Aha: Caught You!

When I used to lead music at churches, I used to point out that we musicians were responsible for roughly 30-40% of the content that someone experienced on a Sunday. What I mean is that if a sermon was 30-40 minutes long (like they were at our church), we usually sang anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. So, for 20 or 30 minutes we were, in a way, teaching people—both through the lyrical content of the songs we chose, but also in the intensity and passion with which we approached playing and singing.

I was reminded by that recently. In his great book, The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr writes, “Art is the giveaway of what people really believe at any one time.” I agree, and this is really highlighted in a song I heard the other day on Christian radio.

I don’t usually listen to Christian radio stations, but I got into a car recently and heard the song “Where I Belong”, by Building 429. Maybe you’ve heard it. Here are the lyrics:

Sometimes it feels like I’m watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I’m breathing, but am I alive?
I will keep searching for answers that aren’t here to find
All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong
So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I’m lost in the current of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance holding me
All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong
When the earth shakes 
I wanna be found in you
When the lights fade 
I wanna be found in youAll I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

“Where I Belong” by Building 429

It’s a catchy song, and executed really well.

But I really struggle with the lyrics.

As the song wound down, with the singer repeating over and over, “This is not where I belong,” I couldn’t help but imagining Jesus standing in front of the band and responding to the song by saying,

“Um, well, I was pretty at home in this very same world that you seem to be not enjoying so well. I lived in the middle of the awkwardness, the uncertainty, the dirt, the smell, the challenge of… guess what: THIS WORLD.

“PS I actually died for this world.

Yes: I know the finer points that the singer is trying to express: It’s not “The World”—as in Creation, and Community, and Relationship—that the singer wants to bail out of; rather, it’s The System. It’s the way the world “works”, according to “might-makes-right”, and wealth = status and influence.

But that’s not what he wrote.

And I doubt that’s what people are thinking about when they sing this song.

What we are talking about is only one of the most important, critical, “center-of-the-target” beliefs of our faith: That Jesus Christ came to THIS world, in a REAL human body.

He didn’t come to “Jesus-Land”, where everything was safe, and the weather was always 74 degrees and sunny. He came to dusty, dirty, Palestine. It gets hot there. It gets cold there. There were good days; there were bad days.

PS There were Romans.

A huge—if not the entire—point of Jesus coming to us was to show that God can show up in the middle a very normal, very “every-day” human life.

Saying, “This world is not my home,” or “Get me out of here Jesus,” is betraying the escapist and non-incarnational view of spirituality that we (myself included) are always tempted to fall into.

But that’s not the way Jesus works: There is no life—apart from your own—that Jesus wants to come to. There is no other world—apart from your world and my world—that Jesus wants to come to.

It’s like we want to sing, “This is not where I belong,” and Jesus wants us to sing, “Actually, you SHOULD belong there, WITH ME, because that’s where people need me.

I used to love saying this to people, I am continuing to learn them myself:

There is no “spiritual life”; there is only MY life.

Caught ya, church. Don’t lose the incarnation just for the sake of a catchy melody and a theology that merely sings well, especially if it’s not true to The Story.

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