A couple of days ago my wife and I stood waiting for a table in a local restaurant. I am accustomed to people staring, because a lot of people have seen me while visiting Dallas Bay, but never up close and personal. But this time I heard them talking before I saw them stare. I heard a fellow at the booth say, "That's the pastor down there at Dallas Bay Baptist." (In the south, everything is down there.) I didn't want to immediately turn around, because I don't want to ever make people feel uncomfortable. In a few seconds I heard him say my name and just a part of a statement to the girl across from him that began, "He's the one that..." With that I couldn't help to turn towards them. When I did he was looking me square in the face. "Hey, how are you?', is all I could think to say to avoid a silent and awkward moment. Then the terrible words I dread to hear. "You remember me don't you?" I usually come up with a lame statement like, "No, I'm sorry. I can't remember my children's names half the time."
I did seem to remember this guy's face from the not too distant past though. He told me his name and the name of his parents. He had attended the church where I used to belong and was first called to preach. That was more years ago than I like to remember. He introduced me to his wife and said they had been thinking about attending Dallas Bay. I told him that was great, but I didn't want to take him from his church. He said they don't go to church very often and had tried a few places when they had gone. He then looked at his wife and said, "He's the one who caused mom to take the pin off my shirt one night after church." Do what? He went on to recall how I had preached a message against rock-and-roll and got him in trouble with his mom. It seems he had worn a Rolling Stones pin on his shirt to church that night. You may remember the one he was talking about. You know the one with the lips and the dangling tongue. She yanked it off and told him he could never wear it again. I remember that sermon. It attacked everyone from Ozzie to Alice. (Osborne and Cooper for those of you not of my generation.) I talked about the Satanic beat of Santana and the back tracked words of Led Zeppelin. The parents loved it and the kids wouldn't speak to me afterwards.
I assured the young man that I was sorry. I told him that if you walk into my office today you might find me listening to Eric Clapton while working on Sunday's message. Music is just as bad today as it was then, but I don't find myself being led to write messages condemning music anymore. I have come to realize music is a symptom, not an illness. It is easy to criticize things you can see when they are not the problem at all. I have also come to believe real problems are deep not as easy to detect as song lyrics. They lie deep inside where they can be hidden from public view. Kids rebelled with music when I was a teen for the same reason they do today. They are looking for things with eternal meaning and value and can't find them in the things of this world. Illicit sex and the use of drugs were popular themes of music then and still are today. We just tried to mask it with clever words and today's music is more direct. The problem was, and is, a sin problem and not a music problem at all. Jesus referred to the hypocisy of only condemning the outside while the inside was really the problem as He confronted the Pharisees. I'm sure they preached against music too while they were rotten to the core on the inside. Probably closet Molly Hatchet fans!
I have changed the way I preach since I caused that young man to lose his rock-and-roll pin. I still think a lot of music is just nasty. It is trashy and vulgar. It was when I was a kid, and it is today, but there is a deeper problem to deal with. When we just verbally assault songs and singers, or movies and actors, or writers and their stories, we do not come near solving the problem. People need Jesus. I know that is cliche, but it has never been more true. They, like many Christians, are just using the gifts God gave them in an unwise fashion. The answer is to offer the same grace to these folks as God offered to us. Grace that can forgive and transform. When they come to Christ they won't need me, or you, to tell them what kind of music to listen to. His Spirit will lead them into making positive entertainment choices. The conviction of the Spirit is more powerful than the loudest preacher. I'm not saying the pin was a good thing to wear to church. It probably wasn't, given the messages in that album. I'm just saying it wasn't the problem.