Tomorrow I post part 4 of the “Learning from the History of Worship” discussion, and that’ll be my last post planned on the instrumental music and Regulative Principle questions for now.
That doesn’t mean the topics won’t come up now and again. They will. But it’ll be a while before we delve so deeply into the topic again. But, of course, theology is a seamless web. Everything connects. Make an adjustment here and it changes things over there.
Therefore, nearly everything we talk about will affect our views of instrumental music and worship and salvation — if we’ll let it.
It’s no coincidence that I’ve been posting the “Cruciform God” series concurrently with the instrumental music series, because I don’t think we can fully appreciate how to worship until we appreciate what it means to be Christ-like. But that’s tomorrow’s post.
Now, here’s some practical advice appropriate for Easter, built on a comment I made yesterday and just a bit expanded. I call this “How to Win the Worship Wars.”
My take on the scriptures is that we win these fights, not through compromise or finding the least offensive style or taking turns, but by surrender.
(Phil 2:1 ESV) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
This way we achieve the unity Paul urges us to have is not through negotiation or compromise or taking turns or even modern conflict resolution methods. We find unity through humility and service — counting the other more significant than ourselves. And in the local church, to me, that means we older, more mature members see ourselves as less significant than the lost and the younger members — not because we have low self-esteem, but because they are less mature and so we must set an example of Christlikeness for them. That’s our role in the Christian colony.
I can’t imagine Paul visiting a church he planted and brokering a deal between young and old regarding how many old and new chants would be sung at each service. I think he’d instead remind both sides that Jesus gave up heaven and life for them, and they should be standing in line asking to be the first to surrender their preferences for the others.
We have to surrender our taste and our preferences and our comfort on the cross. We nail it up there and so “consider others better than ourselves.” Indeed, like Jesus, we become servants.
The word translated “servant” is better translated “slave,” and in that society, a slave washed feet. And that’s what Jesus did – to show us that we must do the same.
Now, in the past I’ve suggested that the solution is found in mutual love and that mutual love leads to compromise – perhaps by having a blended song service. I was wrong.
Jesus and Paul don’t urge us to be half-slaves if the other person will be a half-slave, too. He didn’t ask the apostles to wash his feet on condition that he wash theirs. There was no bargaining. He just stooped down, found a towel and a bowl, and washed.
Now, some will be tempted to turn this teaching on its head by demanding that the other side of the dispute do the same thing. “Why don’t you be like Jesus and submit to me?” But that would be like Jesus saying, “Why don’t you hang on the cross instead of me?” It’s a ridiculous, selfish, self-important way to think.
There is, of course, more to it. It goes like this –
(Phil 2:14-16) Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
“Like stars in the universe” is a reference to Daniel 12:3, describing the resurrection of the wise. You see, the promise for those who submit to crucifixion is resurrection. And in life, resurrection can come in many forms. There is, of course, the resurrection at the end of time, which is true and the most important meaning here. But the scriptures also say –
(James 4:10) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
How might God lift up a person who surrenders in the worship wars? Well, one possibility is that the person submitted to will return the favor and offer a compromise. But you can’t count on that or even expect that.
Another and better possibility is that the person you submit to will follow your example and submit to others – the next generation of Christians who will also have different tastes in music and to the lost who will also have different tastes. I mean, unless someone goes first, our older members will only teach the younger members to demand their way when they get old enough to have the power to do so.
And perhaps one day, when the younger Christians get old and well-established in the congregation, they’ll pull a younger Christian aside and say, “I’m surrendering for your sake because I learned a powerful lesson 30 years ago from a Christ-like older member who surrendered for me.”
You see, in his eyes, you’ll shine like a star in the universe. Indeed, your sacrifice will live forever in that congregation and all the people it influences, just as one day you’ll literally live forever with Jesus.