Should Christians listen to secular music?


I’m going to confess.  I went to a Beatles tribute concert last week, honoring the fifty year anniversary of their first live TV performance on the Ed Sullivan show.  The band performed many of the old favorites in chronological order, and we giggled to ourselves as the influence of the drugs was clear in how it changed the sound and message of their music over the years.

Rock music was extremely divisive in the fifties with Elvis, the sixties with the Beatles (and others) and then the seventies with the culmination of the push-back against the Vietnam War, the hippie movement and the explosion of rock music.  Traditional church goers thought rock music was of the devil, that Elvis was pushing all the boundaries for shaking his hips and that it would be the downfall of our society.

And we are now at a point in American culture where the Christian who refuses to listen to secular music is the odd man out.

Last night I went to see “Son of God” – the story of Jesus.  One thing the grabbed my attention, and on which I have not dwelt deeply in a while, is the simple reality that for many people around the world, to embrace Jesus is to risk our one’s life.  In the Western, “civilized” world, we risk our lives when we get in our cars and text while we drive, or take moderated risks like skiing, extreme sports, or overeating.  But we do not live our day-to-day life making decisions that could knowingly impact whether or not we will see the light of day tomorrow.  We do not weigh our life decisions on life and death.

But for millions of people around the world, following Jesus could mean excommunication, imprisonment, loss of family and job and even death.

Since the weight of our decision to follow Jesus is minimal, we find ourselves in debates like this.  Is it wrong to listen to rock music?  Is it wrong go to movies?  Marijuana?  We bask in our freedoms and rights as Americans and lash out at any who would seek to speak authoritatively over our lives and take something away from us, like music.  We are content to live lukewarm lives whereby we go to church on Sunday, hang out with our friends, work jobs to make money to buy the toys that we want, and raise our kids.  We do not see the value of eternal life and forgiveness, and are unwilling to test our habits against God’s calling on our lives.

That being said, I am not going to say that rock music is evil.  I am not going to say that it is a sin to listen to it.  But I am going to say that if we cling to it as our “right”, if it is something that we are unwilling to sacrifice, then we have not surrendered that aspect of our lives to Christ and that is sinful.  If the very question makes us buck up, if it makes our skin bristle, then we need to examine our hearts and ask ourselves why.

And then I will return to the simple question by which we need to examine every aspect of our lives:  Does this glorify God?  Are you listening to whatever music you choose to the glory and honor of God?  There was a time in my life, about a ten month period, where everything was in shambles.  My heart was shattered.  Nothing made sense, I had no where to go, and I was broken.  During that time, my heart could not bear to listen to anything but Christian music.  I have never experienced anything like that before in my life, but love songs and regular songs on the radio about life burdened my spirit more than I could bear.  Songs that would normally be pump up songs before a race or while I run grated on my spirit.  And I then listened to Paul’s exhortation:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

– Phil 4.8

If you can dwell on pure, true, honorable and excellent things while you rock out to Beyonce, then by all means blast her in your car.  If Metallica leads you to the throne room of God and helps you meditate on His wonder and glory, more power to ya.  Classical music draws in my soul, as well as many of Hans Zimmerman movie soundtracks.  Of my favorites is all three of the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks.  They are musically excellent and dynamic, and playing them while I ride my motorcycle through the mountains helps me reflect on the Truths I have been reading in Scripture and awakens my awe of God for His gift of music, and the brilliance to dream it up.  The Pirates of the Caribbean, however, are not Christian movies.

Dwell on excellent things.  Weigh the call of Christianity.  It is so far from our worldview that the simple decision to follow Christ could mean our death, but that has been the historic reality, and we might some day be put to the test.  Let us humble ourselves before God and His authority, and ask Him how we should be spending our time and energy.  Let us examine our habits and ask, is this habit being done to the glory and honor of God?  Is my music helping me love Him more?  Is my job, and how I do it?  Do my eating and exercise habits honor Him?  Am I laying down my life for His glory?  Am I dwelling on Him and honorable, pure and true things?

God is not going to take away anything from us which He wants us to have.  He exists to make us holy through the act of glorifying Him.  We will be most satisfied, have “abundant life” or “life in the fullest” when we walk with Him (John 10.10).  If he takes something away from us, it is unto His glory and for our best.  So let’s trust Him.  Let’s put down our pride and let Him speak into every aspect of our lives.  And when the pruning hurts, when we feel as though He is taking away something that we want or love or enjoy, let us trust Him that He knows what He is doing.


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