How are we to emulate pattern of Christ in our music choices? Perhaps the most beautiful, fluent way by which the human heart can express itself (especially combined with poetic lyrics); one of the central heartbeats of culture, being always a center piece of religion, romance, celebration and mourning; and not least, something which we partake of and encounter in our day to day lives, and influences us in our thought lives and therefore our actions– how may this be brought into conformity to Christ?
The Bible, we will find, does not contain many strict guidelines on our music choices: however, as in the above mentioned 1 Corinthians passage, it is full with the imperative that every aspect of our lives be in response to Christ. Music is a good thing, and we are intended to delight in it as God delights in the songs of praise which fill the heavenly courtrooms. Yet He will hold us accountable if we take something intended for our good and His glory and use it as an occasion for the flesh.
As we seek to bring every thought captive to our beloved Christ, a few further considerations include:
1) Wrong choices in music misrepresent our real identity.
Christians seem almost paradoxical. We are humble bondservants, yet we are the highest level of Royalty possible to mankind. We are humble beggars at the Throne of Grace, yet the freeness of that Grace makes us the richer than any man possessing any amount of earthly currency.
Romans 6 & 8 are chapters that answer the question of who we are; 1 John 3:1 describes who we are: and we are who we now are because of Who Christ is. We are children of God, and we have died and been buried to sin WITH Christ, and resurrected to walk in newness of life (see Romans 6). And if we go away from the shores of the Ocean to waddle in the mud puddle of our old life, our old identity, through our music choices, we live a lie about our new life, our new identity, that the world will see.
2) Music can easily be a hindrance to bringing every thought captive because it pervades every aspect of life, and it forms our thoughts. If what we enjoy does not indicate who we are, it will indicate what we are becoming. Our music shapes the way we look at life: at Theology, at relationships, at our rights, everything. We have to be careful that we feed not the vestiges of the sinful nature against which we are to be warring.
3) the last consideration is that we must confound ambiguity. If what we enjoy, love, and think about is to be a response to Christ or a response to self, don’t think there is mutual ground where we need not decide.
I said at the beginning that the writer was putting Himself at risk by writing along these lines, because the question becomes will we love up to the measure of the standard which we are preaching? Well, we’re all sinners. How can we bring our choices into captivity to Christ, especially something as emotion driven as music?
The bottom line is that imperatives without indicatives are impossibilities as far as living out the Gospel is concerned. Translation: the only way we will continue to bring our lives, and all the wonderful gifts which God has given as an offering to Christ in a loving response to Him is when we are captivated by the reality of what has already been done for us IN Christ. The Fact that we are dead to sin judiciously is fuel to continue dying to sin practically in our daily lives.
So, to us to whom all things are pure (Titus 1:15) the love of Christ, if we know Him, becomes a constraining fetter binding our wandering hearts to Him. In response, as John Calvin put it while discussing music and like gifts,
“Let them, therefore, suppress immoderate desire, immoderate profusion, vanity, and arrogance, that they may use the gifts of God purely with a pure conscience.”
Our need as we seek to bring as music choices under the happy banner of Love to God is finally best summarized in the old words of Robert Robinson,
Oh, to grace, what mighty debtors,
Daily, hourly, Lord are we!
Let that Grace, like strongest fetters,
Bind our wandering hearts to Thee!
Prone to wander, Lord let’s feel them,
Prone to leave Thee, God of Love
Take our hearts, Lord, take and seal them,
Seal them for Thy courts above.