“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
“I only listen to it for the beat, yah’ know? I only pay attention to the music, not so much the lyrics.” This is but one of many famous quotes my mouth had on repeat for many years throughout high school and my early college years. As a guy who put fourteen-hundred dollars into his car stereo, with a love for his MTX Audio dual 12’s especially, I was all about those songs with intense bass. Most of the time those songs were essentially rap and hip hop (keep in mind this was still the pre-dubstep and trap era). Sure, I wasn’t an actual fan of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake and others in that scene but their music sounded terrific on my system! Blaring bass out the windows to look ‘cool’ and impress others meant far more to me in my late teens than actually taking into consideration the impact of the lyrics; not only on myself but on my friends and family. (And let’s not forget the content of 1 Corinthians 8 which tells us not to ’cause a weaker brother to stumble’. This passage of scripture should DEFINITELY be taken into consideration when playing your music in somebody else’s’ presence.)
That slight conviction I got every time I heard a ‘cuss word’ or offensive, derogatory line seemed to slide in my spirit for far too long. But again, I couldn’t possibly be crossing that fine line of what’s right and what’s wrong in God’s eyes if my intentions were just to play the song for the beat, right? After all, if we as Christ-followers serve such a merciful God of grace, I’m sure He could be lenient with me for just enjoying the rattling bass and the lyrics that went in one ear and out the other (note: sarcasm). Or perhaps did those lyrics not always make it safe and sound out of my ear canal? Garbage in, garbage out? Nah. Could it be that lyrics were subconsciously holding me back from growing in my relationship with Christ? Do you feel like this just might apply to you? Have you been trying to get away with this one? Or maybe you don’t believe there is such thing as ‘cuss words’ and that some words are just somewhat more offensive than others. Well if that’s your current belief, or this story of the past Ryan sounds like where you’re at, or if you listen to the RADIO, then this message is certainly for you my friend.
Food for thought to all the Christ-followers reading this right now: do you think if Jesus were sitting by your side as you listened to ‘Pyramids’ by Frank Ocean or ‘Ill Mind Of Hopsin V’ by Hopsin, that you wouldn’t feel the slightest bit of conviction or thoughts of “this is uncomfortable” or “I better turn this off”. Sounds like a classy ‘WWJD’ moment huh? Well, believe it or not there is a reason that abbreviation was created decades ago though it is now often laughed at as a big Christian joke of the past. I use those two songs above as examples because they were former songs on my Ipod that I loved a period of time ago. The beat is catchy in my opinion. And you know, I even tried to justify within my mind that rappers like Hopsin were making valid, literal points in the song so of course I should listen to it. Heck, I agree we shouldn’t “follow the sheep or idolize other rappers” like he says in the song. It’s evident from the song he clearly isn’t a big fan of women going out and selling their bodies to the next guy they see. Again. I have to agree. But Hopsin chooses to use many terms I don’t agree with in making his point.
Frank Ocean has a similar purpose in his song ‘Pyramids’ of how Cleopatra went from being a woman of honor and glory to essentially a whore. My interpretation of the song is there may also be symbolism that women in culture today are being degraded and seen as objects and so on. I could not agree more and it is a matter I am rather passionate about. But Frank just goes on to discuss Cleopatra at the pyramids (strip clubs) and how afterwards she is ‘wet and warm’ like their bathwater. Now, I don’t know about you but that kind of language itself makes me feel dirty and far out of line. But rightfully so! You know why? Because we were placed here to imitate God and follow the example of Christ! (Ephesians 5:1-2). And if we were truly following the notion of Christ, I am rather positive we wouldn’t be listening to music with these lyrics whether the author were attempting to make a valid point or not!
The ‘Hopsins’ and ‘Tech N9nes’ of this world may be men who are struggling with their thoughts of God and other spiritual matters and granted need to be reached out to and given more of the good news (example: Lecrae & Hopsin’s possible collaborative as well as Andy Mineo featuring Krizz Kaliko on “Tug Of War”); however, even that does not excuse us for choosing to listen to songs with particular language like the ones I mentioned above. Instead of filling my mind with that content I still have the greatest weapon of all: prayer. And I do pray for Hopsin in his recent ‘spiritual awakening’ that he states he recently had just as I pray for David Bazan, one of my past favorite indie rock artists struggling with his understanding of the existence of a god. However, since I substituted listening of Bazan and Tech N9ne with Phil Wickham, Loud Harp and Hillsong United, my relationship with Christ has come quite a ways and I do strongly believe there is a correlation between the two. But please note I don’t intend on sounding like stubborn Christians who just say, “He’s a lost man but hey I’ll pray for him!” In many cases, that is a passive move based on fear, ignorance and lack of interest of pursuing God’s design for us to love everyone the way Jesus would. Instead, I intend on emphasizing the need to avoid lukewarm Christianity, filling our minds with wicked things and falling into the trap that lies behind the music.
With some of that content I just typed, I am sure many viewers exited their internet browsers. Nobody likes hearing their favorite artists discussed that way. I used to feel that way too. But we’re to make sacrifices in this life for the sake of knowing our Lord more intimately and understanding where He would have us stand on matters such as lyrics; even if that means not opening our ears to music that sends a valid message or has a ‘good beat’. But for you who decided to continue and read on, I urge you to let this message sink in. I am not here for a popularity contest. I am not here to win over the general public of the internet whatsoever. I know from 2 Timothy 2:12 that I will receive persecution and criticisms for my words but 1 Peter 4:16 reassures me it is all for the sake of God and His glory and that alone is enough of a reason for me to share this message.
There is a disclaimer that certainly follows with this message of mine. Everybody gets convicted from different things and if we’re talking lyrics, a reader of this blog may receive a completely separate conviction or no conviction whatsoever from artists or songs I mentioned earlier. I am not stating by any means that if you’re a Christ-follower you “better be convicted by these songs or else!” No, no. It is the principle I want to highlight that as Christ-followers, we can’t afford to go out and settle for a life standard or behavior that is beneath what God asks of us to be. Don’t give in to the lie of thinking that just because a song’s message may make some valid points or has a ‘catchy beat’ it is okay to listen to. Take a look at what I said in the ‘About’ tab on our blog’s homepage. Satan works in subtle ways! He’d like nothing more than for any of us to listen to music that is labeled ‘innocent’ by our culture but is the exact thing God wishes for us to avoid so we can remain on the narrow path.
This is but a small excerpt that could branch into several topics worth more discussing. However, I don’t want to bore the audience. The end of this message defines a key concept that I will further discuss in next week’s blog:
The human mind is an incredibly stubborn, strong-willed source that seeks to rationalize and excuse just about anything that could be a desire of the flesh or tool of Satan.
Ryan Walters. ‘98.6 Too Cold’ Founder, Blogger