December 20, 2007

Who Calls the Tune?

Category: Bible - NT - Luke :: Permalink

An exhortation from Peter Leithart in connection with a sermon on Luke 7:

The word of God always divides. It always evokes hostility as well as faith. That is what Jesus says about John’s preaching and ministry in our sermon text this morning, and it was also true of Jesus’ preaching. Both John and Jesus divided Israel by their words, by the sharp sword of their mouths. We can see it right here in the text: When Jesus commends John’s ministry, part of the crowd, the people and tax-gatherers, justify God; the other part of the crowd, the Pharisees and lawyers, the churchmen, show that they rejected the will of God for them.

One of the reasons the word of God evokes hostility and opposition is that true prophets and true believers do not respond to the tempo or tune of the times. Jesus tells a little parable about the Pharisees and lawyers who did not accept John’s baptism. The men of this generation, He said, are like children playing in the streets, who call out different tunes to one another. And they accuse John and Jesus of not keeping in step with their music. They called for dance music when John appeared, but he would only talk about repentance and judgment. Now they are in the mood for a funeral dirge, and Jesus does nothing but eat and drink with tax gatherers and sinners. Neither of these prophets was willing to follow the lead of the “men of this generation,” and so, eventually, the men of this generation killed them.

There are always people outside the church who want to dictate what the church says and determine how Christians should live. And there are false or misguided teachers in the church who want to dictate the tune. These tunes are played on every possible media outlet — in popular music, in TV sitcoms, in magazines and books. These tunes are institutionalized in Supreme Court decisions and local toleration ordinances. And these tunes are called out by those who are closer to you — friends and sometimes members of your own family.

Wherever these tunes come from, stop your ears. The word of God should call our tune. There is a time to dance and a time to mourn, but we determine which to do by listening to Jesus. That means we will encounter the opposition and hatred of the world, but that is the only way to be a disciple.

Posted by John Barach @ 7:55 pm | Discuss (3)

3 Responses to “Who Calls the Tune?”

  1. John Super Says:

    Do you think this has a direct application to churches who design their services and music and events in order to “reach their community” and have an impact on the culture? I’m not trying to be uncharitable, though I am not at all convinced that we are to have these things in the forefront of how or why we do what we do. I see many, many churches encouraging their people to dress, speak, and act so as not to offend those outside the church and to make the church relevant to outsiders. I admit that I am not immune to this kind of thinking and yet I wonder if we are only taking these cues from the world and not from Jesus. Then again, I do see many of these kinds of churches reaching a lot of people. Any comments on this would be helpful to me.

  2. John Says:

    Yes, I do think this applies to the attempt to make the church something that unbelievers will like. The church doesn’t just exist in a particular culture; she is her own culture, and some of the things that make up that culture are going to seem weird to people whose primary culture isn’t the church.

    Take singing, for instance. Where do you find groups of people singing together? Maybe at sporting events (“We will, we will ROCK YOU!”) and maybe at a party if they’re drunk enough. But that’s about it. People don’t gather around the piano to sing in parts the way they used to. It’s almost the case that the only place where sober people sing together is church.

    Singing together is part of our culture, even if it isn’t as much of a part of the culture in the world around us as it used to be. We need to do it, and we need to teach new converts to do it, because it’s what the Bible says to do. And we need to do it the way the Bible says, which includes singing the psalms, singing vigorously, and so forth.

    The Word calls the tune. Jesus calls the tune. But we shouldn’t let the world around us call the tune.

    At the same time, you’re right that many of these other churches do reach people. I’m not sure they always mature them, but they do reach them.

    And I don’t believe that we need to be unnecessarily offensive. Do we have to insist that everyone wear his best clothes to church? No, I don’t think so. Your best clothes would be a tux anyway, and no one should ever wear a tux to the Sunday liturgy. Nor should a woman wear her best gown.

    The music of the church, I submit, should not be high art music, but neither should it be pop music. It ought to be what we can call “high folk music,” music meant for singing but of a higher aesthetic quality than low folk such as bluegrass.

    And the clothing of the church, I suspect, ought not to be the absolute best but also shouldn’t be grubby. Clothing reflects the level of our respect for someone. It needs to fit the occasion (so tuxes and ballroom gowns are out). And it needs to reflect who we are in Christ. In Christ, we wear beautiful white robes, and so it’s unfitting to show up in our grubby “don’t care” outfits.

    I’m rambling here, and I don’t know if any of this helps you….

  3. Sheryl Hackett Says:

    John Super, are you married to Carol?

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