Unity in Variety; October 13, 2021

1 Corinthians 14:15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

We cut ourselves off from so much when we get into a rigid either/or mindset. Right now the US is being torn apart by extremes, to the benefit of only the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. This seems like something far milder, but the principle is the same. There are churches of all flavors, and I’m not just talking about the ones that have gone over to apostasy and hedonism. Some genuine Christians feel that only traditional hymns are pleasing to God, and some won’t sing anything more than 20 years old. Some forbid any of what Pentecostals would call “manifestation gifts,” and some feel you haven’t really “had church” if nobody falls down. Paul doesn’t agree with that at all! His attitude is obviously both/and! We tend to lose sight of the incredible richness of God’s provision for us, the incredible variety with which He has filled creation. This is a major issue in cross-cultural ministry. I remember a tidbit from a Music in Missions class I took in seminary. The professor told us about some missionaries in West Africa who loved a hymn that includes the line, “Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow,” and insisted that it be translated and sung in their services. The problem is, not only were the locals not white, they didn’t even have a word for snow, so the song ended up saying, “Now wash me and I shall be whiter than cold!” We need to be able to worship God from our hearts, not getting into ruts but allowing God to grow us in all the ways He wants us to relate to Him.

This is something I’ve really walked through. I grew up in a very musical family of faith, and some of my sweetest memories are of my family gathered around the piano singing through the hymnal – and the hymnal in question was the 1954 Baptist Hymnal, with occasional excursions into the Broadman Hymnal. I was introduced to the Charismatic Movement around 1972, and loved that music as well. All of that said, I realize that some hymns are fossilized, so to speak, and don’t speak to most people today, and some modern “worship songs” are shallow and man-centered to the point of not really being worship at all. Because we do things bilingually here, I’ve translated a lot of songs from English to Japanese and vice versa, including re-translating some originally English hymns with rich content but totally archaic Japanese in the previous translation. Some of the originally Japanese songs are rich indeed, and I delight to be able to share them in English. To go back to the specific point Paul is talking about here, I agree 100% with what he says in verses 18-19. My use of tongues is private, but extremely valuable to me. It indeed builds me up, as yesterday’s passage talked about. However, in group worship I operate in both English and Japanese, but always to be understood by those around me so that they may participate in my worship of the Lord. I want this church to be fully open to all the Lord wants to do in and through us, and that probably includes things we haven’t dreamed of yet!

Father, thank You for all that You have brought me through in so many ways on so many levels. Keep me from looking down on anyone who hasn’t walked the same path, but rather “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3) Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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