This has been on my mind for a while, but it may still be a bit … rambling. Okay, more than a bit. 😉
Lots of songs have little problems in them… doctrinal/theological, ambiguous or unclear, confusing, etc. Given that we have a vast body of songs to choose from now (we don’t even have to rely on publishers anymore!), and given that singing to or about God is a big deal…
Let me expand on that last bit for a minute – if your pastor got up and preached something flat wrong, or ambiguous/unclear/confusing, would you excuse it with “oh, well, he’s right the other 95% of the time and he delivered it so passionately that it’s okay.” Probably not. You’d probably be concerned… and you’d be even more concerned if, when approached, the pastor just said “Oh, yeah, I knew that was wrong/confusing/ambiguous/unclear but I didn’t have anything else to say, so I just said it anyway.”
I realize that a lot of times, we more or less interpret/assign our own meaning when something is unclear, confusing, or wrong … so largely, this post is to those who choose songs (or think about choosing them, or critique the choosing of songs ).
Alright, so back to the original question in the title of this post; what makes us compromise on a song? In other words, even when you know that a song has problems … what makes you sing it anyway? I can think of a few:
- I really like the melody/music
- It sounds so cool when <artist> does it
- I grew up singing it/it’s a favorite
- The rest of it speaks to me so well
- It’s helped me through <insert trial here>
- Someone suggested that we do it
All of these are perfectly fine to happen… but not a good excuse for knowingly (or simply not thinking about it so as to remain ignorant 😉 ) singing lyrics that aren’t right.
Some may disagree about what is right or wrong (e.g., we cut out lyrics that are Covenental/Replacement theology because we don’t believe that, but others who do believe that obviously wouldn’t cut them out) and we may disagree about what is confusing, unclear, inappropriate, and/or ambiguous. That’s okay.
But I know I have thought along the lines of “well, I know those two lines aren’t good … but everyone really likes this song and it’s such a traditional favorite.” That is not good. Can you imagine what God thinks about that? Out of all the music and lyrics written, I choose to sing something to Him with something wrong in it just because lots of people like it? Yikes.
I grant that there is a lot of gray area in some “problems” … especially in the “confusing” part. For these particularly gray areas, I’m of the persuasion that if I get a group of people together and we talk about the problem lyrics, and after a few minutes we can’t actually decide what the lyric is supposed to mean… that’s bad. I don’t want to be guilty of singing empty words (i.e., I don’t know what I actually mean but they sound worshipful to me!) to God nor teaching others who-knows-what with those same words.
Don’t compromise truth for tradition nor for musicality nor for novelty. Lyric problem are not made up by it being an old favorite, a really good choral arrangement, or a really popular contemporary song by Chris Tomlin. There’s nothing wrong with any of those… it just doesn’t make up for the lyric problem. Let’s not compromise the clear proclamation of truth (which would include singing) because of music, feelings, tradition, or relevance.