Singing unifies us. We open our mouths, herald God’s praises, and many voices join together as one.
Yet, over the years, believers have had sharp debates about music and singing. Sometimes we have let our differing views threaten our harmony.
The coronavirus pandemic has provided a new opportunity for Christians to disagree about singing. Some argue that church members must gather and sing despite the risks—after all, singing God’s praise with his people is a biblical command. Others respond that care for the vulnerable and deference to the consciences of others dictate a season in which we sing softly, or through masks, or while distanced––or that we pause meeting altogether for the sake of our neighbors.
My goal is not to referee these debates or to argue for one side. Scripture clearly teaches that when we have differences of conscience, we must “pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding,” and I urge believers to follow that course in these conversations (Rom 14:19).
The Enemy wants to use this moment to divide us. Let’s spoil his schemes.
Rather, I want to remind us that in the timeline of eternity, the coronavirus will be a mere blip. The Enemy wants to use this moment to divide us. Let’s spoil his schemes. Let’s seize this opportunity to remember the glorious truth that, regardless of how we respond to COVID-19, we are always a singing people. Through restrictions, setbacks, and disagreements, Christians have always sung God’s praises through the ages. By his grace, we will continue to do so through eternity.
Here are some thoughts on how we can keep our heads above the fray and focused on the big picture.
The Songs Have the People
My friend Gary Haugen, the CEO and founder of the International Justice Mission, is regularly engaged in a slew of issues including racism, human trafficking, and the like. He often tells a story about an early civil rights leader who was incredibly discouraged by the slow progress. What did this leader say was his only encouragement? He knew his side was going to win.
When asked where this confidence came from, he pointed to the songs the people were singing. Whoever has the songs, he explained, has the people. Songs fuel and sustain movements because songs capture the heart. When you take hold of the heart, you take hold of the culture.
Singing the gospel will help us preserve our hearts in the middle of so much loss and confusion and also bring Christ’s kingdom and our eternal hope front and center in all we do.
Singing for the Christian Life
God created us to sing. As his people, we must sing through seasons of joy and difficulty.
The most common exhortation in Scripture is not to recite a theological belief, to serve the needy, or to walk in holiness. These are vitally important, but the most frequent command in Scripture is to sing––to praise, extol, and exalt. Singing is vital because it takes all our beliefs and applies them to our souls and our communities. It’s something that should fill our whole lives.
As believers, we gladly remember that the Psalms are the medicine of the soul. They teach us to sing in every circumstance. We sing in good times to keep us from placing our joy in lesser things. We sing in bad times to remember who’s holding us. Remembering God’s ways bring peace of mind and comfort—and singing helps us to remember God’s goodness, even as we live in times of unrest and discomfort.
Remembering God’s ways bring peace of mind and comfort—and singing helps us to remember God’s goodness, even as we live in times of unrest and discomfort.
This also greatly affects our families. We have a unique opportunity to pour into our children’s lives while we’re free of the usual distractions. Yes, there has also never been a tougher season for parents—moms in particular—as they navigate many logistical, relational, and economic challenges that COVID-19 has brought. And yet, this can still be a chance to reset and create new rhythms to fill our homes with songs to our Lord.
Singing for the Church
I recently asked a missionary friend in Asia about the greatest needs he was seeing in the global church. He said that persecution has worsened for many, but they’re remaining faithful to Christ, sometimes even unto death. When I asked him what encourages him the most, he gave the same answer.
We are part of something bigger than the culture wars raging in our streets and social-media channels. When we mix the American dream (or the British or the Western dream)—that is, the capitalist dream—with Christianity, we can easily be tempted to believe suffering is a punishment rather than a source of great opportunity.
The gospel gives the church something to sing about at all times—yes, even during this time. This is why we’re excited about SING! Global and the impact this resource can have through the years ahead. Changing gears in order to produce it digitally in a short span of time has been a huge push for us and our team. Even greater, however, has been the sense of purpose and excitement as we consider all it could do to encourage the church. During this time, we need the comfort, challenge, perspective, unity, and hope that songs filled with his Word can bring.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad
Let them ever sing for joy;
And may You shelter them,
That those who love your name may exult in you. (Ps. 5:11)
The Gospel Coalition