The morning sun was growing warmer, and from his rocky vantage point, the old man could see the waves gradually subsiding, their quiet washing starkly different from the wild tumult of only moments before. Gone was the long night of chaos: the sea torn in two by the blast of the Almighty, the rushing cliffs of water that hovered for hours above them as the multitude poured through to safety, the roaring column of fire that separated them from their pursuers and lit their way through the gleaming walls.
Now all was still.
Far along the beaches, he could see the hordes of windblown people, huddled silently between their belongings, staring blankly at the water that now separated them from slavery. Four hundred and thirty years of anguish had ended at daybreak in one final crashing sweep of the waves, and they were free.
A murmur of sound floated up from the crowds as they began to laugh, and to cheer, and to weep, turning from the sea to look to him and the pillar of cloud that loomed behind him. He could feel his own tears running down his wrinkled face into his beard. How do you respond in the presence of such a God? A God Who uses you to do the impossible in spite of your doubts, your insecurities, and your violent past? A God Who destroys your enemies with nothing but wind and water?
He stood, feeling the solid presence of the Almighty behind him, waiting until the people hushed. And Moses began to sing.
The topic of music and its place in the life of a Christian is one that has been hashed and rehashed countless times through the centuries. Everything imaginable has been discussed and debated, leaving many Christians confused and frustrated with the subject. To navigate all of the controversy and find a foundation for making good music choices, we must address two questions: Who are we? And, what do we have to say?
Who Are We?
Our music reflects how we identify ourselves, or at least how we want to be identified. One of the reasons that music is such a controversial topic is that people can easily feel like their self-image is being threatened by an opposing viewpoint and react from fear of losing their identity.
Music reflects our family, our history, our culture, our country, and our ethnicity; but as Christians, music first identifies us as children of God.
One of the reasons that music is such a controversial topic is that people can easily feel like their self-image is being threatened.
Let’s go back to Moses where we left him singing beside the Red Sea. Here’s an example of someone who had an identity crisis earlier in his life. Born a slave but raised as the Pharaoh’s grandson, he made a choice that changed his people’s destiny. Hebrews tells us: “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” (Heb. 11:24-26)
Moses was able to make this choice because he realized the incredible value of being one of God’s people. Like Moses, we also have a choice to make about which identity is worth the most to us. This is not to say that when we become a Christian our cultural background and the other things that make us individuals will no longer exist. But all those parts of our identity will be filtered through our choice: “I belong to Christ.”
What Do We Have to Say?
Music is a mode of communication, like speaking, writing, or drawing. So what is the information that we have to communicate? Our music shows our worldview, or how we think about life. In Romans 12:2, Paul reminds us: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Music is part of our expression of what God says is true about life.
If our identity is in Christ, we look at life through God’s eyes, and our music is part of our expression of what God says is true about life.
Even secular songs can be evaluated by asking, “Does this match God’s opinion shown in the Bible?” or, “Is this blurring my vision of what is really true?” We live in a world that’s pretty crazy, but in music we have the ability to remind ourselves of God’s worldview and to share it with others.
On that day by the Red Sea over three thousand years ago, a man whose life had been transformed sang of the power of God, of His mercy, and of the hope He gives His people. As Christians, we also have a reason to sing! We have received a new identity through salvation. We look at the world through God’s eyes.
So does our music tell the truth about us? Who are we? And what do we have to say?