What is a Christian Song?

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“This is a Christian song?”

We were having a father – son conversation in the car on our way somewhere when I had some words of praise for my son’s – right at this particular moment – favourite band. The song is called “Demons” by Imagine Dragons but don’t let the title fool you. The song is a kind of lament.

It is spoken from a young man’s perspective, speaking of his beloved. He cannot truly love her because of hidden secrets in his past. He confesses that his pet sins may be concealed where they cannot easily be seen but when your loved ones are close, they are in danger; demons lurk right behind your eyes, hidden in plain sight.

I wanna hide the truth, I wanna shelter you;
But with the beast inside, There’s nowhere we can hide.

No matter what we breed, We still are made of greed;
This is my kingdom come, This is my kingdom come.

When you feel my heat look into my eyes;
It’s where my demons hide, it’s where my demons hide.
Don’t get too close, it’s dark inside;
It’s where my demons hide, it’s where my demons hide.

Casual hook-ups with no strings attached are indeed our “kingdom come.” It’s the bed we’ve made and it would seem we are bound to lay in it. By the third verse the artist is calling out for way to be free of the demons.

They say it’s what you make, I say it’s up to fate;
It’s woven in my soul, I need to let you go.

Your eyes, they shine so bright, I wanna save that light
I can’t escape this now, Unless you show me how

“Is this a Christian song?”

St. Augustine 2St. Augustine, in his own day, rejected the notion that the Scriptures were the exclusive domain of truth, and secular wisdom was useless. He wrote that “we ought not to give up music because of the superstition of the heathen, if we can derive anything from it that is of use for the understanding of Holy Scripture … let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master;” (St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine II.18.28)

All wisdom is God’s wisdom but not everything is wise. Secular music, literature or art is not necessarily prescriptive of life and godliness, but it is often descriptive of what happens when we choose to go our own way.  Our culture balks at words like “sin,” and “moral failure” but YouTube sings better than it knows. Popular music is full of honest confession and angst that teens will willingly identify with. The question isn’t “what is the moral orientation of the song?” The question is “what would Jesus say in the fourth verse?”

Pet sins are indeed like demons, they are tender traps that wound us and the ones we love. But the one “in whom all treasures of wisdom and knowledge abides” (Col 3:2) is the master of demons. He is the one who can set us free. We are trapped by our own sin when we cannot receive the forgiveness that Jesus offers.  Jesus willingly offers to take the blame and the consequences of our selfish deeds but we can’t be free until we submit to his rule.

So we talked about how our sins can seem like demons, but Jesus can set us free from our sins.  He is master of everything, including demons. It was a fruitful conversation about the consequences of sin and how Jesus sets us free now and in the life to come.

Every song has insight into the human condition, though admittedly, some more have more than others.   Where else have you seen God’s truth in popular media?  What does Jesus have to say in response?

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