Dancing to Murder Songs

“And this is the song that we want you to play for our first dance as a married couple.”

“This one?”


“Are you sure?”

“Of course. It’s our song. Every time I hear it I’m reminded of the strong love we will share with one another for the rest of our lives.”

“Okay. But did you know that this song is about breaking up? Actually, it’s more than that. The guy is talking about how he wishes that he could bury his wife in the backyard.”

“Interesting. But the music sounds so romantic. Just do what we pay you for, Mr. DJ.”

I talked to a wedding DJ one time who said that he frequently has conversations like the one above. For some newlyweds it seems that context means nothing. Who cares about the author’s original intent or the story behind the song? Feelings! Emotions! Now that’s what really matters.

Sadly, many people read the Bible with the same mindset. Who cares what the verse actually means? Feelings! Emotions! Now that’s what really matters. And ironically, the greater message is lost. That’s what always happens when context is sacrificed on the altar of emotion.

Consider Paul’s words to the Philippians.

One day Paul found out that he was getting a promotion down at the tent making plant. He was overcome with joy when he thought about the extra income he would be getting. But he was careful to give credit where credit was due. So he wrote this.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4 (ESV)

The next day he had to speak to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes over at Philippi High before their big track meet. Searching for the right words he finally settled on these.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

Obviously, none of that is true. Paul didn’t remind his readers to delight in God because he had just gotten a raise and couldn’t contain his joy. And he wasn’t thinking about motivating athletes either. No, he was under house arrest (Acts 28:30-31). Just before that he was bitten by a snake (Acts 28:1-6) and almost lost his life in a shipwreck (Acts 27). And before that he was beaten by a mob (Acts 21:27-36).

But, sitting in chains in some rented house prison, Paul still couldn’t contain his joy. So, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He wrote these words.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4 (ESV)

And removed from his only source of income and prohibited from his calling, Paul remained confident in God’s ability to work through him and provide for him. He expressed that confidence to the Philippian church.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

Although our circumstances may not be as dire, we will all find ourselves in situations like Paul was. Stuck. Unable to do what we would really like to be doing. But, like Paul, we must trust that God can do all that he wants in and through us. Whether we are in a hospital bed, a dorm room or a jail.

Context means everything. Without it, the Bible is reduced to a collection of bumper sticker sayings. With it, we are reminded of our reason to rejoice.

No matter the circumstances.