Paul prays, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” Who comforts us? Jesus Christ. By what means? The eternal comfort and good hope of grace. If singing or listening to worship music doesn’t lead us into a clearer, deeper, truer relationship with Jesus, it’s misleading us.
I remember first playing a piano at age 6, some 58 years ago now. Throughout high school I was involved with choirs and earned a piano performance degree in college. Following that, I spent eight years traveling full-time with a Christian band.
Since leaving the band in 1984, I’ve served as a worship pastor and have continued to write and arrange songs for the past forty years. iTunes tells me I have over 100 days of music in my library that includes pop, classical, jazz, rock, gospel, rap, folk, country, indie, choral, orchestral, and more.
You might say music is a significant part of my life. And you’d be right.
God’s Gift of Music
Music is a gift from God that can lift our spirits, comfort us, join us in a common mission, serve as a place of refuge during difficult times, encourage us, express what’s in our hearts, and touch us deeply, sometimes more than words can say.
I’m especially grateful for music in the church. Allowing for the fact that it’s not always sublime, I can’t count the times I’ve been singing with a congregation and been deeply affected, even moved to tears. The Spirit has a way of making his presence known when we’re singing together (Ephesians 5:18–19).
Our Common Struggle
But as much as I love music, I’ve realized it’s possible to confuse feelings produced by music with feelings produced by truth. Some sixteen hundred years ago, Augustine was brutally honest about that struggle in his Confessions. He acknowledged the benefits of singing and listening to others sing, and said it might even inspire feelings of devotion in weaker spirits. But then he admitted, “When I find the singing itself more moving than the truth which it conveys, I confess that this is a grievous sin, and at those times I would prefer not to hear the singer.”
If a spiritual giant like Augustine struggled with valuing musically-induced feelings over spiritual ones, we probably will too. But I don’t think many of us would see that as a “grievous sin.” Maybe we should.