we understand this distinction.  The steps go in that order.  Belief first, and then stop sinning.

Therefore any arguments that we have with sinners, telling them to stop sinning, are completely counter-productive.  Telling a sinner to stop sinning is putting a stumbling block in front of them.
Romans 14:13. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 8:9. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (NIV)
Yes, that is a serious thing.  I commit a greivous and terrible sin when I tell a lady who enjoys the sin of gossip that God cannot love her until she stops gossiping.  That is not true.  God loves her right now.  He always has.  He always will.  She can come to Him and He will forgive her and wash her sin away.

It is a common saying among Christians that we should condemn sin and not sinners.  I disagree.  I've talked to lots of sinners and they cannot understand the distinction between sin and sinners.  When you condemn sin, sinners believe that you have condemned them.

If you want to lead people to Christ then stop condemning sin.  Focus on the love and acceptance of Christ.  Tell people that God loves them, just as they are.  Don't ignore sin, but don't condemn it.  The stance I take with sin is that once you accept God's love and begin to let that affect your heart and mind, many of the things that you enjoy now will no longer bring you joy.  And at the same time you will find new joys.  The old joys always had consequences--hang-overs, pain, frustrations, etc.  The new joys are more pure and have no consequences.

Most non-believers have heard enough from church people that they know that what they do is wrong.  They will ask.  If you get too close they will throw it in your face.  Be very careful what you identify as sin.

An honest and educated non-believer who is genuinely considering Christ will understand that they will have to stop sinning once they come to Christ.  They will think that they have to do it in their own strength.  They will think that they will be miserable without their pet sins.  Isn't that what you thought before you surrendered to Christ?  And you surrendered anyway.  So will they.  But...

They are making a list of things that they will have to give up.  They have that list on a scale, and Christ is on the other side of the scale.  DO NOT PUT ANYTHING ON THAT LIST THAT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THERE!

Adultery must be on the list.  Homosexuality has to be on the list.  Gossip has to be on the list.  Drunkenness must be there.  Stealing.  Pride.  Pornography.

Cigarettes should not be on that list.  Listening to rock and roll should not be on that list.  Having a beer with friends (distinct from drunkenness) should not be on that list.

Anything that doesn't belong on the list, but that gets there anyway, is a stumbling block our enemy is using to keep that person from surrendering to Christ.  One of our jobs is to remove non-sins from that list.  That's a job that we have historically ignored.
Luke 15:29. "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look ! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours ; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends ;
30. but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.'
31. "And he said to him, 'Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.
32. 'But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.' " (NAS)
And I would suggest that we should err on the side of liberality, if we have to err at all.  I will gladly spend time in heaven apologizing to a friend that I let him believe that he could keep his pet sin when he accepted Christ.  That is so much better than being unable to apologize to a person stuck in hell because he thought he would have to give up something that he didn't actually have to give up.

Where do you meet non-believers?  What do you talk about with them?

Go to the Louvre.  It's full of beautiful art.  Few of those artists lived lives that honored God.  And yet they made some beautiful art.  Pick a painting that you like.  Study it closely.  Drink it in and let yourself thoroughly enjoy it.  Did you sin?  Probably not.  But you have had a normal human experience that non-believers can relate to.

There is probably someone else looking at that painting, too.  They might be seeing and enjoying the same things you see.  But because they have a different past and different eyes there is a good chance that they see something different, too.  Ask them what they see.  Listen to them.  You might find something new in the painting that you had not seen before.  You might find something new in the human experience that you had not felt before.  Or you might find that their experience is not so different from your own.

You have now connected with this person.  You are open and vulnerable to them.  You hear what they are saying.  You hear who they are.  This is humanity.  This is how people relate to one another.  Welcome.  I'm glad you could join us here, even for a minute.

You don't have to go to the Louvre.  There is a world all around us, and a trillion non-sinful things that you can appreciate.  Pick one and appreciate it.  You will probably find a non-believer there who appreciates it, too.  Speak to them.  Listen to them.  Hear their joys and their fears.  Empathize with them.  You might earn the right to share the deeper things in your own heart.

I enjoy rock and roll.  I think Led Zeppelin's Kashmir is the greatest rock and roll song of all time.  I really enjoy the way it ebbs and flows.  It builds to a crescendo, and then continues.  I like the sounds and riffs.  I've listened to a lot of rock and roll, and Kashmir continues to impress me each time I listen to it.

I can talk to non-believers about music.  When they talk about songs they like, I know those songs.  Sometimes I can hum the melodies or recite some of the lyrics.  I don't have to say "you are acceptable", they understand that I'm human like them.  And at minimum they might say to themselves, maybe accepting Christ isn't the death-sentence of boredom that I feared it would be.
1 Corinthians 9:19. Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
20. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
21. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.
22. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
I've also found that most good rock and roll deals with the genuine feelings of the artists and listeners.  That genuineness is part of what makes the great artists stand out.  And many of those people have considered Christ and struggled with faith.  That comes out in their lyrics--not every lyric, but fairly often.  Some of it is just religious imagery, but some of it is honest struggle.  And even the conversation about whether this is honest struggle or religious imagery is an interesting conversation.  Dave Matthews, for instance, sings these lyrics in a song where he is struggling with his own angry emotions (from Time Bomb):
when everything starts to fall 
so fast that it terrifies you
when will you hit the wall
are you gonna learn to fly

no one would believe it
except for all the people
watching as you fly away

baby when I get home
I wanna pick up the pieces
hammer in the final nail
and lean me up against Jesus

baby when I get home
I wanna believe in Jesus
hammer in the final nail
help me pick up the pieces

baby when I get home
help me pick up the pieces
hammer in the final nail
I wanna believe in Jesus

1 comment:

  1. Well written, great points. I had many similar discussions with others in the past, on this subject.