Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).
May 26, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Brother” by NeedtoBreathe which currently sits at #13 at 20theCountdownMagazine. It seems it’s now time for some of the newer songs on the top 20 to really start moving up, while long-time chart-topper Overwhelmed shows its lowest ranking in a long time.
We’ll continue using this top 20 song list until I find a better list. Your feedback in this would be greatly appreciated.
The best way I can summarize it is that it’s an anthem of coram mundo righteousness. The song is sung powerfully, with NeedtoBreathe always demonstrating masterful vocal skill while featuring the powerful added vocal talent of Gavin DeGraw. There are some odd uses of Gospel language here, though, that are misapplied. While we are to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all and demonstrate His love for us by loving others, this song seems to go the extra step of suggesting our good works make us our brother’s savior. We’ll take a look at the video and then read through the lyrics. KLove and Air1 both have incomplete lyrics on their sites, so we had to work through the lyrics in the bridge leading to the closeout of the repeated chorus.
Official Music Video
Lyrics (Partial Lyrics from KLove)
Ramblers in the wilderness
Yeah we can’t find what we need
We get a little restless from the searching
Get a little worn down in between
Like a bull chasing a matador is man left to his own schemes
But everybody needs someone beside them
Shining like a lighthouse from the sea
Brother let me be your shelter
Never leave you all alone
I can be the one to call when you’re low
Brother let me be your fortress when the night winds are driving on
Be the one to light the way
Bring you home
Face down in the desert now
There’s a cage locked around my heart
I found a way to drop the key where my failures were,
now my hands can’t reach that far
I ain’t made for a rivalry and I could never take the world alone
I know that in my weakness I am stronger, but it’s your love that brings me home
And when you call and need me near
Saying where’d you go?
Brother I’m right here
And on those days,
When the sky begins to fall
You’re the blood of my blood
We can get through it all
[Chorus] x 2
Be the one to light the way, bring you home
Be the one to light the way, bring you home
Who is the singer and who is the hearer? Based on the video and the majority of the lyrics, the singer is a person reaching out to another person in brotherly love. In general, that’s a good thing. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. This song isn’t doing proclaiming brotherly love in a generic sense, but one where the target audience is a brother in need. Let’s look at what Scripture has to say of this topic first, before we dig back into these lyrics.
Hebrews 13:1-16 (ESV) | Sacrifices Pleasing to God
1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Galatians 6:1-10 (ESV) | Bear One Another’s Burdens
1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. 6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
James 5:19-20 (ESV)
19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
The New Testament is full of encouragement to love our neighbors, and a special interest for our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus (the Church). I simply selected the first major references that came to mind.
Now back to the song lyrics. Is the target audience a brother in the household of faith or an unbeliever? The song doesn’t say. An important thing to remember, is that while this song is getting most of its airplay on Christian radio stations, that doesn’t mean that the song carries a Gospel narrative. In fact, these lyrics can easily fly on secular radio without ever tripping a Christian flag. Gavin DeGraw brings a secular audience to the NeedtoBreathe venue. Let’s work through the sections of the song.
Verse 1. The song starts with a “we’ve all been there” plea of empathy. The singer shifts to the need for every one of us to have some help, someone who can show us the way, like a lighthouse for the ships lost at sea. If we are assuming a Gospel message in the song, this is where we would expect the Law to convict all mankind in sin, making way for the Gospel of God’s Saving Grace by the blood of His Son, Jesus. But the contrast being made in the turn of this verse isn’t between sin and repentance; rather, is between “going it alone” and “having someone to help you”.
Chorus. The chorus close out the turn immediately with, “Brother Let me be your shelter“. The singer is pointing to himself. Are we the shelter that the lost are in need of?
Psalm 91:1-2 (ESV) | My Refuge and My Fortress
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Revelation 7:13-17 (ESV)
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Can we provide shelter? Absolutely, by God’s Grace and provision, we’ve been given the ability to grant shelter in the storm. Does that make us the shelter? Absolutely not. This is the sort of over-promise we come to expect in worldly music, where we use the most awesome and colorful language we can to exemplify our desire to do the right, loving, best thing for those we love knowing full well we will fail them in our own strength. We shouldn’t do it in our Christian Music, either. We just can’t guarantee that we will always be there (never leave you all alone), and in a Christian song, we shouldn’t be pointing to ourselves anyway, we should always be pointing others to the One who never fails and is ever-present. The closeout of the chorus always reminds me of James 5:19-20. However, the charge isn’t to bring the wandering saint to us but back to Christ, their first love. In my head, this chorus is somewhat remedied by correlating “home” to “faith in Christ, Jesus”. That is an adjustment I’ve made, not one that is ever fleshed out in the song.
Verse 2. Okay, singer change, so have we switched perspectives between singer and hearer? I think so. We see the singer now is the one face down in the desert. He’s dropped his keys where his mistakes were and now his hands can’t reach that far (I’m thinking toward the “home” at the end of the chorus). The singer here is answering the singer in verse 1 and the chorus. The last line throws it for me, though… the strength in our weakness isn’t our “willingness to ask for help” in a generic sense. Our weakness is only a strength inasmuch as we have been made humble in God’s sight.
James 4:5-7 (ESV) 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV) 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
And who’s love is bringing the lost one home? If this song had a clearer Gospel message, I’d be less picky on this line, but it doesn’t. It isn’t our love that brings others home. It might bring others closer to hear the message of the Gospel preached, but it does not produce faith in others directly. Only the Word of God can do that. Many false religions and false gospels do a great job of feigning love on individuals that in some ways might eclipse our daily activities… but none of their feigned love will grant them saving faith in Christ Jesus. Preach the Word.
Bridge. Well, here we have the sorts of promises only God can keep, but this isn’t a song of Promise from God. This is a song between people. It’s a song of extending brotherly love.
If this were playing on secular radio, we’d all nod our heads and say, “good to see something somewhat uplifting on the radio”, but we wouldn’t necessarily call it Christian. It’s a positive song in general, one encouraging us to look out for those in need of help. That’s awesome, and it’s Law. It needs the Gospel… WE need the Gospel… the audience of the song needs the Gospel. We sin. We fail to love our brothers (and sisters) faithfully. We fail to provide shelter, care, food, clothing for our brothers. We need His Grace and forgiveness when we sin against Him and against our neighbor. I wish this song had the Gospel… then it might indeed be a Christian song. In closing let us look at both Law and Gospel on this matter.
Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV) | The Final Judgment
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
1 John 3:11-24 (ESV) | Love One Another
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
In Christ Jesus,
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