Monday, February 5, 2007

Rich Young Ruler by Derek Webb

Have you ever listened to a song that you have heard many times before and suddenly realize the meaning behind it? That happened to me today as I was driving and listening to the Mockingbird album by Derek Webb. The song "Rich Young Ruler" struck me deeply as I listened to it. Read the lyrics below:

(vs. 1)
poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv and twenty miles across town
where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can’t give me

(vs. 2)
so what must we do
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your suv
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
i want the things you just can’t give me

because what you do to the least of these
my brother’s, you have done it to me
because i want the things you just can’t give me

Now give it a listen:

I don't know about you, but THAT is what I consider Christian music. It communicates the message of Jesus in such a way as to teach us His way, remind us of our duty to Him, and motivate us to action.

My friend Dana has been introducing me to some Christian artists. One thing I've noticed is that the songs are overwhelmingly praise songs. Very few of them deal with life issues. Even fewer of them deal with social issues.

While I enjoy and appreciate a good praise song as much as the next guy, I want my music library to resemble the Scriptures in its make-up. A healthy dose of praise combined with reflections on church, society, morality, personal struggles, and even politics -- all from the perspective of faith.

That's why I so appreciate this album by Derek Webb. I think that's why I've always been drawn to groups like U2 more than CCM, too. U2's catalog exhibits an honest struggle with the issues of life from the perspective of faith. Even artists like Sarah McLachlan have impressed me with their ability to express honesty in their struggles with faith.

I guess I find much of CCM to resemble much of Christianity. It tries to use praise to avoid dealing with the difficult aspects of living as light in a dark world. Many Christians, rather than seeking ways to bring peace, feed the hungry, help the needy, care for the homeless, and reach the lost are content to "worship with the saints."

So we raise our hands in praise, we lift our eyes to the heavens, we lift our voices to Him. Good for us! But do you think that God would be disappointed if, from time to time, we lowered our hands so that we could reach out to assist someone in need? Do you think He would be hurt if we occasionally lowered our gaze so that we could see the reality of suffering around us that we are called to ease? Do you think He would be offended if we periodically lowered the direction our voices toward our fellow man with a word of encouragement or a shout of advocacy?

What am I saying? That Christians should focus LESS on praise? If our definition of Christian service is limited to or dominated by corporate praise, then absolutely! Honestly, I believe that these acts of service ARE acts of praise of the holiest nature!

1 comment:

Dana said...

OK. So this is a long one. Sorry! Here are my thoughts. Contemporary Christian music serves two purposes. 1) To edify and glorify God and 2) to minister to those who listen to it. Personally, I buy the cds that tend to be more praise and worship (as if you haven't figured that one out). I prefer them because it turns my focus to where it should be and puts things in perspective. It makes me small in the presence of greatness and humbles me into the correct state of mind. It also allows me to best express my feelings towards God. At the same time, there are songs that truely cut to the heart because it reminds us of what we have been called to do. One is "Love Alone" by Caedmon's Call. I ADORE this song! I'm pasting the lyrics below. Check it out.

No one would love me
if they knew all the things I hide
My words fall to the floor
As tears drip through the telephone line

And the hands I’ve seen raised to the sky
Not waving but drowning all this time
I'll try to build an ark that they need
To float to you upon the crystal sea

Give me your hand to hold
'Cause I can't stand to love alone
And love alone is not enough to hold us up
We've got to touch your robe
So swing your robe down low
Swing your robe down low

The prince of despair's been beaten
But the loser still fights
Death's on a long leash
Stealing my friends to the night

And everyone cries for the innocent
You say to love the guilty too
And I'm surrounded by suffering and sickness
So I'm working tearing back the roof

Repeat Chorus

And the pain of the world is a burden
And it's my cross to bear
And I stumble under all the weight
I know you're Simon standing there
And I know you're standing there