Sunday was the biggest game of the year, and with it, one of the most widely seen brief performances of secular, mainstream music–The Pepsi Halftime Show of the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII. Usually this performance is not worth mentioning, let alone watching. It is usually so full of trash for eyes and ears that I turn it off. This year, I was pleasantly surprised! Was it perfect? No. Was there still some trash? Yes. But I can’t help but think we have two options as Christians in a secular world. 1.) We watch/listen to it with open minds or 2.) We don’t watch/listen to it at all. Either is appropriate depending on where you are with Christ and your convictions. Let’s not be naïve to think the world will ever perform at our standard.
If we are to do the first, we have to be very careful indeed. Growing up, my siblings listened to lots of secular music that I wished I never heard. I can be going through a store and hear a catchy song by Lady Gaga and it almost ruins my day because I sing it… all… day… long. See, that is the danger of secular music and the risk that is played when we listen with open minds. Not all secular music is bad, but a lot of it isn’t uplifting either. Filter. Filter. Filter. What you put into your heart and mind will come out, but how and when? For as Matthew says, “But the words you speak come from the heart–that’s what defiles you.” (15:19)
You see, the problem isn’t that we listen to it; the problem isn’t what we are putting in. The problem is how what we put in affects how we live and what we say. It is subliminal and probably shows up in the smallest ways–the slip of a tongue, the giving into selfish desires, the passionate “love” between a boyfriend and girlfriend. It is a slow fade influenced by secular culture today. Everything we listen to and watch needs to be filtered through the Word of God.
On the flip side, we can avoid all secular media. The risk here is to appear as a Christian bigot that is so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. If our views on secular music begin to influence negatively how we see others, we are doing it wrong. We cannot expect the world to fit into our box of purity. Our standard is much loftier than the bar the world sets. We are defiled by what we say, but our definition of what those kinds of words are is drastically different. The world in general cusses, and though some still find this crass and “defiled,” for others it is common place. For some topics of sex are just an opportunity for jokes, but to us it is defiling in the wrong contexts of marriage. Can we expect a secular world to live the way we expect when we can’t even do it without the love, grace, and empowerment of the Holy Spirit?
As I engaged in a Facebook debate over pettiness, I realized the drastic differences between these two and the need to find the balance in the Christian community. No we shouldn’t fill our hearts and mind with garbage, but we also need to be loving to those that do. In filtering through the Superbowl halftime, I think there was a great performance by the world’s standard. It was classy and generally clean. I greatly appreciated the freshness of Bruno Mars. When we really look at it, as a Christian, some of those songs needed to be deposited in the trash bin of our mind. With every secular opportunity that comes, filter. Filter. Filter. And never condemn. Your standard is not the world’s standard, as much as we hope and pray it to be.