It’s about culture.
Guys, wear your hair “too” long, and you’re a rebel. That goes back to the 60s and 70s. How long is “too long” depends: it’s relative. And if someone says, “Well, Jesus had long hair!” that guy just doesn’t get it. (See, if He did, it was OK back then; it wasn’t culturally relevant. [But, no, actually, others would say, Jesus’ hair was always short enough to pass hair check - a very modern military look - while everyone else’s around him was longer, at least over the ear.] My point. Culture.)
Nowadays it’s OK for women to wear pants, but not so long ago it was – My goodness! Talk about rebellion! Cultural.
And music – that’s another huge cultural area. Oh, sure, there’s science that shows that certain beats produce physiological results in the body and soul that the devil can piggyback onto and gain access into our behavior and consciousness. But there is also much about music that is simply culture – preferences, what people are used to, etc. – and that doesn’t make it immoral or ungodly. And “science,” as we know, is easily arranged to say what the sayer wishes it to say.
But the most important point here is that church is a cultural experience. We like what we are used to, what we associate with fond memories and with people whom we respect and admire, and what harmonizes with what we currently classify by default as “spiritual” or godly. But now church culture is changing, drastically. Where once pipe organs and pianos dominated, backed up by choirs and formal singing of old hymns out of pew-back hymnals, more often than not now one is likely to be confronted with electric guitars, drums, and words projected on a screen. Can we really say (or judge) that people in either scenario are more godly or less spiritual … that one is closer to God or more bound for heaven than the other? Really? So is Bill Gaither going to receive as many rewards in heaven as Fanny Crosby? Will God’s Not Dead!not be heard on heaven’s shores while Holy, Holy, Holy will? Folks, are those even the kinds of questions we should be asking?
Worshipping with a bunch of Southern Baptists out in the countryside is a sight different from worshipping with Presbyterians in the city … or black brothers and sisters anywhere! What’s different? It’s ALL culture, folks.
Point is: there are all sorts of cultures that are built up around church that have nothing to do specifically with Jesus Christ Himself. (He did not give us a long list of “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots,” remember, but only two: simply 1. Love the Lord thy God with all of thy heart, soul and strength, and 2. Love thy neighbor as thyself.) Some church cultures are all about the Bible – the Book – while others are more focused on the active work of the Holy Spirit. But can’t we see that it is a cultural bias, then, that causes us to miss the truth that God is in both – that one is not better than the other?
There IS a culture that should dominate: the culture of Christ. How can we be like Him, learn like Him, learn to do the works that He did (for, after all, He told us that we would do even greater works after He was gone), and build His family, the ecclesia?
As to the culture that we each one bring, there is no “right” or “wrong”; there is just “different.” Each one of us brings something different to the table; that’s what I Cor. 14 is pointing out. No one of us has Godly authority to say that one is “better” than another, though we should all be learning to be attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit such that we are able, individually, to know what pleases God in the spirit. But in the flesh, why should the one with the trained operatic voice have the right to steal the microphone away from the “sing in the shower” voice? What right has any one of us to judge the relative value of another, be it individual or group of believers?
Bear in mind, too, that the things that go into forming and fine-tuning our individual cultures often do not look pretty up-close. Pavarotti was not born singing grand opera; it took time, teaching and practice to develop that fine voice. So how dare any of us judge another for the wilderness time gone through to develop his own set of lungs?
This is a choir, not a solo performance at the Met. The culture that we represent is highlighted by the love of Christ – the one thing that He gives to us all equally – not His ability to, say, produce fine furniture in His carpenter shop. And quite frankly, one of the beauties of a choir is its ability to take a bunch of “average” voices and blend them together such that “impurities” give way to beautiful harmonies. Harmony: it’s a beautiful thing! In any culture.