Like many, I’ve been alerted to the recent semifinal performance of [The] Voice contestant Christian Cuevas. He sang the popular worship song, ‘To Worship You I live.”
And let me start off by affirming both Christian’s undeniable talent, and what I assume is his sincere desire to see his God glorified in the singing of a worship song in such a public venue. I do not question his motives for a moment.
But I do feel the need to address the wisdom of that choice, given the context of the show – The Voice – itself, and of the greater problem I see in present day popular Christianity. That of a seeming inability to keep some necessary and fitting distinctions as per places like Leviticus 10:10 “You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean.”
In the text just cited, the statement is being enjoined upon the Levitical Priesthood, and is spoken especially in connection with the Priests being careful to abstain from wine or strong drink when performing their duties. Why? Because there is something inherently evil in wine or strong drink? No. God condemns neither when used in their proper place and with proper constraints. The concern is one of protecting the faculty of clear judgment and discerning thinking. A principle which I believe applies here, even though intoxicants are not in play. It is the issue of sound judgement, and being able to distinguish between holy and common, clean and unclean.
Now let me note that to distinguish between holy and common does not necessarily mean that everything that is not “holy” in the sense of being specifically set aside for God’s use is sinful. Rather, there are things which belong to Him alone, and are not to be treated as “common” or for everyday use.
Two examples of this would be the special anointing oil the priests were to formulate and use only in ceremonies commanded by God, and, the special blend of incense to be burned on the golden altar by the curtain separating the holy place from the holy of holies. Both of these are addressed in Exodus 30. Both of these invite being cut off from God’s people should one take those formulae and compound the substances for personal use. Some things belong to God alone.
I would argue, worship is one of those things.
In other words, making worship of the living God an act of performance art, and that, for the entertainment of the unbelieving world, would appear to me to take what is holy, and ‘commonize’ or profane it. And I am uncomfortable with that.
Now if I haven’t offended some of you enough already, let me take this one step further.
The absolutely benign lyrics of the song chosen aside (there is nothing in the lyrics that has any reference to who or what is being worshipped or why – making it perfectly appropriate for any lover or idolater to use with equal ease) – the context here is what makes such a profound difference.
Christian, again, no doubt every inch sincere in his motivations (I don’t know but love calls me to assume so) in fact completely contradicted the intent of the song, by the use of it within that venue.
Because the message ‘To worship You I live’, is being sung, to advance his own career and win a contest. It is to use God’s name (though His name is conspicuously absent) to further his own desires to be performer. It is trading on the name of Christ for personal advancement. It is blending the sacred anointing oil, to wear as perfume. Intentionally? I’m sure not. But in practice. Indeed.
Note, there is nothing wrong with a Believer (which I assume Christian is) wanting to have a music career. Go for it! We need solid Christians in every stratum of society and the arts. And I am all in favor of his wanting to bear testimony to his God when and where he can. These are good things. But in this use – what belongs to God exclusively – worship, is co-opted both for the entertainment of the world, and the advancement of one’s career.
I do not condemn Mr. Cuevas in his action. But I do plead with the Church, to reckon with how we have turned ‘worship’ into performance art – which is no longer His and His alone, but is more of a consumer commodity. And ask us to rethink that trend.
How is it that our Christian culture, has produced this sad state of affairs?
Perhaps, just perhaps, we’ve been intoxicated by the spirit of the age in such a way, that even we, His royal priesthood, can no longer distinguish between the holy and the common, the clean and unclean. And we are called to just such a thing.