Thursday, April 21, 2016

Being "Real"

As a musical worship leader (I play keys, and occasionally sing or play auxiliary percussion) I think a lot about being 'authentic' and what it means to have integrity; that is, to be the same person at all times, and to not be fake with who I am or what I believe.

There is a lot to be said for authenticity --- you shouldn't put on a mask every day to conceal your real self. I do not want to be one person on stage, and a completely different person at all other times. I often feel like I am that way.

However, it's not about doing the same things at all times. It's about who you are, and why you do the things that you do. So, I believe I can lead worship at some times, and talk about dank memes at others, without losing integrity (and if you don't know what dank memes are, don't worry about it).

Paul says in 1st Corinthians 9: "To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law, so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." 

Paul did not lose integrity by becoming all things to all people. Rather, he did it to build a relationship with them, and then through that relationship he brought them to faith.

One of my favorite bands of late is twenty øne piløts. Now, unlike a lot of their fanbase, I don't have serious struggles with depression or mental illness. Many of their lyrics do relate to those issues, because the creator, Tyler Joseph, has severe struggles with those things.

What drew me in is how consistently real they are. They do not cover up their problems; they do not sing about cheap pleasures, like sex, drugs, or money. They sing about what really matters to them. The other cool thing about them is that they are, indeed, both Christian, but their songs do not in any way require faith to appreciate, and their lyrics can all be interpreted for each individual listener. They have, quite literally, saved lives (just read the comments on their videos to see). They also are real about their spiritual doubts --- they even have a song entitled "Doubt".

One of my favorite verses is from "Ode to Sleep"

And the trees wave their arms and the clouds try to plead,
Desperately yelling there's something we need,
I'm not free, I asked forgiveness three times,
Same amount that I denied, I three-time mvp'ed this crime,
I'm afraid to tell you who I adore, won't tell you who I'm singing towards,
Metaphorically I'm a whore, and that's denial number four.
Now, not all of their lyrics are that loaded with biblical reference (the story of Peter's three denials). But it's a beautiful description of how, even in their intensely real lyrics, they fear showing their true intentions. And indeed, I'm glad they aren't a "Christian" band. If they were, they would not have anywhere near the following they have (probably) and they would not reach the people that they do reach (the depressed, the broken, the doubting).

I love this band, because it's a great example of how they will be what they need to be to reach the broken. They believe, though it may be tenuous at times, but they still relate on an intensely powerful level to their listeners without preaching to them. (Also, the last line of that verse is pretty much the most vulgar they ever get!)

The point is, you do not need to be speaking the Gospel at all times in order to be a Christian with integrity. This does not, by any means, give you license to say whatever you want then claim you are just following Paul's footsteps. However, it should give you the freedom to build relationships with people by doing things that will help you connect with them.

That got a little rambly and twisty, but I hope it makes sense.

Song of the day: Taxi Cab by twenty øne piløts. This deserves a little explanation. It's one of their older songs, when the band looked a little bit different, but there are a lot of Christian themes in the lyrics. I invite you to open up the description of the video where the lyrics are and see if you can find them. I'd love to hear interpretations!!

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