Friday, December 08, 2006

In the world, but...

What does it mean to be in the world, and not of it? This verse may be one of the most controversial verses in scripture, with so many different interpretations of what it means to actually be in the world, but not of it. This is also a crucial question when it comes to Christian musicians, especially those appealing to a secular audience, but also those in the CCM industry. As this is one of the most important questions in this 3-part series look at what Christian music is, I saved it for last.

Jesus told us to be in the world but not of it. When I interpret this verse, I look at it as our obviously being in this world, living in a worldly home, but not conforming to this world. But what does it mean to not conform to this world? I believe this means not fitting in, not being "just like everyone else" and most importantly not conforming to the standards of this world. What does this include? I believe this is a call for all Christians to be different from those who don't believe not only in attitude, faith and beliefs, but also in looks and convictions. Let me explain.

Many Christian musicians believe that in order for them to actually have any form of success, or for them to be accepted by the mainstream audience and thus minister to them, they have to look, sound and even act like them. Billy Grahm tried this when he grew his hair long, trying to appeal to a certian people. The apostle Paul, in Corinthians talks about this subject and he says that he was everything to all peoples, to the Jews, he was a Jew, to the Gentiles a Gentile, to those without the law, as without the law. So, does this justify our becoming like unto the world?

Far from it! People should be able to look at us as Christians and clearly be able to tell that we are in fact Christians, that we are different, that we are not "just like everyone else." I believe this should apply not only to our language and sex life but also to our looks and appearances. The Bible refers to our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit. What does this say about tattoos and earrings? God did not intend for our bodies, His temple, to be a walking billboard. Just as the Jews would never think of spraypainting graffiti on the walls of the temple, I don't believe Christians should be putting ink into their bodies. The same goes for earrings. The Bible clearly speaks against excess jewelry (this isn't saying that necklaces and bracelets are of the devil) and this, together with the passage against marring your body (don't even tell me poking holes in your body isn't defacing it) would prohibit earrings.

Now, I am not saying we should all wear uncool clothing and part our hair to the right and wear polo shirts all day. God forbid. Music plays a large roll in youth's lives, and if they see us as weirdos who wear pocket protectors (ok, so that's an exaggeration) they won't want to listen to us and claim that we can't relate to them. But, that doesn't mean we have to be like them and stick holes in our noses and dye our hair pink. If God wants to use us, by golly, He can use some geek in pink with a pocket protector! We need to demonstrate our faith in Him, and not conform to this world.

I believe that Christian musicians largely fail in this area. You will be hard-pressed to find a group with no tats and piercings. Some claim they are just being artistic, not trying to be bland. But using the scriptural arguments above, I believe there are plenty of Biblical ways of being artistic with our appearance without shoving needles in our body!

So, in summary of this series:
I think Christians should be strongly cautioned in listening to secular music. I am not saying that all secular music is wrong and evil, God can use it for His good and you can find some worth listening to, but it would almost be better to err on the side of caution, especially if you have a weakness in this area. There are several artistic Christian artists (Delirious? in particular). However, this should also be a wakeup call to those steeped in the Christian music industry to venture outside of their comfortable box/bubble and use their God-given talents to the fullest, to be creative, innovative, expressive. Let your music (not just the lyrics) show God's glory (include some wicked guitar riffs...).

As far as lyrics are concerned, Christian musicians need to continue offering great melodies for the Church, but also be sure to address the practical issues of life. One of my early blog posts (Feb. 7, 2006) took a look at artists who do so....but the list is short and the artists limited. Suicide, depression, sex, anorexia, divorce, loss, school, jobs-- all of these need to be addressed from a Biblical perspective, because if they aren't, Christians are going to look elsewhere.

And finally, as to Christian musicians who venture into the mainstream market: Their intentions and motivations need to be pure. Why are they doing so? Is it simply to make more money or is it to make a difference in someone's life? Their lyrics need to completley moral and relavant, while at the same time don't have to have Jesus in every line. But you should clearly be able to see the positive themes, and the music should always point to Christ. The artists cannot shy away from their faith, but instead must be bold and be a strong witness for Christ. But I believe this is a valid calling for reach an unreachable people with the love of Christ through a relavant

I hope this series has been helpful to you. Please let me know what you think!
Zachary Foster


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