By Allen White
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, Ephesians 5:19
My first response to this verse is “What the heck?” Are believers supposed to sing to each other like some sort of off-key, demented opera? If you look at the verse more closely, you’ll discover that the singing is only directed to the Lord. You and I are to “speak to another…” If we are to literally quote lyrics of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to each other, then here goes…nevermind.
Context can help us a great deal with this “spoken song one another”:
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20
Rather than getting drunk and joining together in revelry and the subsequent stupidity that it brings, believers should seek the filling of the Spirit, which leads to joining together to thank God. This is the significance of corporate worship. Believers gather together on a Sunday morning and in unison sing about the most important part of their lives: their relationship with God.
Before we look down our noses at inebriated bar patrons crooning “Danny Boy,” we must realize that we both want the same things. We want the camaraderie of like-minded people. We both want an experience that elevates us above our circumstance. One group just gets to avoid the hangover.
This passage points out something else about the believer’s relationship with God. We get so caught up talking about our “personal relationship” with God that we forget that it is impossible to serve God apart from Christian community. Now, I know that Anne Rice just gave up on the church and any kind of organized religion calling itself Christian. There are days that I am tempted to side with her.
But to separate ourselves from the Body of Christ is equivalent to performing some sort of spiritual appendectomy in which we are the appendix. There’s not much use for a detached appendix filled with old gum (that’s where my mother used to tell me my gum went if I swallowed it).
There’s an old reformed tradition where if a family was facing grief or hardship, their fellow church members would file into the family’s house, gather around the piano, and sing hymns to the family. No sermons were given. No prayers were prayed. They just sang and left. The music spoke to the deep parts of the family’s wounded emotions.
I don’t know if we should start a “sing and run” ministry necessarily or just send folks a favorite from iTunes. The gist of all of this is how we express our thankfulness and lift each other up. So, sing it up, until the cows come home.
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