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.