Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).
February 10, 2015. So last night as I was driving home I heard the DJ of a local Christian radio station congratulate Lecrae and For King and Country for their Grammy. I thought, “oh yeah… we should probably take a look at what was honored at the Grammy’s for DiM Tuesday.”
So today we are going to take a look at the winners of the “Gospel” category of the Grammy’s. The winner for BEST CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC PERFORMANCE/SONG was indeed “Messengers” by Lecrae Featuring For King & Country. We’ll look at this song today, but before we do let’s look at the other nominees:
- “Write Your Story” by Francesca Battistelli
- “Come as You Are” by Crowder
- “Shake” by MercyMe
- “Multiplied” by NeedtoBreathe
Now, one thing I couldn’t help but notice is that though we’ve been trying to review the top 20 Christian songs over the past year, we’ve only managed to cover 1 of the 5 nominated songs. Should I be using a different list? Should we try to add a DiM day in our week? I don’t know. Your feedback on this question would be most appreciated.
Okay, so let’s take a look at the song “Messengers”. First, I want to try to clarify that rap, like poetry, rarely makes clear objective statements. It is a genre that tries to poetically allude to societal themes or trends. Rap music is a part of a very dynamic rap culture that is intentionally kept in a state of flux. The vast majority of secular rap is filled with fad references and short-lived colloquialisms connected to even shorter-lived trends in clothing, entertainment, and civil unrest/outrage. A big part of secular rap culture is demonstrating how “fresh” you keep your language, tastes, and style. In fact, my use of “fresh” in that sense clearly signifies that I am not on the cutting edge of rap culture… and I’m okay with that. “Christian” rap is equally poetic and it needs to speak to a culture whose language changes faster than the headlines at CNN about a timeless, unchanging Truth of God’s Word. Rap is a genre of poetry, and poetry isn’t the best way to convey the clear message of the Gospel. God indeed breathed out the Psalms, but the Apostles didn’t write poetry in the New Testament, they wrote clearly and concisely as the Holy Spirit led them.
Lyrics (via K-Love)
I believe the title and the choral refrain points to the Christian’s call to Evangelism. We can pluck a few lines out to support this assertion. One thing I’d like to point out is that the value of a messenger is in the Message being proclaimed and from Whom the Message originates. We are called to take the Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Let’s look at how Paul writes of this in Romans 10.
11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
There is a line in the first verse of the song that seems to come from this passage, “How will the people know if we don’t tell ’em?” I wish the emphasis of this song was on the preaching of the Gospel, the sharing of the Message of repentance and the forgiveness of sin found only at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. That was Paul’s emphasis. That was Jesus’s emphasis. This is the emphasis of the Great Commission.
If the lyric of the song is aimed at calling Christians to Evangelism… why then do we see this song pop up seemingly out of nowhere at the Grammy’s? Why has this song not been on our radar here? I believe that this song resonates more with a secularist activism crowd of artists and producers because it doesn’t emphasize preaching of Law (repentance) and Gospel (forgiveness)… rather the song seems to emphasize works. The world is eager to judge Christianity (and Christians) for their lack of works. This song offers up a few lines that seem to echo that sentiment.
This moment is all that matters The future is now, How will the people know if we don’t tell ’em? If we fail ’em, They’re stumbling in the dark But the lighters that we carryin’ Don’t have to wonder your purpose Or what you’re here for Reflect his image And show the world what he cares for
What does “the future is now” and “this moment is all that matters” mean in a Christian context? Are these statements even remotely supported by Scripture? This is the kind of stuff you hear from a sales pitch or a motivational hype-man. Do something now! is what is conveyed. Reminds me of the song we reviewed “Do Something” by Matthew West. One of the positive lines we highlighted earlier is in bold. We connected that line to Romans 10. But when we look at this line and how it falls in the context of the song, we see the next line “If we fail ’em”… and it leads to the reflect his image and show the world what he cares for. It seems to fall in the “deeds not creeds” (which is a creed) category, or one of those “earn the right to preach the Gospel” philosophies. I’m not saying I think that is Lecrae’s intention, just pointing out that this seems to be the overall tenor of this song when we look at the lyrics apart from the music video.
The second verse has a line that I think secular activists key in on to further push the “deeds not creeds” mindset. There is an allegation by Lecrae that “We turnin’ a blind eye That alone is a crime”. This also changes the over-arching theme of “calling all the messengers”. There is now an implied rebuke to Christians for turning a blind eye to the state of… well, those places where the scene ain’t pretty that Lecrae has seen. He’s vague and generic, but the implication is much the same as Matthew West’s accusation that “we’re never going to change the world by standing still”. Lecrea’s song isn’t nearly as blatant, but the problem of a works-focused “social gospel” is still evident. Lecrae is “calling all the messengers” to pay attention and reflect Christ by showing what He loves and do something about the hate, death, destruction, and ignorance in the world.
The biggest concern with which I take issue is the avoidance of topics of Sin and Repentance. In the first verse, we are called, forgiven, and risen… but we still need to “rise up from a past that holds us down”. huh? God forgave you (when you got saved) and he raised you (from the death of your sins and trespasses) but its up to YOU to rise up from your past because it’s still holding you down? Law-Gospel-Law. There was a chance to clarify this concept in the second verse… and it was missed entirely. “We’ve got the power to life I know that we make mistakes Don’t let ’em keep you away Mercy, love, and His grace The reason we movin’ here Speak out Though we’ve never been qualified to do it I ain’t earned it I was loved into it I’m brand new“. So, we make “mistakes” that we “can’t let them keep us away”? How about, we Sin and are in continual need to repent and be forgiven, and that is the message we should be preaching to the Lost as well? Mercy, Love, and Grace are popular themes for the world to hear, but still no confession and repentance. Incidentally, the way to “not letting them keep us away” is to confess our sins one to another, forgive each other, and repent at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
The world is all for praising social activism that down-plays sin and repentance. This song won a Grammy, but I haven’t seen it on a Christian music top 20 chart. The world picked this song and championed it as what they want to see coming out of Gospel music. A world that tells Christians, don’t talk about sins, just demonstrate love. Don’t ask me to repent, go work to end world hunger, slavery, and climate change like all of us who reject your God do. You see, social activism can be overtly engaged by anyone, even those who’ve rejected the One True Living God. This song will likely see a lot more Christian radio airplay as the CCM industry gushes over it’s Grammy. The song is a poetic, generic rebuke that Christians aren’t “doing enough” because evil exists.
In closing, I’d like to remind all of the messengers, what Jesus warned.
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin,but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
To God be the glory, Amen.
In Christ Jesus,