In Every Culture
There are hundreds of music styles in the world today. The throaty singing of the Inuits in Greenland, the classical music of the European world, the steel drum calypso style from the Caribbean, and the country music of the southern United States are just a few examples.
While the styles vary, it’s interesting that music is a part of every culture. This shows that music is an inherent part of how God created us as humans. How should Christians be using this beautiful gift from our Creator? In other words, what role should music play in a Christian’s life?
What is Music?
The subject of music has often been a hot topic in Anabaptist circles and there is a plethora of opinions on the topic. However before we come to any conclusions, we must take a look at what music actually is and what Scripture has to say about it.
Webster defines music as “the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.” But music is not just a collection of orderly sounds. In fact, music goes beyond the power of words and I don’t think that we will ever completely understand it or be able to describe it adequately.
Andrew Fletcher, a Scottish political activist who lived during the second half of the fifteenth century, understood this and said, “Let me write the songs of a nation – I don’t care who writes its laws.” Music is a powerful communication tool that has the ability to set a mood, affect a person’s emotions, and even alter a person’s heart rate! Music can be a controlling force in a person’s life because it connects with them at a soul level.
In the Word of God
Since music is such an important part of how God created us, it should not surprise us that the Bible has a good deal to say about it. In fact, there are hundreds of references to music in the Bible and the largest book of the Bible is its book of songs (Psalms). Throughout Scripture we find examples of godly people who praised God through music and singing. This list includes a lot of the most famous biblical characters: Moses, the children of Israel, David, Solomon, Paul, and even Jesus and his disciples. While there are many different circumstances and uses of music in the Bible, the majority of the time these godly characters used their music as a form of worshipping and praising God.
However, these godly examples are not the only Scriptural support for music. The simple fact that so many songs are recorded in the Bible shows us the importance that God places on musical expression!
There are also clear commands about singing. Here is just one of the many commands to sing in the book of Psalms, “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!” (Psalm 96:1). The New Testament also commands us to sing. “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,” (Eph. 5:19). Music is clearly a wonderful way for us to worship God, and it appears that a true Christian is one who sings!
Coming from the Heart
Music is a very powerful communication tool and does have an important place in the life of a Christian. Here are three important principles for a Christian’s music. The first is – Make your own. We live in a culture of consumers where music is increasingly used as something for the listener’s benefit rather than as a creative expression of worship for God. Many people listen to hundreds of songs each year and yet they rarely sing along and don’t even consider writing a song themselves. While listening to music can be a good form of entertainment, one cannot praise God by simply listening to it.
If we want to praise God through music our hearts need to be participating in some way. This can be as simple as turning our focus towards God as we listen, but participation often involves an external expression as well. As we have already seen, the Bible calls everyone to “sing,” not just to listen. True worship comes from the heart, and a heart of worship will cause us to use our voices and talents to create music that praises our Creator.
It Does Matter
The second principle is – The type of music we listen to does matter. Some songs are clearly good and some are clearly evil but there is a lot of gray area in between. Trying to figure out where to draw the line between good and bad music is a centuries-old discussion. Because evaluating music is such a difficult task, some people are tempted to throw up their hands and say, “There’s no way we’ll ever be able to know and so it doesn’t matter.”
This is not true. Just because we may not be able to draw clear lines on this issue does not mean that it doesn’t matter. We cannot naively listen to whatever we want and expect to be unaffected. Christians are called to live intentionally in every area of their lives, and music is far too powerful to be treated without discretion. I find it disturbing that many Anabaptist youth often listen to music that glorifies sin instead of God, but since the point of this article is not about where the lines should be drawn, I’ll simply say this – we must not be passive on this issue. The music we listen to must be evaluated carefully before we allow it to soak into us.
The Glory of God
And finally, the principle that sums everything up – music must be used for the glory of God. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). A Christian’s purpose in life is to please God in everything that he does. The music that he listens to and participates in should be no exception to this rule.
What is the role of music in the life of a Christian? God created music as a powerful and positive tool and it clearly should be a part of the Christian’s life. Yet the fact that there is bad music means that we cannot afford to be passive consumers. Christians should be enjoying the beauty of this God-given gift and using it in ways that glorify Him and advance His kingdom while remaining on guard against music that will affect their spiritual life negatively. I challenge you to carefully consider the music that you are allowing into your life.
|Troy Stauffer’s home lies just outside of Hershey, PA (the sweetest place on earth) but he is currently living in Indiana, serving as the men’s resident adviser of Elnora Bible Institute. He is 22 years old, the eldest child with four brothers and one sister. Here are a few of his favorite things: sports, ice cream, gas below $2/gallon, being with friends, videography, strategy games, water scenery, electronics, math, a perfect trial balance, singing, playing piano, music in general, and most of all Jesus Christ.