If I’m honest, I don’t really love singing in church all that much.
It’s not what you think. I’m not a curmudgeon. It’s not that the music is too loud. I don’t mind singing, generally. I love music. The problem is, I just really hate lying all the time. We sing quite a few lies in church, when you think about it. I caught myself singing one the other day.
We were singing “In Christ Alone.” It’s a great song. Written by some Irish guys in 2001, it has an ancient ring to it. Recently the song has been redone to include a rather catchy (though void of much meaning) “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” part between the verses. Because I am a little curmudgeonly, I like the original, without all the extra stuff. I may only be 34, but I enjoy my worship songs like I’m 84. Don’t judge.
The new version also has an additional, very not void of meaning refrain at the end where the singer affirms His commitment to find all that is needed for the life of a disciple “in Christ alone.” Even though it’s a great song, I had a hard time focusing. The phrase, “In Christ Alone” is repeated in the song what seems like a dozen times. Here’s a sample:
“In Christ alone, my hope is found…”
“I find my strength in Christ alone.”
“I find my help in Christ alone.”
“I find my peace in Christ alone.”
“I give my life to Christ alone.”
“I give my all to Christ alone.”
I had a hard time focusing because of the lying thing. It’s really uncomfortable to sing lies really loudly in the middle of a few hundred people. My wife was standing by my side. Surely she was on to me!
What I should’ve been singing was “In Christ Also.” It doesn’t have quite the ring to it, but it is more honest. To say that I only hope in Christ is not true. To say that I draw strength solely from Jesus is not altogether accurate. It is disingenuous to claim that I give my life to Christ alone.
The truth is, I hope in all sorts of things. I sometimes find peace in a bag of chips and a fictional movie on Netflix. I have given my life to Christ, it’s true. But not alone. More like also. In addition, I’ve given my life to self-preservation, comfort, and developing a name for myself.
So there I was, lying at the top of my lungs, singing about how in Christ alone everything was all nice and perfect. It was convicting.
Christ plus something doesn’t add up. Jesus has no interest in being a part of our little faithless math equations. When we add to Him — be it for hope, comfort, peace, strength, etc. — we’re setting ourselves up for collapse. Trace the failure and disappointment in your life backwards. Start at the low moment and rewind through all the moments that led to it. Go all the way back. At the beginning you’ll probably find something in Christ’s place — something that you foolishly put there to do the work of Jesus in your life.
Something completely incapable of functioning in His role in the first place.
When we add to Jesus, we subtract from ourselves. We cannot live as disciples singing “In Christ Also.” We have to sing — and live — “In Christ Alone.”
I’m still not sure how to do that, really, but I’m glad I got to thinking about it. I don’t want to put things in God’s place in my life. I want to understand what it means to hope and trust and draw strength just from Jesus and nothing else. So even though I don’t always like singing in church all the time, I suppose it’s good that we do.
Singing those lies isn’t good, but sometimes it can lead to good things if we let it.
God uses those times to expose the failures of our faith and turn us toward Jesus again.