To Die Singing

Technology is incredible today. Single songs from various albums and different artists can be reproduced and recorded on one media (a CD or USB stick) and one can produce their own music selection. While listening to this compilation of a friend’s favorite songs, I realized that not only am I getting really old but I am becoming ever further removed from pop culture. The tune selection was quite revealing both in its consistency and in the general errors in understanding life.

It seems that many young people have abandoned hope. Suicide is rampant, drugs and alcohol provide no answers but speeds them on to the Devil, and random acts of senseless violence reflect a hopelessness that a frustrated generation seems to have with their future. It is frequently reflected in their popular music. Pervasive in the hammering lyrics, musicians bellow out self-loathing and self-centeredness portraying a cynicism that would bring Norman Vincent Peale to suicidal depression. It is accompanied by brain-frying, thrashing vocals that barely qualify as singing. Like a hybrid cross between a chainsaw and screech owl, crude, rude and violent depictions of hatred, hurt and acidic humor dull the senses as the same theme is repeated in every line: life stinks and then you die. The longer I listened, the more I have become convinced that there has never been a culture so in need of Christ.

First, our culture needs Jesus because He dispelled fantasy. He lived in the real world with real pain and still gave real hope. His promise of abundant life (John 10:10) is not the ranting of a lunatic. Jesus was logical, sound and simple in His doctrine. He used reality to convey his messages in parables and illustrations; there are no fables to be found. He worked at a real job and reached out to real people, touching their lives in the very mud that soiled them and offered cleansing; He still does. There was nothing fake or artificial about Jesus from the manger to the miracles to His mangled body on the cross to His majestic reign beside the Father. Reality is often ugly but, in Christ, it is never hopeless.

Second, our culture needs Jesus because He views humanity as beings of worth. In a society where life has become cheap, disposable, and burdensome, Jesus places value on the individual soul, from the lowly, infirmed woman (Luke 8:43ff) to the doctor of the Law (John 3:1ff). He doesn’t ignore the flaws or gloss over our propensity to sin but teaches the inherent value of a soul (John 3:16). He often paused during His hectic schedule to touch the single person… literally (Mark 1:41). He promoted the idea that God does not make junk, that our flaws originate with Satan, and that there is a solution for sin. He gives value where the darkness of our lost condition might otherwise convince us that we are just not worth it. To Him, we are!

The sickness that is our society can salvage its dignity and worth only in the Christ; that’s something to sing about. With each saved soul, another light can shine in a darkness that has too long been given license to perpetrate the lie that we are a lost cause. A dying Savior, suffering on the cross, begs to differ and, in His glorious resurrection, opens nail-scarred hands in self-sacrifice to rescue you and me from the “hell” that seems to be, as well as the everlasting Hell that will be.

The old maxim still stands: garbage in, garbage out. If you are told a lie long enough, you will begin to believe it and your hope will die singing. Beware of the popular music to which you listen; it may come to define you.

—Jeff Sweeten