“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
These verses clearly spell out one of the major differences between the Christian world view and the rest of the world. In our society, driven as it is by evolutionary presuppositions, it is accepted that everyone will, and often should, look after their own interests. Our own inherent selfishness grabs at the excuse and runs with it to extreme egocentric heights. However, as Christians, we know that such a mentality does not lead to personal satisfaction, but rather destroys our relationships with those around us. Since I have been married I have been learning every day more and more how essential it is to regard my wife as more important than myself and to elevate her personal interests in my life.
The Church, a family itself, also needs to keep Paul’s admonishment to the Philippians in mind in how we deal with each other while we work, serve, and worship together. Worship is often seen as an intensely personal act; an individual’s interaction with God. However, when we gather on Sunday mornings, we are not a collection of individual worshipers who happen to be in the same building at the same time while we worship. Rather, we are a corporate body that is together engaging in worship through prayer, attention to scripture, and song. The aspect of togetherness is easiest to see while we sing. We are all saying the same words at the same time; words confessing truths about our God, to our God. Our singing is a beautiful reminder that we are one entity engaging in worship.
It is, however, a sad truth that music is often one of the most divisive issues in the church. Within a congregation there is inevitably going to be a diversity of personal musical preferences and tastes. If we were to gather our collective Cds, iTunes, Spotify playlists, vinyls, Pandora stations, Cassettes, and any other music listening mediums, together, the resulting catalogue would cover much of the full spectrum of musical styles. It follows then, that on a Sunday morning, when we gather together and sing, not every single individual is going to like every single song we sing.
However, that is precisely why we need to keep Philippians 2:3-4 in mind while we sing, because even though I am not personally interested in the style of certain songs, I need to be aware that some of my brothers and sisters are, and I need to look out for their interests. I call this Grace Filled Worship. We show grace to one another by joining and participating together in worship, even when it is not suited to our own personal taste preferences. If we let our own personal tastes dictate our participation in a worship service, then we are acting out of our own selfishness. How can that be true worship? Our worship should, above any question of style or taste, be Christ focused, and Christ, as Philippians 2 goes on to unmistakably show, is the essence of selflessness.
What would it really look like if each of us were looking out for the musical interests of others instead of our own? To paraphrase from Russell Moore: could you imagine if it were the senior saints of the congregation who were advocating new music while the younger members were ensuring that the older hymns aren’t forgotten? We have a chance, in our singing, to honor one another, and serve one another by participating in different songs and styles, no matter what our personal preference may be. And by participate, I don’t mean simply grinning and bearing certain songs, but actually engaging in them out of love for those around us who resonate with those songs. You may find that if you are interested in what enhances the worship of your brothers and sisters, your own worship will be enhanced.
Show grace to your fellow church members by participating with them in songs that are in their preferred styles. Put your own musical interests aside, and worship with humility and deference. For it is only when we put aside our own selfishness that we can truly focus on Christ. And it is only when we truly focus on Christ that we are truly engaging in worship.