I was reading another blog when I came across this statement:
How do you know if you’re promoting Jesus as concept environment rather than Jesus as a personal hero environment? [One way is that] most of your musical offerings are songs sung about Jesus, not to Him.
One might assume that by the way this was presented, the writer is saying that primarily singing about Jesus is not a good thing and primarily singing to Jesus is a good thing. However, there is not enough information in the blog entry to absolutely say for certain. I do believe that the writer would actually agree with what I will say later in this entry–in other words, I think we may be saying the same thing (?). But the statement did get me to thinking….
First of all, I totally agree with the teaching that Jesus is not just a “concept”. He is not like Buddha or Confucius in that it’s more about the information that Jesus gave than it is about His Person. No, it is how you are related to Christ that is the central issue. However, I don’t really think that the antithesis to Jesus as a concept is Jesus as a hero. I’m not even sure what that means….If it is meant to say that Jesus as hero=Jesus as Redeemer and Lord then I say a hearty “amen”. But that is not the primary subject of this entry.
What struck me is this negative framing of singing “about” Jesus. How does one differentiate between that and singing “to” Jesus in the scriptures? Can we “teach and admonish one another” by primarily singing “to” Jesus? How much singing “about” Jesus and singing “to” Jesus should our song services include?
We certainly see both in our primary guide songbook—the Psalms. Reference to God is given in the second person (“You”) and in the third person (“The Lord”, “He”, etc). Here are a few examples:
O LORD my God, in You I have taken refuge;
Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me Ps 7:1
Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in You Ps 57:1
Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. Ps 55:22
I love the LORD, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live. Ps 116:1-2
And here is one that actually does both right beside each other (!):
Willingly I will sacrifice to You;
I will give thanks to Your name, O LORD, for it is good.
For He has delivered me from all trouble,
And my eye has looked with satisfaction upon my enemies. Ps 54:6-7
I could give many more examples like all of these. Now here are a few things to think about regarding this matter:
Equilibrium. Please use balance! The scriptures include both (not just in the Psalms but throughout canon) and therefore our songs should also. There are dangers with either type of song. Leaning too heavily in “about”-land might teach your congregation that God is more distant that He tells us He is. Living too much in “to-land might give your congregation more subjective experiences with the lyrics that they sing.
Extra-biblical. To say that we should primarily sing one or the other (“to” God or “about” God) may be a biblical stretch. (I may actually be agreeing with the source of my original quote in saying this.) To say that one or the other (about/to) is wrong, makes a stand where God does not and establishes that the Psalmist is in error.
Evaluate. Take a look at the song you are leading in your church’s repertoire. Are they primarily only “about” God or only “to” God? Are the majority of them based on subjective descriptions of how one feels? Are they mostly declarative statements that wouldn’t conjure and stir affections? (BTW, declarative statements CAN conjure and stir affections and descriptions of how one feels CAN be based on objective truths.)
God wants us to “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly” and to “teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16). That is the guiding principle in selecting songs to sing. I believe that includes both teaching one another objective truths about God and expressing affectionate statements to God.
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