The question of whether Christians should embrace or avoid secular music is a great question, and since there are many differing opinions and views on this topic it can be a little difficult for some believers to come to a solid conclusion.
But changing the question from, “is it wrong or right?” to, “does this bring me closer to God?” will help us to come to a conclusion.
Should Christians embrace or avoid secular music? The question is not, “should I listen to secular music,” but instead, “how can secular music bring me closer to God?” When Christians think of listening to secular music, we should always ask the important question of whether it is helping us to cultivate and push us in our relationship with Christ. If it leads our thoughts, moods, and actions into sinful directions then it is something we should either not engage in or limit ourselves in.
The Sacred-Secular Divide
First, what is the sacred-secular divide?
The sacred-secular divide is the belief or lifestyle that Church, God, and personal devotion is the sacred aspect of the Christian life, while the workplace and everywhere outside of the home and church falls under the secular category.
The Bible, however, teaches that there is no divide between the two. God’s spirit lives inside of us, and goes with us wherever we go. Since this is the case, everything we do is spiritual and sacred and has the potential to either honor God or not Honor God.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through himColossians 3:17
A better way of approaching the Christian walk is presented in the above passage from Colossians and it shows us that everything we do should be done unto God. And everything we do should further be seen as an opportunity to worship and praise Him.
When we approach life from the sacred-secular standpoint, we can often miss out on opportunities to proclaim and/or honor God, because if we place ourselves in the mindset that, ‘right now I’m in the secular world,’ we can find ourselves forgetting about Him and/or forgetting to meditate on his word.
How Secular Music Affects Us
It can easily be agreed that music, of all the mediums of art, has the greatest capacity for influencing a person. It is a powerful thing that affects you in many ways. We’ve all experienced the moment when a song from the past comes on the radio and sparks memories both good and bad, memories that are so vivid its as though you’re back in the same moment.
The bottom line is music is powerful and affects us in ways we both realize and maybe do not realize.
Let’s take a look at the two major ways it affects us.
How Music Affects Our Thoughts
Secular music is not designed or written with God in mind, and since this is the case most of the time, the lyrics are not edifying. Not all songs are explicit or talking about drugs, sex, and money, but, even some of the most well-meaning songs have the ability to make us think, even when we are not aware of it.
Have you ever found yourself lost in thought?
I think everyone can answer yes to this.
The thing is, we all have a propensity to drift in our thoughts to certain things, whether that is your to-do-list for the day, an important conversation you need to have with someone, or what you’re cooking for dinner tonight, the options are endless.
The question is, are the things your mind is wondering to, centered on Christ?
The music we listen to enters our minds whether we are paying attention to the lyrics or not, and has the ability to steer our thoughts before we realize we’re even thinking about or considering what the song is talking about.
And the biggest aid into the subconscious or even conscious thought is the actual music that speaks to our emotions and mood.
How Music Affects Our Mood
Music has the ability to change our mood in remarkable ways.
There was a time when I decided to listen to worship and Christ-centered music more than I listened to secular music, and after a short time of doing this, I was able to plainly see the difference it made in my mood.
If you are constantly listening to sad secular music that’s focusing on breakups, for example, you’ll find yourself in a mood to match it, or again, soon find your thoughts wandering down the road of breakups.
Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.Victor Hugo
The thoughts of Victor Hugo are shared with many others, and tell us one thing, music is emotions expressed without words. So when we listen to music we can also tap into the emotions people have written into their music.
How Christians Should Approach Secular Music
Secular music is not always necessarily bad, and listening to it is not necessarily always sinful either, but we should ask ourselves, is it helpful in pushing us closer to Christ and thinking about what He would have us think on?
And perhaps there are personal convictions you hold. For some, this may be an area of weakness that you believe the Lord has told you to totally stay away from and if that is the case then be obedient in that command from God.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything1 Corinthians 6:12
The above passage then is the approach we ought to take when we engage with secular music or anything else that is questionable in our lives. So in everything we do, it is helpful to shift our thinking from “should I,” to “how can I glorify God in this, and how can it draw me closer to Him?”
Our natural human inclination is not to drift towards righteous things, but sinful things, therefore we must be intentional in our pursuit of God and His ways. And seek to make ourselves follow the things that bring us into God’s likeness.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.1 Corinthians 9:27
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians show us that we must be strategic in our actions and thoughts, so let’s take a look at some practical and intentional steps that will help to ensure that we have a healthy balance that is leading us to God.
- Make sure the amount of worship/Christ-centered music you listen to outweighs the secular music.
- Draw a line on what you will and will not listen to–is it directly going against what Christ teaches? e.g. is it promoting fornication, drugs, worldly things, etc.
- Examine how you’re being affected by the music you listen to
So the main idea is to use discernment and to make our approach one of looking for ways we can strategically and intentionally use music to cultivate and push us towards Christ.