I grew up listening to a weird mix of music. Public Enemy, Stryper and Hank Williams Jr. to name a few. I’m still waiting on these three to go on tour together. I’ll let you know if I hear anything.
There was this Hank Williams Jr. song that fascinated me. Country Boy Can Survive. To my knowledge, it was country music’s first apocalyptic song. Hank, it appears, was apocalyptic before apocalyptic was cool. Take that, Katniss!
The more I listened to the song and sang it in my head, the more I convinced myself that I was a country boy and that I could survive. Never mind the fact that I lived in the south Atlanta suburbs and struggled with opening a can of Beanie Weenies. Surely, just singing the words to the song would suffice. Surely.
I was in my mid 20s before I realized just how wrong I was.
In the song, Hank catalogs all of his country boy skills. Making homemade wine, spitting Beechnut in some dude’s eye and, as I understood it, running “a truck line.” I spent years wondering how being able to manage a fleet of 18-wheelers would prove beneficial in an apocalyptic scenario. But, I thought it best not to question Mr. Williams Jr. So I carried on singing about “skinning bucks” and “running truck lines.”
And then I was corrected by an authentic country boy.
“It’s trot line.”
“Trot line. Not truck line.”
“Oh… Well what’s a trot line?”
I learned two very important lessons from that short conversation.
1. I was not, in fact, a country boy.
2. I would not be doing any surviving. Unless there would be someone with me who happened to be skilled at the fine art of opening Beanie Weenie cans.
If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves in the same situation on Sunday mornings. We may call our singing worship. It may even feel like worship. But in reality it is nothing of the sort. If we’re honest, we don’t even know what we’re singing. And even worse, we’re nowhere close to living it.
Jesus hates this kind of worship. He told us as much when he quoted Isaiah to the religious leaders.
“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” Matthew 15:7-9 (ESV)
The kind of worship that Jesus loves is the kind that overflows from a heart of gratitude towards him and love towards one another. Paul says to sing, “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
It’s interesting that most disputes I hear about in churches have something to do with music. It’s either too loud, too old or too new. No matter how sincerely we subscribe to our views and particular form of worship, much of these arguments fly in the face of the kind of worship that Jesus is after.
He’s not as concerned with musical harmony as he is with harmony among his people.
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14 (ESV)
Worship, just like being a country boy, is more than just singing a song. It’s living a life.
The singing is just the soundtrack.