Am I getting old, or is a lot of our modern Christian worship music a load of old cobblers?
I heard a song today on the Christian radio station I sometimes listen to that encapsulates the difference between where I am worship-wise and where our Christian subculture seems to be heading.
It’s by Jason Gray, and it’s supposed to be about following Jesus. The chorus says: “It’s gotta be more like falling in love/Than something to believe in,/More like losing my heart/Than giving my allegiance…”
I can see what he’s saying, sort of. Following Christ shouldn’t be some cold, distant, bloodless thing, some mere mental assent to a list of doctrinal truths. But for me right now, the language of falling in love isn’t helpful or even particularly accurate.
As a teen, I gave my heart pretty easily. There was almost always some girl I was carrying a torch for, whether she knew it or not. My love life was a string of deeply-felt but usually untold and unrequited crushes and one or two passionate but trouble-filled boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. Even my courtship of the woman who is now my wife was a perilous and convoluted situation, and looking back on it it’s only by the grace of God and my own particular brand of stubbornness that we got together at all, much less have the glorious relationship we do.
My allegiance, on the other hand, is more difficult to gain. I almost feel it more deeply; I perceive it as something solid, something that touches and awakens parts of me that “falling in love” doesn’t. Falling in love is all about how I feel. If the feeling goes away, I’m no longer “in love”. Allegiance makes calls on me. It has permanence. It demands something of me, not just a feeling but an obedience. Allegiance acknowledges something greater to which I am subject: it’s no mere wishy-washy “feeling” that’s here today and gone tomorrow, but it’s a powerful state of voluntary and joyful being overruled by a greater power.
Falling in love places no such call on me, no such demands. For me, “falling in love with Jesus” makes it all about us and our feelings and desires. It’s how Jesus makes us feel, what He does for us, a shallow emotional response to the Jesus-That-Meets-Our-Needs. “Giving my allegiance” acknowledges Him as Lord. It says He has a right – the sole right, in fact – to make the rules. If He takes me somewhere dark, it’s ok, because He’s my King and I trust Him. If He demands my life, it’s ok, because He is the only One who truly has a claim on it.
And “something to believe in” rather that “falling in love”? Well, if by “believe in” you mean a cold mental assent to the existence of, like “believing in” the Tooth Fairy or “believing in” ghosts or UFOs or the Loch Ness Monster, then yeah, following Jesus is more like falling in love. But if instead you bring “believing in” back to its older meaning of “trusting your life to”, then no. Again, it’s the matter of whether Jesus has a right to make demands of us or not.
There’s a big difference between “losing your heart” to someone and trusting your life and soul to them. The one is a changeable feeling that exists as long as the other person is meeting some emotional need. The other is a surrender of who you are, an acknowledgement on a gut-deep level that come what may, there’s a bedrock confidence that there is purpose, that it will be ok, even if we never see it in the visble world. Certainty that this is the right thing, even if you don’t come back alive.
This is the kind of faith that Hebrews chapter 11 commends. The trust that led Abraham out not knowing where he was going. The trust that led Noah to spend a hundred years of obedience building a boat to save the world. The trust that led David to face Goliath despite all appearances.
Allegiance and trust. They go together because they are two sides of the same coin. Without trust on at least some level, you won’t truly give your allegiance. And without allegiance, there is no trust in that sense, because following Jesus makes demands of you. Jesus is Lord. What are you going to do about it?
I follow Him. It’s more like something to believe in – something to trust my life to – than falling in love. It’s more like giving my allegiance than losing my heart.