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When my dad married into my family when I was 12, he married into a family of musicians and singers. He was neither. Some might have described him as a bad singer, but he used to joke, more accurately, that he was a fine singer, he just had a very small range. In any case, his lack of vocal ability didn’t stop him from singing “Happy Birthday” in a non-timid way at my kids’ birthday parties. I really miss that, despite his inability to sing the song in tune. It added to the joy.

There are two kinds of bad singers: Those who know they sing poorly and those who don’t. This second kind are highlighted in comedy shows and the beginning of each season of American Idol. People chuckling knowingly as they watch: “He actually thinks he’s good!”

They are easily mockable, those ignorant of their out-of-tune-ness. But here’s the thing: I’ve worshiped at several churches, and I’ve never met one (a bad singer who didn’t know he was a bad singer) at any of them. The bad singers generally know they aren’t vocalists. Believe me, they know. Some of them would like to sing on the worship team or in the church choir, but they know that this isn’t their gift. God is not calling them to that ministry.

I further split this group of bad singers (those who know they are bad singers) into two more categories:

There are those who keep quiet. Muting oneself is understandable – no one wants to draw attention to one’s lesser gifts, and one might fear that he’ll ruin worship for those around him.

But then there are those who want to sing out. They don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to glorify God. They want to avail themselves of the opportunity to join into corporate worship. Let me go on record: I find this commendable.

Recently I found myself standing near one of these people, singing out strongly, and I felt honored. I thought, this man doesn’t sing perfectly, he knows it and still he’s willing to sing with strength. And he knows I’m within earshot. He doesn’t want to keep his love of his Heavenly Father a secret. He wants to worship. May God encourage him and those like him.

I have a video of one of my children being presented with a birthday cake, and you can hear our whole family singing to him. This video was filmed just before my Dad died and on it, you can hear him say, as the candles were being blown out, “This particular grandfather can’t sing worth a hill of beans.”

Maybe. But he still sang. He was still a part of the celebration. To his benefit and ours.

This Sunday, if you find yourself standing next to someone who is not a perfect singer but is still entering into worship, do this: Smile, sing with him or her, and thank God for that person’s courage and love of their Creator. And if you’re a less than ideal singer, sing loud, do your best to glorify God and thank him for the way He accepts imperfect gifts.

A while back I wrote a post over on my dad blog suggesting …

If you’re going to be in a situation with your kids where you’re afraid that they’re going to behave in a certain way, set them up for success – tell them what’s going to happen and what you expect from them.

I would recommend this as an action for any adult to do to themselves as they walk into a bad-behavior-provoking situation. Ask:

In this situation, what might I be tempted to do?
What should I do instead?

(Please see my post about Levels of Wrongness.)

I mentioned Andy Naselli in my last post. I regard him as an authority on the biblical view of the Conscience. He (and many other respected theologians) define Strong and Weak Christians this way:

Strong Christians: Those who feel that the Bible says a certain act is not sinful – and they are right.
Weak Christians: Those who feel that the Bible says a certain act is sinful – and they are wrong.
Note: Both the Strong and Weak Christian are attempting to live by the Bible – i.e. they aren’t disregarding what it says.

I agree with these definitions – but I think they yield imbalances in our thoughts about those who disagree with us.

Consider the following chart (click on it to see it bigger).

StrongWeak1Please notice – nowhere in this grid do I think I’m a weak Christian. If I think an act is biblically sinful and you don’t, I think I’m right and the strong and weak paradigm doesn’t fit. So Romans 14 largely doesn’t apply.

Also note that, generally speaking, that is the only situation where I’m most likely to have negative emotions. If (1) we agree, then everything is fine, and if (2) I don’t think it’s sinful and you do, then that’s fine, you’re just more strict that me – go live your life like that, no big deal.

But if I think it’s sinful and you don’t, well, I might feel distrust, or fear – or I might feel threatened.

And obviously in both cases negative emotions are turned up if people start trying to enforce their different views.

But let’s think about a person’s views about what is sin compared to the Bible

StrongWeak2Again, in none of these situation am I a weak Christian. This is because no one ever thinks they are a weak Christian. Either I’m a strong Christian, or I’m a biblically strict Christian, or I’m an unbiblical Christian (or a non-Christian). This is probably one reason why Paul spends most of his time speaking to strong Christians.

The third chart is about a person’s opinions and his actions.

StrongWeak3One thing I’ll point out here is the uncertainty. I believe that very few physical acts are inherently sinful or unsinful. It doesn’t matter what your view of the biblical stance is on any issue, all acts can be done in a sinful way.

But in the grid above, the situation most fraught with danger is where you think an act is not sinful, and you do it – because there are so many situations where you can do harm with that act. This is almost certainly another reason why Paul spend so much of his writing dealing with this situation.

Let the actor beware.

I believe most division in a church over the rightness or wrongness of a certain activity is not due to disagreement over whether the act is right or wrong but (assuming that at least one person thinks it’s wrong), the extent of its wrongness.

Given this, I think there is some merit in being mindful of the many levels of wrongness that a person can attribute to a given act. And it just seemed to me that the following list might prove helpful.

How wrong do you think a certain act is?
A Loose, Incomplete Hierarchy
(From Least Wrong To Most)

Question: That act that you think is wrong – how wrong do you think it is?

Answer: I believe choosing to do Act X is unwise (wrong, inappropriate, sinful) to this level:

Act X is Unwise – at least for me (or my family) – in certain circumstances
Act X is Unwise – at least for me – in all circumstances
I should challenge close acquaintances to reconsider the wisdom of doing Act X
Act X is Unwise – for all people – in certain circumstances
Act X is Unwise – for all people – in all circumstances
I should advise close acquaintances not to do Act X
Act X is Sinful – at least for me – in certain circumstances
Act X is Sinful – at least for me – in all circumstances
I should advise all Christians not to do Act X
Act X is Sinful – for all people – in certain circumstances
My Pastor should speak out against doing Act X from the pulpit
Act X is Sinful – for all people – in all circumstances (It’s inherently sinful)
I should advise non-Christians not to do Act X
I think unrepentantly doing Act X is a sign that the person is not a Christian
Someone who does Act X is almost certainly not a Christian
Act X should be illegal – I’d vote for it to be illegal
Act X should be illegal – I’d campaign for it to be illegal
You aren’t a Christian if you aren’t actively campaigning for Act X to be illegal
I think a person who does Act X should be imprisoned for [1,5,20,50] years
I should kill a person to prevent them from doing Act X

With this hierarchy in mind, I have a recommended three step exercise for Christians reading this:

1. Consider where your conscience places certain acts on this hierarchy. Some acts (which you think are acceptable choices) may not land anywhere on the list.

For example – consider these:
Getting a tattoo
Wearing a bikini
Wearing jeans to church
Physical abuse of children
Bombing an orphanage
Swearing
Wearing a tie to church
Drinking alcohol

2. Now consider your thoughts about people who would place an act on a significantly different level in the hierarchy.

3. Now go read Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 (and following) to read the biblical ways to peacefully and wisely handle these differences.

(For the record, many of these thoughts were inspired by the helpful teachings about the conscience from Andy Naselli, who’s teaching about 1 Corinthians in our adult Sunday School class right now.)

Also, please go read my newer post about the Absense of Weak Christians.

 

I would be very hesitant to begin a sentence with, “My Spiritual Gift is …”.

There are two problems with declaring your spiritual gift (assuming you’re being serious):

1. It’s pretty close to acting like you have direct access to the mind of God on this issue.

2. It’s pretty much straight up bragging.

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