The hymns and songs we sing need to be biblically, doctrinally, and theologically correct because they are expressions of what we believe about God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit. They also express what we believe our relationship to be to each of the three in one. Words are important and need to be precise in order to avoid confusion or even heresy. They not only represent who God is, but who we are.
Worship, and especially corporate worship, is perhaps the highest calling for a church and Christians. As such, liturgy and music play a primary role in honoring our Triune God wherein participation is corporate, that is, every individual is engaged and involved together in confession, praise, and thanksgiving. As a consequence, our words are important because our words either agree or disagree with God’s divine revelation—His Word.
As such, the hymns and songs we sing need to be biblically, doctrinally, and theologically correct because they are expressions of what we believe about God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit. They also express what we believe our relationship to be to each of the three in one. Words are important and need to be precise in order to avoid confusion or even heresy. They not only represent who God is, but who we are. They communicate truth or error to us as Christ’s followers and also to an unbelieving world as to what we affirm and believe.
Thus, hymns and songs are paramount and vitally important. As we sing, we should concentrate on the words we are singing and affirming as to what we believe.
This brings me to a recent experience I had in worship one Sunday morning. We sang a new song, which could be called contemporary. As I attempted to sing along—agreeing with the concepts thus far expressed in it, I came to these words: “Christ, my lover, my Redeemer, while I strayed, for me he died . . .” I found myself stopping short at “Christ, my lover.” I couldn’t really sing that or affirm it. And those words kept coming to me the rest of the day. Why? The word “lover” in English is commonly understood to be someone in a romantic relationship. One dictionary defines it as “1) a person who is in love with another, 2) a person who has a sexual or romantic relationship with another.”
Later in the day, as I considered those words, I wondered how various men and women felt about singing such words as to their relationship with Jesus Christ, especially the men? The more I thought about it the more I wished the song had been passed on to clergy members to verify it as to biblical, doctrinal, and theological truth. Jesus Christ is not a lover to us; He may be a friend, but we don’t refer to our friends as “lovers.” And being beloved doesn’t relate simply to marriage or romantic alliances; children are beloved, parents are beloved, friends are beloved. In other words, that term is not sensual in essence as is “lover.” The sensual and sexual overtones normally and popularly imposed on the word forbid it to be used in connection with God the Son, our Savior and Redeemer.
I did a little research and found some have written about its usage with Christ. Keep in mind some are already attempting to paint our Lord as having a physical relationship with Mary Magdalene and actually married to her, and more recently a homosexual relationship with John, the Apostle. So, the usage of this term is not just incorrect, it’s dangerously heretical. One person casts some of the blame on women writers as those mostly using the term.
It is beneficial to also consider ramifications. Today, it is almost in vogue for non-believers to accuse Christians, especially conservative and Evangelical Christians, of hypocrisy, but they also make fun of Christians and Christianity in a mocking manner. This concept of Christ being “my lover” is certainly open and vulnerable for some of the snidest of remarks and references to fantasies. The mocking is becoming more brutal every day on social media and elsewhere.
Perhaps with such an explosion of new songs entering the church, greater care is needed to ensure the songs are biblically and doctrinally correct, positive, and not causing confusion. One suggestion is that any new song to be sung for the first time in a church be presented to the leaders, especially the clergy members, to vet as far as content. At the same time, lay church leaders should also be keenly involved in the spiritual wellbeing of the church and on their toes to anything that may require attention. The laity itself, especially those well versed in Scripture and even teaching Bible classes—whether male or female, are also helpful resources in this vein.
One other word of caution might be to say if a friend or member of one’s church writes a new worship song, put objective truth above friendship and subjective support. As a writer, I know I need critics who are friends who care about truth above supporting my writings. God’s truth and glory are at stake.
Perhaps the writer of the song didn’t realize what those words would convey to so many. I myself have erred in my usage of words. As a college student attending a prayer meeting one day, I commented in my prayer that God is love and “love is God.” No one corrected me later, but I realized in my heart of hearts that I had said something not only incorrect, but so untrue. It caused me a certain measure of grief to realize how wrong I was.
This is meant to simply be a caution with such an onslaught of new songs. They need to be carefully and cautiously reviewed. Let’s be sure our worship songs do not contain error, for we are telling God what we believe about our three-in-one God and what we believe our relationship is to each in the Godhead.
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.