So, last night I was channel surfing on my radio when I came across an old familiar love song on KBC English Service (95.6 FM). It was the song “Thank You in Advance” by Boys II Men. Before I knew it, I was glued to the station, as each song took me back to my high school years when I would memorize the lyrics to such songs word-for-word. The strange thing is that I still recall every word to the 10 consecutive love-songs that followed, even though the last time I heard some of the songs was about a decade ago. I still enjoy a good love song, and I would not pass a good “secular” CD. Which leads me to a couple of thoughts?
DOES TRUE LOVE NEED A TRUTH CONTEXT?
What if someone told you that it doesn’t matter whom you love just as long as you love them truly and kept all the rules of love such as “kindness, patience, not keeping a record of wrongs…”? Sounds like a perfectly fine rule. But what if this person was talking about the love of a husband to his wife; what if he was saying that it doesn’t matter which woman the married man was in love with just as long as he loved that woman truly and treated her like he treated his wife? Would you find a problem with that? Why would there be a problem with this kind of reasoning? Well, I could think of a few compelling reasons. For instance, a man is only supposed to treat his lawful wife like a wife, not any other woman. To treat another woman like that would be considered adultery. Furthermore, marriage is a covenant and there are certain things that will be violated in that covenant if the man treated another woman like he treated his wife.
I know that this illustration sounds a bit far-fetched. But it is a very accurate representation of how many of us want to relate with God. A similar case could be made in the context of same-sex marriage: Is “feelings” the only thing that matters for two people to qualify for marriage or are there other biblical factors? But I am not going into this today. Today, I am particularly persuaded that so many secular “love songs” perfectly illustrate this false reality of true love without a truth context.
If you listen to some of the best love songs of our time, you will find very close similarities to the Psalms of David in their sentiments, but not in their contexts. I am referring to the non-PG love songs; the other r-rated love songs have more in common with the Songs of Solomon. When I listen to the lyrics to songs such as “I knew I loved you before I met you” by N’Sync, I am reminded of some biblical expressions such as Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Yes, I know that’s a stretch, but you get the point. When I listen to songs such as Jackson 5′s “I’ll be there”, I am reminded of Jesus’ words to His disciples, “Behold, I am with you always.” Another stretch? I don’t think so.
My point is this, in many love songs, you will hear poetic messages about being ready to “die for the ones we love” and other radical expressions of love and passion. They sound very much like the expressions in the Bible. The only difference is that a man who promises to walk across the ocean for his bride can’t do it, while a God-man who promises the same can. This is a clear example of how we want God’s rules (read “God’s word”) without a relationship with Him. The only way those words could ever be truth is if God Himself is saying them, not a mere human being. The devil is a liar, a copy-pasting liar, albeit a very convincing one. Satan is a plagiarist. There is no such thing as true love without a truth context.
DOES TRUE MORALITY REQUIRE THE GOSPEL?
Another thing that I’ve noticed in love songs; they are very effective in communicating Christian-like values such as “perseverance”, “patience”, “commitment” etc. Take Joe’s “I believe in you” for example; “I believe in you, I swear that forever from today, no one will ever take your place…” or even Whitney Houston’s “I will Always Love You.” The title speaks for itself. What virtue is being communicated in these songs? Commitment. Undying love. Sounds noble, doesn’t it. Commendable even. Who wouldn’t want a promise of commitment? Unfortunately, that’s all those words are, empty promises. The promise is not just empty because the lover won’t keep it, the promise is empty because the lover can’t keep it. Even worse, the promise is blasphemous because the lover should not make it as if the power to keep it lies in himself.
In the Bible, there’s only one person who is able to make such promises, Jesus Christ. Romans 8:38-39 reassures us that “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The point here is so obvious that it is easily missed: God makes such a promise, not because it sounds nice and loving, but because it IS loving. He makes such a promise because HE is the only one who can keep such a promise. We do not have in us the legal right to make such a promise, let alone the natural capability to keep it. (James 4:13-15)
So where am I going with all this? My point is simple. Many secular love songs are able to evoke deep emotions in us because they appeal to a certain core of our felt needs. These felt needs don’t require any reality, logical consistency or reason-ability. Felt needs can easily be met by saying the right things at the wrong time. Felt needs can easily be met by saying the right things to the wrong people. Why, felt needs can even easily be met by just having the wrong person saying the right things! But as long as these felt needs are not anchored to reality, to truth, they are all vain.
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C. S. Lewis
THE BOTTOM LINE
As long as we continue to preach the benefits of the Gospel to people who have not embraced the Gospel, we are merely fattening lost souls for hell. As long as we continue to preach moral reformation without anchoring the root of that morality to the cross of Christ, we are merely making people decent sinners. As long as we are encouraging, uplifting and motivating souls that have not heard the gospel, we are merely soothing the consciences of spiritual zombies. JESUS is our TRUTH and our RIGHTEOUSNESS. (1 Cor 1:30).
What this world needs is the Gospel. What this world needs first is relationship with God, a relationship that begins by hearing the message of the Cross, believing the message and being reconciled with the God of that Gospel. A relationship that continues by being transformed by that God of the Gospel. What this world needs is to live in Christ, move in Christ and have its being in Christ. Any other approach to Christianity, no matter how “Christian”, “loving”, “considerate” and “tolerant” it sounds, is just another path to destruction.
For the fame of His name,