I came across this story below which illustrates the uniqueness of the Christian faith – and also the importance of singing in the Christian life. The story comes from a book entitled, Spiritual Warfare and Missions: The Battle for God’s Glory Among the Nations by Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer (p. 20). Here it is:
Dr. Tom Elliff, former pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Oklahoma, related an experience of leading members of his church on a mission trip to Cambodia. They were amazed at the opportunities to witness openly and minister to the people of this Buddhist country. One afternoon their missionary host accompanied them to a Buddhist monastery where he had been teaching English to the monks. The missionary had arranged a meeting with the team from America. Dr. Elliff recounted that they were uncomfortable going into such an environment, but they found the monks hospitable and excited about meeting friends from America and being able to practice their English. They were gracious to listen to the testimonies of these Christians. As they warmed to the fellowship, the American team began to sing some of the praise songs common to their worship back home.
It was an informal time, and spontaneously, someone asked the monks to sing some of their songs for them, their guests. The group of saffron-robed monks with shaved heads gathered and began a dissonant chant. Apparently realizing how they sounded, and it bearing no resemblance to the songs just heard, the chant faded out after a few lines, and one of them said, somewhat apologetic, “We don’t have any songs in our religion!”
I found this story very intriguing but also very sad especially the words, “We don’t have any songs in our religion!” How sad and hopeless! Here is more from the story (continuing from where we left off):
Those who have not experienced the love and mercy of God have nothing to sing about. Buddhists, striving for their eternal destiny through the futility of their own good works, do not sing about the wonder and grace of redemptive love. Millions of Muslims, fervent in their devotion, worship a distant, impersonal god in a fatalistic religion that offers no assurance of salvation. Fear is not something that elicits songs of joy. Multitudes of animistic cultures, living in bondage to superstitution, do not celebrate their hopeless state with song.
But God’s people sing! Even more, God’s desire is that all the nations would rejoice and sing for joy – a joy that comes only in knowing Him and experiencing His mercy and redemption.
John Piper responding to the question, “Why Is Singing So Important for Christians?” says:
…Some faiths, like Islam, don’t even believe in singing. But what kind of faith could say that the human heart, with its readiness to make melody over almost everything it enjoys, should not do that over the most important reality in the universe? That’s a really strange religion, I think.
The fact that Christianity is a singing religion bears witness, not only to the way we’re wired as human beings, but to the kind of God we have: namely, a God who is one day, according to Zephaniah 3:17, going to sing over us. He is going to lead a choir and celebrate the fact that we are his. And we’re going to join in singing that he is ours, because God is so valuable and so beautiful and so multi-faceted in his perfections that to leave out the emotional component–and not let it spill over in poetry and song–would be to leave out a key element in worship.
I really don’t have a lot of patience, frankly, even with Christians who want to put a lid on music and singing, or put it back five centuries, or limit it to one kind of instrument, or take away all instrumental music and just let it be voice. I think that all of that is hopelessly defeatist, because we humans have explosive souls; and the reason we do is because God is explosively beautiful and great and glorious. He is going to call out from us song and music of every kind, and we might as well just let it out and try and bring it into its deep, powerful significance with truth.
That’s the crucial thing: govern our music-making with true biblical doctrine.
I hope you are encouraged by this even as I am! If you are in Christ, you have a reason to sing! Christ is the reason, we Christians, sing. Listen to this song below by Kirk Franklin – Give thanks to the LORD for giving us Christ and putting a new song in your mouth, a song of praise to Him our Him God (Psalm 40:3).