Stranger Things

It is an interesting exercise to have
conversations with fellow church members
about our hymns. As far as preferences go,
people are all over the map. This applies not
only to style, but also to the messages of our
songs. I have found that even though the
words in a song might be absolutely biblical,
the rhythm or melody can turn off someone.
For example, I know people who do not like
the song “Blessed Assurance.” Their dislike
has nothing to do with the message (which is
beautiful), but rather with the tune itself.
Similarly, I know folks who do not like “Victory
in Jesus,” and for the same reasons—the
message is amazing, but the tune just does
not do it for them. There are also people who
have a problem with songs precisely because
of the message. In fact, I know many who
have a hard time with “In Christ Alone,” as
well as with “How Deep the Father’s Love.” In
both cases, the struggle is with imagining a
loving God turning his back on his Son in the
Son’s greatest time of need.
Recently, I had a conversation with a
Christian friend who does not like the hymn,
“This World is Not My Home.” He assures that
he indeed comprehends—at least in
general—what the lyrics are saying. That is,
that this world is not our FINAL home. Yet, he
has a hard time singing the song because he
says it gives us license to detach ourselves
from the world around us (in fact, this friend
has made it a point to rewrite the lyrics of
several songs—in his head, at least—in order
to bring them more in line with what he
believes is theologically correct).

He wrestles with the message in the song
because he rightly understands that we
must be engaged with the world around us.
We must be kind and loving and hospitable
to those in our community. We must be the
“light to the nations” that God created
Israel to be, and the “light of the world” that
Jesus charged his followers to be.
While we know that this world is not our
final destination, it is into this world that we
have been born. It is therefore in this world
that we live. And it is in this world that we
are tasked with living out the example of
Jesus. Because of this, we must wade into
the lives of the people in our community. In
so doing, we do not become the world.
Rather, we season the world with the salt
of God’s goodness. We love the difficult.
We bring peace to the distressed. We lift
up the lowly. We listen to the voiceless.
We sit at table with the stranger. We
welcome the unwelcomed.
I read something recently that has
stuck with me. In discussing biblical
hospitality, something that is in evidence
most clearly and perfectly in the life of
Christ, the author wrote, “We pay attention
to the people we value.” This hit me hard,
and made me ask some questions of
myself. “What people/type of people do I
typically dismiss?” “To whom am I prone to
listen, and who do I tend to tune out when
they speak?” In other words, her statement
convicted me, making me question how
much I truly value others, and helping me
understand better how to connect with
people—especially those who are
God places infinite value on each of us.
Our responsibility is to do the same—to
see people as God sees people. Every one
of them.

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