Vol. 7, No. 4
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This life witnesses many inventions or phenomena that are neither good nor evil in themselves, but can be used in the extreme for either purpose. Music is one. The organized blending of vibrations--whether of the vocal cords, instruments or combinations thereof--is neither good nor evil within itself. History has shown many ways this medium can be used for either purpose. Composers of several centuries (not just the twentieth) have employed music to purvey some pretty immoral messages. Songs of varying popularity and genres have glorified sexual promiscuity, alcohol and drug abuse, marital infidelity, and even suicide. The destructive influence of such messages may be immeasurable, but an open mind sees a connection between the proliferation of such music and the degrading morals of a society. Sometimes art imitates life. Sometimes life imitates art. Sometimes, it seems just to be a vicious, self-perpetuating circle.
On the other hand, music has had a positive effect on many souls and societies. In the secular world, there have been many songs that convey positive, even inspiring messages that are just the opposite of those ungodly communications mentioned above. Good, secular songs have become special emotional bonding points for couples and families. Almost all societies have a national anthem that inspires the hearts of its citizens to loyalty. In the case of a good society, where democracy aims to keep people free and prosperous, surely this is a good thing. Yes, even secular music can have a good message that is helpful (or, at the very least, not harmful) to its listeners' overall well being.
Of course, then, there is the singing of sacred songs in worship to God. All New Testament instructions indicate this is to be the vocal rendering of thoughtful words for the uplifting and teaching of one another (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). For some two thousand years in Christianity, such singing has been an emotional, spiritual and possibly even a physical boost to its participants. How many have been comforted by a particular hymn or two sung at the memorial service for a departed loved one? How often has a particular thought from a hymn sung on Sunday helped Christians endure difficult circumstances on Tuesday or Wednesday? Hymns are a use of music for good, when biblical thoughts are thereby caused to stick in the thoughts of the congregational singers.
And that is, indeed, a part of God's design--that the congregation involves itself as participants in the singing. Doing so helps one to remember the sentiments. Doing so fulfills the command to teach one another in song (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Doing so helps one express emotion appropriately (cf. James 5:13). Even more than that, though, it helps one to worship the God of heaven who authorized such singing in worship to him. We express our awe and gratitude to God in song.
Music can be used for good or evil. As Christians, we should exempt our minds from the many evil uses prevalent in the world, and rejoice in the positive uses God has authorized.