“A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth (Proverbs 17:24).”
Lately the local Starbucks has been playing a lot of soul music. I have enjoyed it because I have an affinity for this kind of music. My attraction to soul music comes from my early adolescent days in the Baltimore of the late 1960s. Soul music was a distinctive part of the city’s culture.
The music of The Temptations, The Four Tops and the Supremes was played at hops and on the local radio. The soft voices and brassy saxophones coming from soul music gave the city a sense of community and made Baltimore unique. So, when I hear this music, I am reminded of my roots. It is a part of who I am culturally.
Music particular to American culture just doesn’t sound the same if it is performed by a European. Living in northern Europe, I would sometimes hear Nordic guys trying to sing our music. My comment: “Nordic white guys have no soul.”
Now this is not true literally. Of course they have souls. But they don’t have “soul”: they don’t have what is needed in their hearts to carry off a song written and sung by a black American. It’s not a racial thing. It’s just the truth as far as culture is concerned.
The ancient Israelites carried off to Babylon after an invasion of their country didn’t feel much like singing the songs of their native land in their new country. Somehow the change of location didn’t make it happen for them. Their own songs seemed out of place in the new culture, even when they themselves sung them (Psalm 137:1-4).
People who are of the same background can relate to each other because they have mutual experiences. A person who finds themselves in a new cultural environment has a hard time fitting in. They have a choice. They can either try to acculturate, or they can somehow try to function within the new culture with their own customs and behaviors learned from home. I think the people of God from Israel couldn’t bring themselves to adapt to pagan Babylon.
Jesus is the Eternal God. Yet he injected Himself into our history and became a man. He was able to make the best of both worlds, though, because He was fully of heaven and fully of earth. Jesus was completely human and completely God, except when it came to one issue: sin. When it came to sin, He was a fish out of water. Sin was not something He encountered in heaven and He was not about to acculturate. So he suffered when it came to that aspect of living here (Hebrews 5:7-8).
Jesus’ goal was not to join in the sin, but to free us from us and get us ready for his world — heaven. A lot of us have a long way to go in our training program (Hebrews: 5:9-14).
When we come to Christ, we have to learn some new music. We have to dance to God’s holy tune. The old sinful melodies won’t do anymore. In respect to sin, we have to set our eyes and ears on eternity in heaven and in our hearts leave this fallen world behind. It might involve some suffering to get rid of the old ways, but we have to do it.