Are we listening without critical ears?

Have you heard the new Olivia Rodrigo album? I have heard this question a lot lately from unbelievers and Christians alike. Christians are called to not conform to the world (Romans 12:1-3) yet they care about the same cultural questions as those who do not know Jesus.  

Often, when we Christians grow tired of worldly messaging in pop music, we retreat to popular worship bands without asking the important question of how these groups became so popular in the same world. Though we may critique the secular pop in our musical diets, it seems that less Christians are able to call out popular worship music for its sometimes false words or empty emotion. We fail to critique, regardless of genre, all the music we are listening to. Few Christians are willing to understand that living differently from the world also means living differently from many who call themselves Christians.

We must acknowledge that music is exceedingly powerful in its ability to unite people, divide people and motivate people.  One need not look further than the beauty of the Psalms to understand the great power of songs.  If music possesses this great power, and even God wants to hear our songs of praise to him (Psalm 105:2), then surely we must be cautious in our relationship to secular songs and worship songs alike.  How, then, must we rightly judge popular secular music versus popular worship music?  

Popular secular music has long been a realm for nihilists to express and promote their worldly ideals. Why? If songs about sex make more money than songs about Jesus, then the Savior always loses to those without biblical convictions. In 1985, the world first heard the lyrics, “We are living in a material world / And I am a material girl.” With these words, Madonna solidified pop music’s true nature. 

Popular secular music is a realm in which Christians should not expect their morals to be upheld.  As we forfeit the mold that the world attempts to put us in, we must realize that secular pop music is just that: a mold for the world to feel comfortable in. And it is indeed very comfortable. 

Popular worship music, on the other hand, is music that only appeals to a select group of people, those being some Christians. In terms of judging worship music, we must test the songs we sing to God in order to distinguish the music marred by the attractive notion of fame and the music made to truly honor him.    

It must also be noted that in our efforts to bear the image of God and reject the image of the world, we ought to examine worship songs more closely as they gain popularity. And with proper intent, we should sing these spiritual songs in sober-minded worship. We Christ-followers need to verify whether a song of worship twists or bends the word of God in any direction, so that we know we freely sing beautiful truth in worship and not mistaken theology (John 4:23-24). 

Popular music is a pillar of our culture, and it will not fade away as time passes. Understanding our role as Christians within this context is key to shining our light into dark places. And one of the darkest places can be popular music. Secular artists have paid homage to Satan in their music, but in popular music of the culture it is less and less common to hear the name of Jesus being lifted up.   

So as we do our best to discern what is good, beautiful and true, let us be responsible in our handling and making of music. Let us be active within our culture, influencing it for good. Our battle is not against the culture, but rather the spirit of darkness actively working within it. And though our songs may not be sung on the highest stage, our Savior’s name will ring out from the heavens to the ocean floor.    

Kilker is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion

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