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Theology

Jesus is Not Our Boyfriend

I have a love-hate relationship with Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). I love it because it desires to make music for Jesus. I hate it because it is often shallower than the kiddie pool. Unfortunately, its shallowness often overwhelms and leaves me longing for more.

I always hesitate to write about something I know little about. I am not a music expert or critic, and I cannot play guitar like every other American male age 18-29. I theologize and preach and shepherd, so I am treading deep water. Nevertheless, I generally like music, and it does not take a music professor to realize that Christian music needs nothing less than a modern reformation. Read a sample of the lyrics to the currently popular song “Hold Me” by Jamie Grace:

I’ve had a long day, I just wanna relax
Don’t have time for my friends, no time to chit chat
Problems at my job, wonderin’ what to do
I know I should be working but I’m thinking of you and

Just when I feel this crazy world is gonna bring me down
That’s when your smile comes around

Oh, I love the way you hold me, by my side you’ll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way
I love the way you hold me, in your arms I’ll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way

If you didn’t hear these lyrics on a Christian station, you’d probably guess the song is about the singer’s boyfriend. Never mind the teeny-bop melody. There’s not mention of human brokenness and the desperate need for a Redeemer. There’s not a hint of gospel. Instead, Jesus is a boyfriend who shows up smiling during a bad day at work.

The intention of the writer is good. The point is that Jesus is there for us. He takes care of us. If we have Jesus, we have enough. The problem is not the intention. But music (and all art, including writing) goes beyond intention, doesn’t it? Intention matters, but quality matters as well, and Christians should strive for the best quality because God did not spare quality when he created. This song is a microcosm of Christian music today. Don’t get me wrong: there are many good Christian songs, but far too often the songs I hear settle for corny Bieber-inspired lines that communicate nothing of the vast depth of God’s grace in the gospel.

Scores of words have been written about whether  “Christian” music is good or bad or why there is even a separate sub-culture of “Christian” things at-large. That’s not why I’m writing. I simply want Christians–musicians in particular–to embrace the long and splendid history of authentically transparent and objectively beautiful music in the church.

Written in 1759, the famous hymn “Come Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart reminds us that Jesus is there for us; he takes care of us; and if we have Jesus, we have enough. Hart even uses the analogy of being held by Jesus, but he does it without making it seem like he is our cosmic, feathered-hair boyfriend. Hart writes:

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

Here we find gospel. Here we find a strong, yet compassionate Redeemer who beckons: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Will Christian artists go back to songs like these before they attempt to go forward? Will they tap into the richness of music that belongs to our 2,000-year-old community of saints? Will they grasp for and wrestle with language in order to winsomely and articulately communicate the gospel of grace?

I hope they do. The gospel is at stake–even on Christian airwaves.