First Person Life


Daring to tread....

There is a good discussion going on in cyberspace right now that has gotten ugly. John13-27 has a post on What You do, Do Quickly that attempts to refocus the discussion. The comments, unfortunately, quickly degenerate into turf protection.

Those who are members of the community in which this is playing out are concerned for all involved. Like most storms, it will likely blow over eventually and hopefully everyone can emerge (bruised perhaps, but not permanently damaged) reasonably "friends" again.

In the mean time, the underlying discussion regarding sanctification and living the "Christian Life" is an important one. So let's delve in, shall we?

To set the stage, there are two positions in this debate.

One side posits that listening to lewd and crude artists such as Eminem is a sin[1].
The other side posits that Christian Freedom permits such listening because of God's Grace in Christ[2].

To guide our discussion, let us examine St. Paul's comments to the Corinthians

We will begin with I Corinthians 6:12-14
(12) "Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything. (13) "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. (14) By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

and I Corinthians 10:22ff.

(23) "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. (24) Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

It is clear that St. Paul concurs with those who say everything is permissible, but he cautions that "permissible" does not equate with "good." Those that assert the "permissibility" of listening to lewd music have St. Paul on their side. The fact is that because of our redemption by Christ, everything is permissible. Nothing ought bind our conscience, we have been redeemed.

However, St. Paul is no "antinomian" with no respect for the sanctified life. After concurring with those who say, "Everything is permissible," (that is, nothing ought bind my conscience,) he immediately reigns in the flesh with, "but not everything is beneficial," and, "but I will not be mastered by anything," and, "but not everything is constructive," and finally with, "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others."

To those who would use, "Everything is permissible," to permit themselves to engage in all kinds of behavior that is clearly "conduct unbecoming a Christian," they would do well to remember I Cor. 6:19-20, "You are not your own; you were bought at a price." It is not whether or not listening to Eminem "hurts" your neighbor that should be the stick by which you measure, but whether or not it "helps" your neighbor (and helping Eminem support his drug habit or the record executives prosecute unsuspecting grandmothers is not really "helping" your neighbor -- but I digress).

Do you listen to such music because you "like it?" Then it is probably sinful. Ultimately, you are simply satisfying the desires of the self and the flesh. In the process, you are intentionally allowing your mind to be filled with images and thoughts which are foreign, even antithetical, to a Biblical understanding of the world. This is not to say that everything you "like" is sinful but that you must examine your motivations for doing something you "like" much more carefully than what you don't like.

Do you listen to it because you know several teenage members of your congregation who listen to it; so to better understand and communicate with them you are involving yourself in their culture? Then it probably is not sin (and you probably don't "like it"). [But be careful not to be entrapped by that culture yourself.]

Perhaps an appropriate quote from our beloved Dr. Luther will help:

When these two topics, the Law and the Gospel are separated this way, both will remain within their limits. The Law will remain outside heaven, that is, outside the heart and the conscience; and, on the other hand, the freedom of the Gospel will remain outside the earth, that is outside the body and its members. And just as soon as the Law and sin come into heaven, that is, into the conscience, they should promptly be ejected. For then the conscience should know nothing about the Law and sin but should know only about Christ. On the other hand, when grace and freedom come into the earth, that is, into the body, you must say: "You have no business here among the dirt and filth of this physical life. You belong in heaven!"[3]

Therefore, to those who would bind consciences by saying it is a "sin" to listen to certain supposed artists, it should be noted that you are placing the Law in heaven where it has no place.

And -- To those who would absolve themselves from sin and free their body to fulfill the desires of the flesh, it should be said, "You are not your own; (20) you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." That is, your whole body, "eyes, ears, and all [your] members, [your] reason and all [your] senses" which God created, redeemed and still preserves.

St. Paul said, "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." That is, love God and serve your neighbor. When you recognize that you have utterly failed in these things, then you can appeal to the Gospel... but not before.

[1]Reference: Rev. McCain's Blog, Cyberbretheren posts Aversion to Sanctification, Walk in Love, as Christ Loved Us, and What's Wrong With Listening to Lewd Lyrics? (Back to article)
[2]Reference: comment in post Single Cure on the blog What You Do Do Quickly
UPDATE (1/5/2005 9:30P): The statement as it reads above is not completely accurate. The second party in the debate listens to selective tracks of Eminem and never said it was "permissible because of God's Grace in Christ."

The statement as it appears is best taken as what the first party believes the second party to be saying. It is retained in this article for continuity.
(Back to article)
[3]Reference: AE 26, p 116. (Back to article)

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