Saturday, February 28, 2015

Nothing but Jesus

The image inset left is a calligraphic ikon of the Lord's Prayer in Arabic. The islamic prohibition of ikons resulted in a culture just as permeated with calligraphy ikons as the Christian East is permeated with graphic ikons, such as the Pantokrator above. To bridge the gap—and infuriate islamic clerics—Arab converts to modern Christian churches produce calligraphy ikons of bible verses like this one. It even mimics the general layout of the Orthodox ikon. But that's not my topic.

I started watching a music video of an Arab female vocalist singing Psalm 51 in Arabic, but I couldn't get past the instrumental introduction and her singing of the first few verses. Just as I do not attend concerts of Byzantine chant or other music associated with Orthodox worship, I don't attend or watch concerts of any kind of worship music, not even Christmas carols. However, this is just me.

Worship is worship, and music as the expression of worship belongs only in the home and in the temple of God, nowhere else. If you carry the temple with you into the world, when you are evangelizing, reading the scriptures and singing the prayers publicly, that is still the temple. When you are teaching the chants and preparing people for worship, that is the home. Really, there is only one place where worship belongs, and it is in the home; the temple is the macro and the family ikon corner the micro, and everything else is in between.

So people were rejoicing that Arab people are finally turning from Islam and finding Jesus, and are now able to worship the true God and sing all those wonderful new pop Christian songs in Arabic, even Psalm 51 can be sung in Arabic by a beautiful female vocalist.

Psalm 51, and any other psalm, is meant for prayer and meditation. Yes, of course, they can be sung, but still, only for worship. The Christian pop worship style and the presentation of music for religious entertainment are both fundamentally opposed to Orthodoxy, which is just biblical Christianity. It's great that Arab people are becoming Christians, but are they exchanging one religion for another, or are they entering into the freedom of the gospel?

Modern pop Christianity, especially pentecostal, makes huge claims for bringing the world to Christ, but the work of evangelism is done by Christ in us, as we witness for Him one day and one person at a time, with attention, care and commitment.

Arab Orthodox Christianity exists in both Greek and Coptic forms, and I have heard Psalm 51 chanted in Arabic by priests and cantors in the Church. Yes, it's beautiful when chanted in the traditional style, but more than beautiful, it calls the heart to prayer, to pray the words as they are heard being chanted.
This is all there waiting for the Arab peoples to rediscover, but many will have to go through the pasteurization process of pop Christianity, and when they're ready, by the mercy of God may they find out who and what the Church of Christ really is. Until then, they're still on a shaky foundation, trusting in human beings and exulting in the flesh while saying they are in the Spirit, and not realizing how they have been misled.

The greatest lies come in the flashiest wrappers and are bought by the most self-centered customers. The choice is always still out there, though, waiting to be made, no matter how we start out in our belief in Christ. You can't be Christ's and the world's friend at the same time. You can't serve two masters. The stronger desire always wins.

Desire nothing but Jesus.

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