In the church, there is much concern about singing the right songs. After all, we want to glorify God and edify believers.
So, how do we do that? Which songs or types of songs are best? C.S. Lewis, as usual, provides an intriguing answer.
Lewis (1996) observes this about church music:
“The first and most solid conclusion which (for me) emerges is that both musical parties, the High Brows and the Low, assume far too easily the spiritual value of the music they want. Neither the greatest excellence of a trained performance from the choir, nor the heartiest and most enthusiastic bellowing from the pews, must be taken to signify that any specifically religious activity is going on. It may be so, or it may not.” (p. 240)
His first point is that singing the songs you view as the best ones does not mean something spiritual or even good is happening. Why? Lewis later explains it is because we must consider our intentions. Our intentions shape our worship, whether it is glorifying or edifying. If, in our selection of worship songs, we have an attitude of superiority or selfishness, as good as the song may be in itself, our singing of it will not glorify God or edify us.
When do we most glorify God and edify the church? It actually might be at the very moment we sing songs we do not like. At that moment, Lewis explains:
“To both, Church Music will have been a means of grace; not the music they have liked, but the music they have disliked. They have both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense.” (p. 241)
In other words, when we sing songs we don’t like, we actually have the best shot at loving our neighbors and thereby glorifying God.
It’s when you’re singing that old hymn you can’t stand or echoing that new praise chorus which irritates you that you have the greatest chance to put someone else before you and thus love your neighbor and glorify God.
In that surprising turn, we may perhaps most please God in our singing.
Lewis, C. S. (1996). The Collected Works of C.S. Lewis. Inspirational Press.