Some like Rock and Roll, others like the traditional church hymns. Still others choose more contemporary Christian worship songs, while some choose the near-heavy metal Christian rock. What does the Bible say about a believer’s choice of Christian music and secular music? Are there some principles and guidelines a believer can follow or are there liberties or grace that allows Christians to listen to what they like?
To Each His Own
I had a former pastor of a traditional and very conservative Southern Baptist church that loved contemporary Christian rock music to worship with. He also loved Molley Hatchet – a heavy dose of Rock and Roll. Some of the church members criticized him for his love of Rock and Roll music. Were they right?
Let me tell you what I like to listen to. Just about anything and everything – up to a point. I choose carefully what the lyrics say. If the lyrics or words of a song are full of sinful meanings and sing about (thus glorify) things that are clearly wrong in the Bible then I do not listen to them. Saying this, I love Led Zeppelin. Even though I am a pastor I still love Rock and Roll. Yet my favorite song is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I have eclectic tastes (eclectic, means a variety of different styles). My favorite Christian bands are Kutless, Skillet, and Casting Crowns but I still love the old Christian hymns like Amazing Grace and What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Am I wrong to listen to such a variety? Is it wrong for a Christian to listen to Rock and Roll? I believe there is room for grace.
Everything is Permissible
Paul had difficulties with the church at Corinth. They were too quick to judge others on things where grace should have abounded. Instead of church members settling things between themselves in a Christian manner or bringing the matter before the church, they were suing one another in court. They were getting into fierce arguments over things which should never have been brought to a judge. The witness of Christ was hurt over such wrangling. Paul was upset with the church at Corinth and said, “If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases” (I Cor 6:1-2)? Instead of settling these issues with one another, “one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers” (1 Cor 6:6).
Paul was saying that “everything was permissible” for him yet not everything was beneficial (1 Cor 6:12). The context was sexual immorality but also what foods were to be eaten and what was to be abstained from. Paul was saying that grace should abound. Some were judging others for things that were not sin to them. For some, eating meats that were left over from that sacrificed to idols were okay – for others, it was an offensive thing. These two groups were often judging one another but with the wrong motives. Paul was not happy about such judgments of others over what they simply ate. He told the church at Rome to “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand” (Rom 14:1-4).
Avoid Stumbling Blocks
I believe the same principle should apply to believers who listen to Christian or secular music. If someone loves only the old hymns and detests the new Christian rock, they should not try to impose their beliefs – their personal preference – upon others who like it. They may like more contemporary Christian’s songs to worship with or even Rock and Roll or Country and Western or… The converse should also apply. Those who like the contemporary music or more modern worship music should not judge those who like the more traditional Christian hymns or secular music. As long as the lyrics do not glorify sin there should be no cause for offense from either party. There must be room for grace. As Paul said, “For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Rom 14:7-8). He says, “why do you judge your brother or sister. Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat (Rom 14:10).
Paul concludes, “So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister” (Rom 14:12-13). For example, if we are going to travel with a Christian brother or sister who prefers the older style of Christian or contemporary music, don’t put on your heavy-metal-sounding Christian Rock while in the car with them. We make it a stumbling block to them if we do. This is sin. If they are distressed over the music you listen to, just turn of the CD or radio and spend the time talking and don‘t “destroy someone for whom Christ died” (Rom 14:15). “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Rom 14:19) and don’t “do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall” (Rom 14:21). As Paul said, “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves” (Rom 14:22).
In All Things Charity
A good and godly principle was written long ago by a distinguished 19th century church historian, Philip Schaff that is as relevant today as in the day that it was written: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.” We need to give others room for personal preference. You have heard the old joke from the Blues Brothers movie that one guy grew up listening to only two kinds of music: Country and Western. Not everyone has the same background nor do they have the same tastes but to everyone, liberty. In the essentials of Christian doctrine, let there be unity. In the non-essential (like music and food), let there be liberty, but in all things let there be charity (which is another word for love). We do not need to judge others for their behavior unless it is sin that affects the church. We can not condemn others for their choice of foods that they eat (even though it may not be good for them). Neither should we judge one another for their tastes in worship or secular music. We must allow them to be…them! They are them…and we are not! Confusing sounding sentence yes, but the meaning is to allow people to be themselves – in a godly context. We wouldn’t want others to choose the music for us to listen too…so neither should we insist that others like what we like listen to. If it is a non-essential, let there be liberty.
Again, the lyrics or words are important. I will not listen to sinful lyrics or words that condone sin or are anti-God but I like Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Boston, Beethoven, Kutless, and Casting Crowns…and I’m not apologizing for it. Neither should you for what you listen to. And what you listen too is none of my business, for there is liberty in the Body of Christ for non-essentials.
What Is Your Favorite Music? Share With Us In The Comments!
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