Thursday, September 13, 2007

Civility

I have been thinking lately about the manner in which Christians are to present themselves before other Christians and the world. The first thing I would like to say is that God is always watching and He knows our hearts whether we like it or not:

"I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."
- Jeremiah 17:10, cf 1 Chronicles 28:9, Psalm 139:2, plus all the times Jesus knew what people were thinking

So we can summarize it like this: God is watching. He watches to the extent that He knows our intentions. The idea that I am trying to put through is: How would you act if you constantly remembered that God can see what you do? In His infinite mercy, he even goes to the point of telling us how to behave explicitly.

The first issue I want to look at is civility. Civility is defined as:

  • formal or perfunctory politeness
  • politeness: the act of showing regard for others
[REF]

So in what manner are we to be polite in front of God? Obedience is obviously the answer, but lets go deeper into that. First we must distinguish that there are two kinds of civility: 1. Social civility and 2. Christian civility. Obviously if we are being civil, people will be able to see it. However, is there a difference between the civilized nature of unregenerate man and the new nature provided by Christ to man through the Holy Spirit at conversion? I would hope so. If we act no different to civilized unregenerate man, what is the point of telling people that they must pursue holiness?

Lets be honest here, people who belong to Christ should act like they know who owns them. My policy is the "lyrics off" policy. Turn off the words, and only the words, not the other sounds, and see how Christian the situation is. For an illustration: look at Hillsongs. Please do not think this is an attack on their salvation or their message, if you like Hillsongs that's fine, but just consider this point for a second. In your head, turn off WHAT they are saying. Then compare it to another secular band. In my head, there is no difference. For me this does no good, the message is, when you get saved, only certain things change. You can still have exactly the same background music as the world (plus the crowds will still be there screaming). Only the lyrics have changed. 1 The problem with this is that it is a surface (cosmetic) change. If we are saved, surely we are saved from the inside out, our minds now totally turned towards the glory of God?

Now lets apply this principle to Christian gatherings. Obviously when we get together it is for no other reason but the glory of God. We do not go out to glorify ourselves, our partners or do worldly things in the same manner as the world. We are certainly edified by the gathering of fellow believers, but all to the glory of God. If we acted in the same way as the world, we are the enemies of God. Obviously all the conversation at a Christian gathering will be permeated by Godly conversation, but what if we took the "lyrics off" approach?

Lets take a controversial example: drinking. At a Christian function, you should see very few people with a drink. Why is this? Well, first of all, surely Christians would organize designated drivers (in order not to even run the risk of breaking traffic laws)? The Christian is the one who absolutely does not drink and drive (not a drop), regardless of his opinion of his "limit". Also there would be no one who is legally not permitted to drink present, because we would not want to even run the risk of glorifying drinking in front of them (It would be their parents or very close personal discipleship that should explain drinking, but who is the group to determine their well-being?). We should be concerned for weaker and younger brothers.

It goes without saying that we should not drink in front of unbelievers, lest they think you can still be worldly and 'Christian.' A group of Christians who drink together would be a small group of people who knew each other very well. Jesus did drink wine (he even condoned it at a wedding by turning water into wine - not that we are told if He drank it there) at the last supper and on the cross. We have two cases when our Lord actually drank: in closed room with twelve people he had known for years (Matthew 14:25) and just before he died, while on the cross (which actually was sour wine and he did not ask for wine, he simply said "I thirst"). Which one applies to us? I really do not believe there is any other place for drinking in the Christians life. To be quite frank, I prefer abstinence. I feel that if people are going to argue "pro-drinking" they are fighting for something unnecessary, and they should question why they fight for it. It is just one of those things that can turn so ugly so fast, why even bother? Romans 14:21 all the way.

Prayer should also be something that people notice "lyrics off." Not personal prayer but when Christians gather, are they just doing something silly or is there some seriousness, as if there were a king present?

A Christian is someone who is careful. In certain instances, the bible is not talking of drunkenness in terms of alcohol, rather the insobriety of becoming 'drunk' within circumstances. Oh how I know of my weakness in this. I become so wrapped up in a situation that I am quite easily led straight into sin. We must be careful we do not get 'drunk' on the world. We must fervently protect our sobriety. If we are not being careful, we have not yet even begun to be Christian in a situation. Carefulness is being civil, but surely the sphere of Christian civility is a lot smaller than that of general civility?

There are certain things that are not associated with Christians. Ephesians 5 describes this: filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking and drunkenness with wine. What should be the Christian civility? Obviously all the things these things are not and: walking in love, thanksgiving, try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord, expose unfruitful works, careful walking (acting), making the best use of time (Eph 5:16), not being foolish, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with their hearts and submitting to one another out of a reverence for Christ (servant-leadership).

This is my opinion of what should happen when Christians gather in the name of the Holy Lord. We must keep in mind that Christ bought us with a price and although there is much joy in that, there is no joy anywhere else. If we are having fun and it is not in the name of the Lord, we must be careful not to fall off.

"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers."
- 1 Peter 4:7


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1 Does this mean I think we should only sing hymns? No of course not! Praise Him with a new song. I think it is great to have a rock influence in the music, but you cannot do it exactly the way the world does it and make surface changes. Please do not think I dislike modern Christian music, I do not. But keep in mind that just because 'Christians' make the music does not make it Christian music.

2 comments:

Pea #2 (Katy) said...

Hey Q! :)
I am loving your blog! Great stuff!
What do you think of the notion of division between the sacred and the secular? Some would claim that there really is no difference: that everything is under Gods Creation, therefore, under the Christians dominion. Speaking about music, can we not claim 'rock music' and use it for God's glory and our edification? How do we balance the act of taking dominion, turning the secular into the sacred, with being different? Hmmm...I'll be thinking on that for awhile. :)

Qjay said...

Well since you asked, and it is my blog, here is my opinion (as humble as it comes):
1. Division of the sacred and the secular: I'll sing it on the hills: "Do not give pearls to swine" - Matthew 7:6. There is a difference between these things. But I can see some clever arguments with the whole "everything is under Gods Creation" argument (Genesis 1:26). I think that since music is an act it falls into a different category than that of nature (i.e. birds, rocks etc.). Music is the expression using what has been created - just like sin is! Does that mean I think that music is sinful? No, I think we can sin using creation, just like we do with all things. But we can also do good works with creation, and therefore music can be 'good' as well. We must be sensitive to making sure that we use it correctly.

2. God deserves our very best. If we play music we hate for God, then we are doing something wrong - in fact that is sinful. I read Malachi the other day and 1:8 says it well: "When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts." Clearly God wants what we consider the best of ourselves to be offered to Him.

That said, our tastes should become more God-like. To be honest this is the most difficult question I have to face because we are told to "Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!" (Psalm 150:5) This tells me we can use a rock influence. But one thing we have to do is remember that it is God who changes the hearts of men, and He knows how He wants to be worshiped. God also knows that if He wants obedience, He is going to have to provide it (Romans 1:5, 15:8, 16:26).

But remember this: The tone of the music is also important. I have to ask myself "Am I practicing what I am singing?" - For example I do not know how to sing one line in a Hillsong that I still do with my Children's church - it is a climactic line, so it is quite pumped. But how to get all excited and jumpy whilst singing "I humble all I am, all to you" just does not fit the character of what is being sung.

Consider what Bach said about music: "The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul."

katy, that is definitely a worthy question - I still do not think I have it down. There is so much to consider that I think it needs to be tackled on the basis of each individual song. We must not become legalistic in such matters.

"One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honour of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honour of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's." - Romans 14:5 - 8.