The Contradiction In Our Worship
From the moment you read the title of this blog you probably started to formulate what you thought it meant. This is something that we all do on a regular basis without much effort… it just happens naturally. We see a title or just a snip-it of something and automatically start drawing conclusions as to what the context is. This is a habit that I am personally trying to break in my life and I hope that we (the church at large) can get better at this as well. But with that said… it is pretty natural to do so.
This blog is not so much about the theological contradictions that we sing or write. It’s not about the actions we sing about and don’t do. (Like singing, “I lift my hands” while I play guitar and can’t. Or something like, “I bow down” while I am literally standing. Or even making grandiose declarations of what we are going to do for God but have no intention of really doing them.) I can think of a bunch of these but nevertheless… I digress.
A few years ago I was prepping to speak at a worship school. It was in the early morning and I was asking the Holy Spirit what direction we should go. I had my Evernote App full of great ideas to speak on but then I heard the Spirit say something I wasn’t expecting… 1 Corinthians 13. To be honest, I kind of rolled my eyes. I was like, “The love stuff? Why? This in not a wedding or even Valentine’s Day. Why this passage for the worship school?” I open up my bible and read this:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. - 1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
I immediately felt the Spirit overwhelm me with a thousand different thoughts, verses, experiences, and revelation. Through the tears the Holy Spirit connected the dots for me. Jesus boiled down most of his theology and teaching on the law to this:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” - Matthew 22:34-40 NIV
These few verses bring together the simplicity of living out a pure Christian life. I want to highlight them briefly for the sake of context. “Loving your neighbor AS yourself” begins with YOURSELF. This portion of the verse shows that you can only love someone else to the extent that you have learned to love yourself. If your love for yourself is conditional then your love for others will be conditional. If you cannot love the image of God in you… you will have a really hard time loving or even appreciating the image of God in someone else. This is reflected in 1 John 4:20 NIV
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
About 8 years ago I had an encounter with Lord that shook me. I was in the middle of a meeting somewhere that I won’t mention. I ended up leading worship in a service where the speaker was a very public figure that had a very public failure. As I stood in judgment over this man I heard these very clear words from the Father: “Who are you to judge the extent of My redemption? If you can’t love him… then there is a lot about Me you don’t love. No matter what he looks like to you now… he was created in my image. If you can’t love him, a man created in my image, then there is a piece of Me you are choosing not to love. It also shows that you’re ashamed of what you see in yourself somewhere deep down and haven’t learned to love yourself fully because you feel he deserves punishment. Deep down you feel you deserve punishment. Your view on this man is a reflection of your view of Me and yourself.” As I heard this I wept and repented. There was more said but for the sake of this blog you get the picture.
So getting back to “The Contradictions in our Worship.” In 1 Corinthians 13:1 Paul uses the illustration of a cymbal or gong. This illustration stuck out to me that morning as I was studying for the Worship School. A cymbal or gong creates a crashing sound. We have all heard it before. They can be powerful and even beautiful in the right context surrounded by melody and song. Alone they can be hard, brash, and abrasive. As someone who spent many years drumming I knew this first hand. Scientifically a cymbal’s frequencies look like a big crash when viewed on a live monitor. These are contradicting frequencies that create something called dissonance. As I pondered the science of cymbals I began to question how many contradicting frequencies were in my worship? How much contradiction was in the Love I portrayed publicly and privately? How much contradiction is coming from the body of Christ in general?
It’s like our body language is off. It’s like when someone tells you that they love you with no expression on their face or body to back it up. It’s harder to believe because the body language is not in line with what is being communicated. Jesus is the head saying and being the truth but we, His body, are doing a poor job at communicating his true intentions for the earth and people. Our actions are not lining up with our words. I could write another whole blog just about this but for the sake of staying focused… I digress again.
So imagine this with me… I have a drummer come to the stage, sit down, and tell him, “When we start singing I want you to bang those cymbals as hard as you can.” I have the sound man cut up the overhead mics as loud as possible and ask the crowd to sing a worship song with me. As we begin to sing, a crash of cymbals hits the air! It is so loud that it drowns us out completely. We do this for about 30 seconds then stop. I turn to them and say: “This is what our Worship sounds like to heaven if we can’t love. If our love for ourselves, the people we’re leading, and Him don’t start coming together… the melody of our life is drowned out in our contradiction. It’s not that heaven doesn’t want to hear you… there is just a sound that is louder than your love in that moment and it sounds like the crash and dissonance of contradiction.” As I said all of this I began to hear people weep. It was so powerful. We all repented together for the contradictions in our worship and to this day it remains one of my favorite moments.
Since this blog is directed mainly towards “Worship Leaders,” hear me on this. I believe some of the most powerful worship leaders I have ever heard have been the ones who learned to fall madly in love with the people they are leading (the Body of Christ.) Like really love them. Not just tolerate them. I believe that this is the doorway to the purest worship, heaven’s sound, or whatever metaphor you want to use. The sound we all long to hear and be a part of is found through some of the simplest teachings of Jesus. Love Him fully, love yourself fully, and love your neighbor fully. I don’t care how talented you are. If you’re doing these simple steps that Jesus lays out… your worship WILL be pure. Your worship and life will start to be free of contradiction.
My challenge to you is this: Let’s get better at loving. I’ve done multiple albums… of course I care about excellence and writing great songs… but all of the most perfect worship sets and songs in the world could not compare to the sound of a people who have learned to love. Love well so that it keeps your motives pure. Love well so that heaven can hear the melodies/worship of your heart. Love well so that His body language is being communicated to the earth. Love well until the earth looks like heaven.
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