Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Pop Music and Christian Commitment

So, most mornings my daughter and I listen to the local Top40 station during breakfast. We do this partly because she loves music and this is the only station we can get in our kitchen. We also do it because they have a pop-culture trivia contest every day at about 8:15 and I loves me some pop culture.

One morning last week, I happen to catch a lyric that intrigued me. The new single from Mumford rip-off and American Idol winner, Phillip Phillips (amazing any creativity at all runs in that family), is basically a straightforward love song about undying devotion and co-dependency that makes young girls swoon and fills out a catchy tune. However, one line, likely accidental, says "When your hope is dangling by a string/I'll share your suffering/To make you well, to make you well."

Sharing suffering is certainly a gospel buzzword for me. Our modern culture isn't usually a big proponent of things that make us sad, especially unnecessarily. With all this talk about marriage these days (most of it without actually addressing marriage at all), the line sparked something in me.

I looked up the lyrics, and yes, by the end, they do devolve into "I can't live without you" co-dependency, that sort of takes the poignancy of commitment out of the beginning. Regardless, it's a good example.

Rarely do we approach anyone with the notion of suffering with. Perhaps if we're getting something out of the arrangement (alleviation of guilt, feelings of superiority, a warm fuzzy charity high, or perhaps steamy sex) then it makes sense to up the level of commitment.

I'll say again, so you know I'm aware, these lyrics are probably just filler that fit the rhyme scheme and meter necessary for the catchy tune. At the same time, millions of people are hearing them and processing them, even if it's subconscious.

Sharing in suffering is not just for romantic commitments, it is a staple of Christian life and purpose. Obviously marriage becomes the pinnacle of this, because married people commit to each other for life. There is some semblance of that all-in commitment in the song as well.

The final intriguing piece, though, as it relates to marriage is the throwaway tag - "Give me reason to believe/That you would do the same for me."

That's Christian marriage in its simplest form, isn't it? Making a lifelong commitment, of mutual suffering if necessary. It doesn't sound that glamorous. Of course marriage really isn't that glamorous - maybe that's why people spend so much on their weddings, to keep the allure of glamour as long as possible?

When I give advice about marriage, I give the long spiel about Christian commitment - that our marriages are modeled on the relationship of God to God's people and that we must be willing to give up everything, even our own happiness, for the sake of the other. But I also tell people, if you're going to get married, look for two things:

1. Someone who is worth that kind of sacrifice.

2. Someone you're reasonably sure is capable of making the same commitment to you.

God plays a part in marriage, a big part, but hopefully before two Christians get this far, they've already well incorporated a relationship of total dependence on God into their lives.

We've exhausted even the last remnants of gravity in the song now, but I think there's still one more thing to be said. Phillip Phillips' lyrics devolve into co-dependency, like most love songs, and frankly, it's a pretty easy place to go in real life. I'll admit, more than anything, what I value from my marriage is its ability to support me and keep me sane. I rely on this element perhaps too much at times.

In the end, in real life, I think what keeps any marriage from devolving in the same way is a third principle - not one you look for in the other, but one you seek out together.

3. Before you commit to each other, be absolutely sure that the Kingdom of God, the gospel, God's redemptive purposes in the world, will be better off with you together than it would with you apart.

This idea had never crossed my mind before I got married. I think I had #1 and #2 down pretty well. I'd never, though, thought about marriage as something that was "for" anyone else. It is, though. At the core, marriage has a purpose beyond bearing children and providing security. It must, at least for those committed to Christ, further the mission of God in the world.

I think we lucked into that one. My wife and I are so vastly different that we force each other, painfully most of the time, to adapt and be different - to be more well rounded people, especially in areas we'd otherwise neglect. I can see, in her and in myself, many ways God has worked for good in the world through us that would never have been possible without our marriage.

So, that song (Gone, Gone, Gone) might be musically derivative and lyrically predictable - but I sure appreciate it as a reminder to be conscious of the ways we serve others and the value of relationship in the world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said. This is now on the top of my list of favorite posts you have done!