Church music is a stand-out feature that quickly distinguishes one church from another. While it may be difficult to assess doctrinal differences or the measure of humility amongst the congregation, it is easy to measure them by their music. We label it as good, bad, mediocre, boring, outdated or shallow. Everyone is a critic when it comes to music because we have such diversity of tastes and experiences.
Yet we are to be one in Christ! To be one we need to prefer the needs of others, to consider others, to put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4) and not insist on our own way (1Cor 13:4-5).
In The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis describes how damaging a critical spirit can be. In the book the uncle ‘devil’ guides his nephew to distract the new Christian from growing in his faith, by making him a critic of the church:
“The search for a “suitable” church makes the man a critic where God wants him to be a pupil. What he wants from the layman in church is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful but which is wholly uncritical in the sense that it does not appraise- does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment that is going.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
When I first read those words many years ago I swallowed hard and thought how many times I had proudly commented about matters and manners in the church. I thought I knew best and spent plenty of time thinking about what I rejected. In terms of music I continue to make judgements all the time about our own music and music team. (Now to be fair I suppose a music leader does have to review and assess and work to improve. That is their purpose.) But I then wondered how much nourishment I had missed because I was distracted by my own criticism. How much do other people miss as they judge the absence of their favourite songs or the volume of the drums or focus on that song they really don’t like? (If you want more examples of the critical spirit, check out this great post from ‘lessons by heart’)
Now this is not to say that we should mindlessly accept all things (or song lyrics) that contradict the truth of the Gospel. Of course not. If the Gospel is being compromised then that is certainly the time to spend time being a critic and sharing your concerns with someone who can correct the problem.
But imagine if we were all humble enough, in Christ-like humility, that we didn’t spend time thinking about what we reject? What if we put personal preferences aside for the sake of unity and focused on receiving (and passing on) what nourishment could be gained from any Christian gathering. Uncommenting humble receptivity! What a great description of a godly attitude to develop in our churches. . . and most importantly in ourselves.
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
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