The Lies We Sing

I have often said, and firmly believe, that we as Christians sing a much more faithful and robust faith than we teach. In part, I think that is why singing (and congregational acapella singing at that) is so critical to our worship services. Without the rich history of some of our best songs, our theology would be utterly bereft of any significance. But there is another, much darker, side to our singing. We sing far, far too many lies.

I suppose this post could end up being thousands of entries long, but here are just a few of some of the lies I think we sing – I don’t have a song book in front of me, so these are just off the top of my head –

“All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give . . .” Well, except for my checkbook, my political affiliation, my resentments, my anger, my racism, my hatred.

“It is well with my soul . . .” Well, maybe my soul, but not my IRA, my retirement, my house, my car, my kids, my marriage, my job, even my dog has issues.

“I stand in awe of you . . .” Never mind that the image of standing in awe is unbiblical – peoples in ancient cultures knelt or bowed or fell prostrate to show honor, respect and awe. The point is we don’t stand in awe of God. We have everything all figured out – scientifically, philosophically, sociologically, politically, militarily. It’s just that we are really, really, into that emotional high that standing up while we sing this song gives us.

“Jesus, let us come to know you . . .” Just don’t get to know me all that well, and seriously don’t make any uncomfortable demands on my life.

“Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to thee . . .” Wait, what?

“King of my life I crown thee now . . .” You’ve got to be kidding. God, you can be my co-pilot, but just sit over there and don’t you dare touch any of the controls.

“Just as I am, without one plea . . .” Well, I really dig the ‘just as I am’ part, but, God, regarding the request thing – do you have a minute, ’cause I have quite a few issues that you really need to deal with.

Sadly, I could go on. These are just a few of the songs that make me pause when I see the title or read a few of the lyrics. I’m not suggesting that we cannot sing these songs. It’s just that I have to be conscious that when I sing a song of praise or devotion, I am singing both to God and to my fellow Christians.

Am I singing the truth, or a lie? Obviously no man or woman is perfect, and we are not expected to live perfect lives before we come to worship. I don’t want to make too big of a mountain out of this – but still, it is troubling.

Do we really think about the meaning of the words as we sing them? Or do we just put our brain on autopilot and thoughtlessly mouth the words?

Let us ascend by climbing lower.

Author: Paul Smith

Paul Smith was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He holds the Bachelor of Science in Youth Ministry, Master of Biblical Studies and Master of Divinity, all from Abilene Christian University; and the Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Paul's passion is in teaching and preaching the gospel. Beyond the study of the Bible, his main academic interest is in the life and theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He is an unashamed mountain-goat, and longs to spend his time with his feet in a cold trout stream.

2 thoughts on “The Lies We Sing”

  1. Great post, and I say that as a student of hymns and theology. One possible caveat: A cultural way of showing respect in some places is to stand when older people, women, or (if in the military) higher ranking people enter the room. “I stand in awe of you” draws from that, but also reflects centuries in some Christian traditions where worshippers stood throughout the service, to include the sermon. However, I do think you hit a nail squarely on the head with the observation that we like the emotional high of standing for that phrase.

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    1. Thanks, Michael – I guess I should have added that I understand the *modern* application of standing in respect. I was unaware of the practice of standing during the entire service – boy, that would be an argument for shorter sermons! I guess my issue with that song, more than the standing, is the “standing in awe.” We stand in respect, we stand to honor (in certain circumstances) – but do we in the industrialized west even have a sense of *awe* anymore? I know I do when I go out on a moonless night and see the bazillion stars over my head, or when I gaze at the intricate beauty of a trout that I have just caught. I just feel very, very uncomfortable using the word “awe” when it comes to my worship. I control my worship, I plan it, I can even manipulate it to a certain degree. This is a personal confession here, but I am just very nervous using the word “awe” when it comes to our highly organized, highly structured, highly repetitive and highly predictable worship services. To me, if I stood in awe, I would expect God to blow all of those things out of the water. Oh, well, just some personal thoughts.

      As always, thanks for the gracious comments! I appreciate them.

      Paul

      Liked by 1 person

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