Enjoying Music—What Is the Key?
CRASS immorality and idolatry were practiced in the ancient world. Hence, the apostle Paul found it necessary to give very strong counsel on Christian conduct. To the congregation in Ephesus he wrote: “This, therefore, I say and bear witness to in the Lord, that you no longer go on walking just as the nations also walk in the unprofitableness of their minds, while they are in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the insensibility of their hearts.”—Ephesians 4:17, 18.
Is that not also a good description of the way things are today? This includes the field of music. Much of modern music reflects a style that is ‘alien to the godly life.’ Often the lyrics betray an ‘insensible heart,’ without kindness or compassion.
But Paul took his counsel a step further by saying: “Their sense of right and wrong once dulled, they have abandoned themselves to sexuality and eagerly pursue a career of indecency of every kind.”—Ephesians 4:19, The Jerusalem Bible.
This ‘eager pursuit of a career of indecency’ is reflected in much of today’s music. The lyrics and the musical intent pander to a generation steeped in sex, violence, drugs, and pleasure. How should Christians view such vices? Note Paul’s words: “Now that is hardly the way you have learnt from Christ, unless you failed to hear him properly when you were taught what the truth is in Jesus.”—Ephesians 4:20, 21, JB.
“A Spiritual Revolution” Necessary
How can we apply this admonition in the case of music that reflects the spirit of the world? In that, if we have “the mind of Christ,” that is, if we have his mental attitude, we will not want to listen to music that is “earthly, animal, demonic.”—1 Corinthians 2:16; James 3:15.
But you might ask, ‘How can I change my taste in music?’ Again Paul helps, for he says: “You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution.”—Ephesians 4:22, 23, JB.
There is the answer, a renewal of the mind by a spiritual revolution. This involves much more than our taste in music. It calls for a reeducation, a raising of standards and values. It means a change in our way of thinking, a different set of criteria. And it involves seeing things from the viewpoint of God and Christ. As Paul so clearly expressed it: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.”—1 Corinthians 10:31.
Much of modern music brings no glory to God. On the contrary, it spurns those values for which Christians stand and for which many have been willing to die in prisons and concentration camps. Therefore, why should we consider it to be a sacrifice if we have to make a change in our musical taste so as not to be ‘loving the world or the things in the world’?—1 John 2:15-17.
Good Music—What Is the Key?
If, because of our regard for Scriptural principles, we reject degrading music, with what can we replace it? Well, why not explore new avenues of music? They might be far more enjoyable and upbuilding than those we have preferred in the past. For example, a former rock musician said this about the changes he made:
“I had to make an effort to move from the easy rock sound to an acceptable popular type of music and deeper classical music. But when I realized that there was more substance to them and that I could no longer identify with the spirit of most modern music, it became easier and more satisfying. It was suddenly wholesome. I realized what I had missed because of my former prejudice against alternative types of music.”
There is a wide range of classical music, as well as folk and some modern music, that has a good melodic line, clean lyrics, and does not express a philosophy contrary to Bible principles. The key is to find and enjoy music that will not wrongly influence our thinking, music that is ‘righteous, chaste, well spoken of, virtuous, and praiseworthy.’—Philippians 4:8.
Music’s Role in a Christian’s Life
For some, one way of enjoying good music is by singing or by learning to play an instrument. Great pleasure can be derived from solo and group performances with family and friends. As in all things, however, balance is needed. A recreation or a pastime should never become an obsession in a Christian’s life. If that should happen, even wholesome music, by reason of excess, would have unwholesome effects. Then the Christian would be in danger of becoming ‘a lover of pleasures rather than a lover of God.’—2 Timothy 3:4.
Music is also an integral part of our worship of Jehovah. In ancient Israel, Asaph and his brothers sang: “Give thanks to Jehovah, you people; call upon his name, make his deeds known among the peoples! Sing to him, make melody to him, concern yourselves with all his wonderful acts.” Yes, music can praise God and please him.—1 Chronicles 16:8, 9.
The Kingdom songs used by Jehovah’s Witnesses at their Kingdom Halls are based on Bible texts, psalms, prayers, and teachings. Can we not also deeply enjoy this sacred music? And should we not show our joy by singing these songs with feeling and enthusiasm? Even on occasions other than Christian meetings, can we not lighten our lives with the beautiful arrangements of these songs called Kingdom Melodies?
In these orchestral renderings, all the musicians are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some are professionals who play in symphony orchestras. Others, including the former rock musician quoted above, are talented young people who enjoy many types of decent music. They do not feel that they lose out because of renouncing music that reflects earthly, demonic attitudes. Their fine example shows that we too, if we allow Bible principles to govern our choice, can find much wholesome joy in music, both secular and sacred.—Ephesians 5:18-20.
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“Rock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desire—not love, not eros, but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored. . . . Young people know that rock has the beat of sexual intercourse.”—The Closing of the American Mind, by Allan Bloom.