I’ll try to keep this short and sweet as we’ve previously touched on the importance of mindfulness in worship, but we need to address a persistent trend in Christian music that should go the way of the dodo before it’s allowed even a swan song. I’m referring to the ongoing proliferation of lyrics that romanticize our relationship with God, turning Jesus into the object of our infatuation instead of adoration. Here are a few examples:
Your love has ravished my heart
And taken me over, taken me over
And all I want is to be
With You forever, with You forever
“Closer” Bethel Music
You are always there for me
You listen every time I speak
You look into my eyes
See the things I hide
And say that You will never leave
“Loyal” Lauren Daigle
You’re in my blood, my veins
In every word I pray
You gave it all for me
I’ll give it all for You
Oh, I’m in love with You
Overwhelmed by You
And if the world is listenin’
This is my confession
You are my obsession
“Amen” for KING & COUNTRY
And here’s one written from God’s perspective:
I know you wish you could hear me
Sometimes it’s so hard to do
But every morning sunrise says
I’m madly in love with you
Yes I’m madly in love with you
“Madly in Love with You” Sean McConnell
Notice anything about these “worship” songs? How about that the lyrics have all the depth of a kiddie pool? Or, more importantly, that the focus is not on God but on how God makes us feel? Forget showing reverence to the Almighty. We want those Marvin Gaye, Al Green warm and fuzzies.
Not convinced? Today’s churches have gone so far as to incorporate secular ballads into worship. Those catchy heart-pounding lyrics can easily be turned Christian by capitalizing the ‘yous’ and…et voilà! Instead of pining for that special someone, it’s suddenly all about loving on Jesus. If only that were the worst of it.
Haven’t you heard? American pastors are now totally hip, man. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, and yes, even NKOTB’s “The Right Stuff” have elbowed their way through the doors of the American church for the unchurched. The Bride of Christ had better throw on a red dress and paint her face because no one wants to go to a stuffy service where you might have to turn your focus on someone other than yourself. I mean, really, why worship God when you can have a good time?
Putting aside Andy Stanley and the blasphemy that is North Point Community Church’s Sunday music scene, let’s talk about how we got here. Western culture is obsessed with romantic love. There is no form of entertainment, no splash of marketing, no social norm safe from its serenade. We’re fanatics about falling in love even if it means tripping thoughtlessly over our emotions. Forget patience, kindness, generosity or humility (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Who can possibly be expected to exhibit restraint while swooning? We’d rather keep our heads in the clouds than contemplate God’s higher truths.
Our society’s version of love is all about the self. I love you because I love the way you make me feel. And as soon as I’m not feeling it, you’ll find a box of your stuff out on the front lawn. With this distorted view of love, is it any wonder we’ve turned Jesus into a brown-eyed beau? Remember that favorite maxim on the sign of your local church: It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship. Within our contemporary framework this might as well be translated: “I’ll love and worship Jesus for as long as it feels good. Just don’t expect me to stick around when the going gets tough.”
First-century Christians did not treat worship as spiritual inebriation. Instead of chanting mindlessly about the “reckless love” of God−whatever that means−they cemented the confessions of their faith into song. There are passages in the New Testament which might have actually been hymns sung by the early church, including Philippians 2:5-11, Colossians 1:15-20, and 1 Timothy 3:16.
While scholars continue to debate which passages might or might not have been used as hymns, the important thing to note is that none of these passages uses the fawning romantic imagery of contemporary praise and worship lyrics in their composition. These Christological hymns are so theologically rich as to explore the dual nature of Christ, His role as the Creator, and His person and work as the mystery revealed in the truth of the gospel.
I dare you to compare these verses against the lyrics of any top pop, so-called Christian group:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.“
Philippians 2:5-11, NIV
“Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.“
1 Timothy 3:16, NIV
Please cease your crooning. Jesus is not your boyfriend. To sing to Him in such a manner is to undermine His authority. Jesus is Lord, Mediator, Creator and Almighty God (Romans 10:9, 1 Timothy 2:5, Colossians 1:16, Revelation 1:8). We are called to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength, not to be “in love” with Him in the euphoric pseudo-eroticism implied in such lyrics (Deuteronomy 6:5).
Evangelicalism has become too comfortable in its superficiality, seeking flair over substance, rapture over rationale. Have we so forgotten the holiness of God that we do not care how He desires to be worshipped (John 4:24)? We can and should be joyful in our worship of the King (Psalm 98:4-6), but this joy should not come at the expense of decency or order (1 Corinthians 14:40).
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.Psalm 29:2, NIV
Here’s another, more frightening question: how much strange fire do you dare place before the Lord (Leviticus 10: 1-3)? You may want to take a beat while considering the consequences. I, for one, am more concerned about being smote than smitten.