Open up YouTube and play almost any music video without sound. There are plenty of arms moving and lips pouting but you can’t tell the rhythm, you can’t follow along with the tune, and you can’t discern the message conveyed through the lyrics. It doesn’t make any sense on its own and ends up looking silly on top of being meaningless to the viewer. At best, you’re likely to lose interest well before the song is over and find something better to do with your time.
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote ‘those who hear not the music think the dancers mad.’ These words struck me recently as I sat with some young adults in a discussion about living out their Christian faith. Dependence on God; devotion expressed through time invested in the word and prayer; and deep affection for Christ might seem like things that can be kept close to the chest, but inevitably they should spill out. Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 12:34-25 that its out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks: what we are truly passionate about will become evident through what people hear from our lips as well as see in our lives.
When it comes to living out a life of faithfulness to Christ because of what he’s done for us, I’m not convinced that we can reconcile terms like ‘private faith’. I don’t mean that all Christians are street-corner yelling, neighborhood door-knocking, extroverted evangelistic types. Rather when people are around us for any significant length of time, they should begin to discern distinct differences in the dance of our daily lives, or we’re doing it wrong.
We must remember that it is a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit that opens the ears of individuals to hear the lyrics and melody of the gospel. Up until the Holy Spirit does this work, Christians can sometimes look like those music videos without any sound: people may dismiss us as goofy, or simply lose interest. But the threat of indifference or persecution should never be enough to dissuade the Christian from changing their tune to suit different audiences. On the contrary—to adapt an adage attributed to Luther (at least, that’s as far back as I could trace it)—Christians are simply those who have heard the music, and now show others the joy found in learning to listen.
Jesus is the music. He is the tune in which we live and move and have our being. While those around us might think us strange because our rhythm and tempo are different from theirs, the song our lives sing of the Saviour is one of ultimate satisfaction, truest purpose, and complete fulfillment in (and sometimes in spite of) every circumstance. Isn’t it worthwhile appearing to be different—mad even—as we live lives by a different melody in the hope that through us, some might themselves come to hear?