Music Will Make Liars Of Us All
When I was a young boy, I remember being distraught at the idea of worshiping God eternally in heaven. The issue is that my idea of worship was contorted by unchecked church jargon, and so little Charles believed that heaven was one eternal praise and worship service. To this day, had my perspective not been corrected by grace, I would still dread the thought of heaven. Thankfully, I see things differently now, and I understand worship not to be the half hour before the sermon on Sunday mornings.
Though this rather comical reflection from my childhood carries a lighter tone, I wonder if our labeling of singing songs as "worship" does not have a negative impact on the church. When one hears the word, he or she will undoubtedly think to themselves of the stereotypical praise and worship services most churches conduct on a regular basis; however, this is an unbiblical definition of worship, one crafted by a simple misnomer.
To clarify, there is no doubt in my mind that people are able to worship through music, just as much as they are able to worship through art, writing, conversation, or even pure thought. The issue transcends beyond simple semantics. Call these sessions what you will, but singing songs, regardless of their content, is not inherently worship. They can be an expression of worship, a vehicle by which many of us focus our hearts and minds on our King and Savior, but they themselves do not bring us to worship. Thankfully, we do have a decently clear definition of worship from Scripture.
Saint Paul writes in Romans 12:1, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." The word body here is to be seen as a whole of someone's being. Paul is telling his audience in Rome to surrender their bodies, minds, and souls as living sacrifices to God. Simply put, worship involves our whole lives, and this easily transcends the boundaries of our echoing voice within the four walls of the church. When we sing these songs of self-surrender, exaltation, and praise, we need to make sure first that we are genuinely worshiping God with our lives. If we neglect to worship God, then we are making liars out of ourselves when we sing these songs on Sunday morning.
Instead of making praise and worship services the whole experience, we should instead be using these songs as litmus tests for how we are living our lives. Do we love God? Are we really wanting him to take us deeper? Are we genuinely thankful for all that Christ has done for us? Is he really everything to us? Are we simply listening to nice music, or are we living out the content in the song? Unlike other songs, worship songs are not just hollow words that dissipate into the air after they leave our mouths. We make commitments. We ask for God to shake the foundations of our lives. We give up all sense of security and invulnerability.
If we are living a life of true worship, one that begins with the heart and only ends at the tongue, then we have nothing to fear from these songs. They will simply be an expression of our lives. However, when we catch ourselves singing something that is not completely true, perhaps this is a good indicator that we need to be singing less and doing more. We do not have a dead faith. It is real and should be active in our lives, transforming us to look more like Christ and less like the world.
Ultimately, if we are not truly worshiping God in our lives, then we may as well be singing All Star by Smash Mouth on Sunday mornings. In fact, that would be safer to do since we would not be lying to God through the words we sing. Instead, let us make sure that these songs reflect our lives and our hearts and look at the praise and worship service as a time to express in lovely and joyful sounds unto the Lord our bodies as living sacrifices.