Liars in Perfect Harmony
This weekend I am working my way through Paul Little’s How to Give Way Your Faith for review and critique for my personal evangelism class. From what I have read thus far, there are some points which Little emphasizes that I appreciate and others where I see where we differ on soteriological grounds. But one place where we do not differ is the importance of having an authentic witness which involves more than the “gospel-pill” and “quick-fix” witnessing as he puts it. One paragraph that caught my attention has more to do with worship than evangelism, although there is definitely a relationship between the two. Here is what Little said:
“It has been observed, wisely I think, that hymns and choruses make liars of us all. We sing of glorious Christian experiences as though they were our very own, and yet they are not. Hymns of commitment are probably the ones most often sung without putting the words into action. When we mouth truths without thought or meaning, it leads us to accept an unreal experience as the norm. Without realizing it, we’re actually living a lie. It is lamentable that our rich heritage of Christian music may lead us to substitute a fiction for the real thing” (28). Emphasis mine.
How true is this statement! While I acknowledge that CCM and praise choruses have taken a beating lately (and mostly deserved), there is just as much (or more) a danger of singing as liars in perfect harmony than crying in one of those ‘Jesus is my girlfriend” choruses. Frankly, worship is dangerous these days, and I have often found myself struggling internally over songs with progressive key changes that evoke a lifted hand along with lyrics which find there reference point in my will rather than the unchanging, glorious character of God.
So what are we do to when songs are sung that say, “I will follow you all of my days” when you know you won’t? Or “I will worship, I will bow down, I will give you all of my praise,” when you know you aren’t? Or “In the presence of a thousand kings, you are my one desire,” when you know he isn’t? The songs are legion here, and inasmuch as they have become imbedded in our worship services, they have made liars out of us all.
Now it is incumbent for me to make a caveat here. I am NOT saying that we should not worship God and dedicate our lives to him, nor am I saying that since we are sinners who are saved by grace we should not sing songs that include passionate and emotional responses to God. After all, Scripture tells us that it is God who both wills and works in us according to his good pleasure. But in the same token, let us be mindful of David when he confessed, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being” (Psalm 51:6) and also prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). So as we consider what it means to worship God “in spirit and in truth,” I am longing to be truthful to myself. I don’t want to be a liar at any time, but especially not in worship to Him who “discern my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:2) and is intimately acquainted with all my ways! To have integrity in worship may mean that we keep our mouths shut during songs which do not convey the reality of our lives. After all, God is after the purity of hearts, not the harmony of our voices.
I realize that this is a touchy subject as “worship wars” has been ongoing my entire lifetime. I am not advocating a style of worship but rather a spirit of truth and a desire to be authentic in our worship and our witness. My prayer is that our affections would rise to the level of our affirmations, that the beauty and excellencies of Jesus Christ will find harmony in our worship and way of life which would prove to be much louder than words and a sweeter song in our Savior’s ears.
Most of us are not songwriters, but I guess you could say that every day of our lives could be “a hymn of praise” to God. If that is the case, then what song is being sung? If we, a people committed to the truth, being truthful to ourselves? To our fellow brothers and sisters? To our world? Or are we, as the song goes, singing:
I am a whore I do confess I put you on just like a wedding dress And I run down the aisle And I run down the aisle I’m a prodigal with no way home I put you on just like a ring of gold And I run down the aisle to you
May God find us as children in the kingdom that represent the King and His worth with truth on our lips, rooted in our hearts, and manifested in our lives.