Q: "Is it a sin for Christians to play secular music?"
A: Thank you, Nate, for your thought-provoking question! If you've been following Jazz Gospel Central's e-zine, you've probably noticed our in-depth interviews with Jazz and Gospel Jazz artists and musicians, during which we've only had the opportunity to scratch at the surface of this question. But now we'll take the time to briefly address what could become an involved examination of a complex issue.
The short answer to your question would be, No, it isn't a sin for Christians to play secular music. However, before answering too quickly, " Is this your final answer ?" and certainly without getting into a deep philosophical or lengthy religious discussion over every aspect of this matter, several questions relative to the correct answer come into play, such as: What is secular music? What is sacred or religious music? What is a Christian? What is sin?
Secular music is defined simply as non-sacred music. Sacred or religious music is defined as music performed or composed for the specific intent of religious (or Christian) use or through religious influence. A Christian is a person who has put their faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, including His death on the cross as payment for sins and His bodily resurrection on the third day (John 1:12). A good basic working definition of "sin" is the breaking of a religious or moral law or doing what is wrong or not doing what is right according to the rules or commandments of God (1 John 3:4). According to God, sin separates us from Him (Isaiah 59:2). However, again the important thing to remember about sin is that by accepting the gift of salvation through our faith in the finished work of God's only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, His death on the cross and by His resurrection, the penalty of sin has been paid in full and the power of sin has been completely and eternally removed from those who are believers in Jesus (or those who are Christians). Jesus is now the sacrificial substitution and propitiation acceptable to God, taking our place for what should have been our personal payment for the penalty of our sinful acts.
So based on all the aforementioned definitions, using a very basic example, I think it would be safe to say that most people in the US (Christian or non-Christian alike) have either sang or are at least familiar with the song, Happy Birthday . I would doubt that either would believe that the singing or playing of the song Happy Birthday would be a sin, although it's clearly a secular song. However, the real question on the table, is in the case of certain genres such as Jazz, R&B, Rock, etc. which have been traditionally noted to contain messages or content which is non-Christian in nature. Or the question might be is the music intended or specifically designed to promote and even celebrate non-Christian values or principles or militate against the message and person of Jesus Christ. This is where the need for spiritual discernment and careful examination is required to determine whether listening to or playing of certain songs is harmful to one's personal walk with the Lord, their example to fellow believers, or their witness to non-believers.
The components of music whether you're speaking about a melody, or harmonies, or rhythms, or beats, or instrumentation do not contain within these elements any aspect of sin or holiness or secularity or sacredness, even though they were created by God ultimately to be used to praise Him. The sound of a style of musical expression whether it's Jazz, Gospel, Blues, R&B, Rock, Hip Hop, Go-Go, Latin, Afro-Cuban, Reggae, Japanese, Chinese, African, Brazilian, Classical, etc., is not inherently secular or sacred, Christian or non-Christian. Sounds and styles were also created by God with all the diversity available to be used in the realm of human cultural expression and creativity. However, any style or genre of music can be used to convey positive messages or negative ones and it is up to the Christian musician, singer, composer, arranger, or listener to pray and ensure that they are mindful of the purpose, the effects and the power music has to communicate directly with the mind, the heart and the spirit on a conscious and subconscious level. Test yourself to see if the Spirit within you minds listening to or you playing the music that you do or if it is only appropriate when in darkness or if it is also okay if it is heard and played in the light. Even so, there are still some gray areas, and human concerns and disagreements over this issue will certainly not be totally resolved before Jesus returns. But in any case let us strive in love for understanding and for the holiness of God that He has already commended to us through the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ and His perfection on which we are eternally dependent. Again, thank you so much Nate for your great question and please continue write and support JGC. Until next time, may God continue to bless every one of you!
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