One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
One of the most popular songs in recent years for corporate worship is “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”. Congregations all around the world sing it. On a recent trip to Asia, I heard it sung in Thai. I would be surprised to find a church music team that has never played it. It’s pretty likely that you, the reader, know the song and have probably sung it time and time again.
I am personally thankful to Martin Smith and Delirious? for first writing and recording this wonderful song. It’s incredibly effective and powerful. In SONICFLOOd we play it almost every time we perform. I love playing it and singing it. While singing that song, I have often felt a wonderful closeness with God and a very real sense of His love for me. It usually leads to a great ‘moment’ where we in the band stop playing and the congregation takes over – singing passionate praises to God.
But very recently I realized something that, to me, was quite shocking. During those times that I was singing of His love, I was doing something that Jesus never asked me to do! In all the recorded words of Jesus in the Gospels, He never once asks us to sing of His love, or has anything to say about singing songs at all. One of the most practiced things that followers of Jesus love to do, He never asked us to do!
While never teaching us to sing about His love, Jesus very clearly, in many different ways and over and over again instructs us to be His love in the world. He tells us to love one another (John 13:34-35), to love our neighbor (Matt 22:39), even to love our enemies (Matt 5:43) and to show love to “the least of these” (Matt 25:40).
Jesus teaches that, after loving God, loving the people around us is the most important thing. And that everything about honoring God –”all the law and the prophets” – stem from our love for God and others. (Matt 22:40) He also shows us that our love should be unconditional and self-sacrificial. (Matt 15:12-14) All this while saying nothing about singing of God’s love.
It is good to sing songs of praise and to worship God through music – I do it and encourage others to do it as my vocation! And there are many places in the Scriptures that give examples and show the value of singing and playing our worship. And I can imagine the saints truly will sing of God’s love forever in heaven.
But we must be careful. It is much easier to sing about God’s love than to truly be God’s love. It is far too easy to let singing be the most obvious outward expression of our love for God when it is our lavish, selfless and outrageous love for people – even the unlovable – that should define us. It may even be possible that singing about God’s love could be an idol that distracts us from how to actually be God’s love.
Let us check ourselves. Better than that, let’s invite the Holy Spirit to check us. Yes! Let’s sing of God’s love, but let’s allow God’s healing Spirit to flow through the act to draw us to full obedience to be God’s love.
Closing Prayer: “Dear God, Thank you for the gift of music and for allowing me to sing of your love. But please forgive me for being less than completely loving towards You and the people around me. I ask you to show me clearly where I have gone wrong – whom I have offended, what apologies I need to make, whose forgiveness I should seek. Please transform me into a true worshiper, shown not by what I sing, but by how I love. Thank you. Amen”