One of the great blessings of living as a Christian is that we get to make up our own rules.
You see, rather than give us lists of things we can or can’t do, God trusts us as Christians to work out the best way to live. That doesn’t mean we do whatever we want. He gives us clear guidance, by telling us in his Bible the kind of things he loves and the kind of people he wants us to be, and by giving us his Holy Spirit who is working to make us more like Jesus.
But often we are left to carefully work out the details ourselves. And one area God leaves us to make our own policy on is the kind of music we listen to.
Here are three thoughts to help you work out what music you should listen to.
1. The bible never encourages Christians to cut ourselves off from the culture we live in.
Have a look at what Paul says to the Corinthians about their ungodly neighbours in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13).
2. BUT we need to be alert to the effect that the music is having on us
if your music collection is feeding you with unrealistic expectations about relationships (cough…Bieber…cough) then it might be a good idea to listen to some other music for a while. I think the attitude of the song to the things it is describing is more important than what it’s talking about. I believe it is okay to read books and listen to music which describe sinful acts (the bible describes all sorts of terrible sins in passing!). But I personally would be repulsed by music which was positive about rape, for example. We need to be wise about the attitude of the music we listen to, and careful that we’re not celebrating sin (check out Ephesians 5:12).
3. AND we should think about how our music is affecting people around us.
I love Mumford & Sons’ song Little Lion Man, even though the chorus is a bit crude (‘I really [rude word] it up this time’). The attitude is not aggression but a confession of remorse for ruining a relationship - I’m not sure it’s ever okay to swear, yet the attitude of the song is something I can actually listen to and approve. But, offending people is not good. So just like I try not to drop the f-bomb when talking to my friends, in the same way I’m not going to blast out music with strong language when there’s a risk of offending someone nearby.
I think it is inevitable that we will meet people and hear songs which we don’t agree with. Listening to music which is opposed to what we believe is a part of being in this world – but we should have our brains switched on while we do it. Make sure you’re not accidently picking up the attitudes in the music you’re listening to, without first running it by the bible.
So why bother with all this effort? Why not listen to Christian music exclusively?
There are some wonderful Christian musicians who make albums in the mainstream industry with unapologetically Christian worldviews: Brooke Fraser (check out Albertine), All Mankind (Puzzles), Planet of the Stereos, and Greg Cooper are four of my favourites. Then there are people who make music for a specifically Christian audience: Nathan Tasker (Must be More), Third Day, Revive, Sons of Korah, and El Shaddai Crew. You can check them all out at music festivals like Blackstump (NSW) and Easterfest (QLD). (Although, as with any music, keep your brain switched on to make sure you’re not swallowing careless teaching about God.)
But I actually think it’s worth listening more widely than just Christian music.
Some of the best examples of people sharing their faith with the culture they live in are contained in the bible. In Acts 17 Paul speaks right to the heart of Greek culture which was very messed up and idolatrous (they worshipped all sorts of other gods!) But God used his knowledge of that culture powerfully to announce the good news that Jesus Christ is the King over all cultures. By understanding our culture’s music, maybe you will be better equipped to share the good news about Jesus in a way that makes sense