Music is a touchy subject, especially in the church. The reason is because it touches the hearts and lives of so many people. When speaking of “Christian” music we often think of the songs we use for worship: songs that are written to proclaim praise to Jesus Christ.
In high school I listened to rock-n-roll and even played guitar in several bands. In my late teen years, I remember listening to a preacher speak against all forms of rock music, even the Christian Rock genre. I went home scared to death and threw out all my cassette tapes and records. I also quit the band I was in. For several years I lived in bondage because I thought I would go to hell if I listened to any music that wasn’t hymns or gospel.
As the years passed, God opened my eyes to the theology of redemption and I came to a place where I could appreciate various musical genres without fear and anxiety. Music is a universal art; it transcends culture, language, and ethnic barriers. Music speaks a language that only the listener can interpret. This is why a room full of 1000 people can listen to a praise song in church and some be deeply moved and others get nothing out of it. It’s because they interpret the song differently depending on their cultural nuances and personal preferences. Art always has to be interpreted.
While in Bible College I was asked to join a Christian rock band. I did and it was one of the best musical experiences of my life. I met so many people who were completely committed to the cause of Christ, yet they didn’t look anything like the people where I attended church.
The band I played with went on to record a full length CD and open for larger acts that later became nationally known recording artists. Many of the people I met during this time in my life were completely devoted to God and committed to the advancement of the gospel.
At this point in my life I came to the conclusion that the preacher who talked me into throwing away my record collection was wrong. He was an extremist who interrupted God’s will for other people though his own biases. He was irresponsible with the gospel. My response to his message was based on fear and not redemption.
It’s one thing to respect the art created by secular artists, it’s another thing to endorse their lifestyle. For example, Jimmy Page is a phenomenal guitarist; however, I don’t know enough about his personal life to judge him on that level. All I know is that I appreciate the art he has created with an instrument that I love. That doesn’t mean I’m going to mimic his lifestyle. I would never endorse any form of art that belittles God, just as I would never watch a movie or buy a painting that is demeaning to God.
There are many examples. Denzel Washington is my favorite actor. He has some movies with incredibly powerful and redemptive storylines. However, he has other movies that I would never watch. I love the Pittsburgh Steelers, some of their players have disappointing habits off the field, but that doesn’t mean I’ll never go to Hines Field to watch a game or tune in when they’re playing on Sundays after church… #SteelerNation.
Every person has to live by their own convictions. Music and other forms of entertainment create a lot of joy. A concert or a sport event rallies the community. Arts and entertainment connect people from all walks of life. Community gatherings bring people together to laugh, sing, and experience something that they would never experience by themselves.
Points of connection resonate in the souls of human beings. The soul is the place where the art of music becomes transcendent (it gives me chills just thinking about the power of music and art). We are all inspired by different things. That is why personal conviction is so important. May we never be found guilty of judging another person based on personal preference, instead let’s strive to reach others with open hearts and open minds for the sake of Christ and his kingdom.