I recently returned from two weeks at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where I was attending IBS (Institute of Biblical Studies) classes, to qualify me for work with Military Ministry/Cru. Each summer Cru uses Rollins to provide classes and training for their new staff (primarily recent college grads who have decided to join Cru staff) and for others who need to take the required courses. There is something about Cru being a “missionary order” instead of a 501c-3, that makes the religious training of their staff a requirement. I was blessed.
One of the more compelling word pictures I have heard was presented as the basis for the Bible Study Methods class and I would like to share it. It originates with Cru’s Keith Johnson and it is called:
The Music of the Gospel
Imagine yourself in a large house in which those who are deaf and those who can hear are living together. In one of the rooms, you see a guy sitting in a chair and listening to music on his iPod. Rhythmically, he’s tapping his foot, drumming his thighs, jutting his chin out,swaying to the beat, and pursing his lips like Mick Jagger or someone. His entire body moves in response to what his ears are hearing. It’s obvious that he’s enjoying himself and listening to a pretty good song.
A few minutes later, one of the deaf persons enters the room. Seeing the guy listening to the music and impersonating Mick Jagger, he thinks and says to himself, “That looks like fun. I think I’ll try that.” So he sits down next to him and begins to imitate him. Awkwardly at first, he tries drumming his thighs, jutting his chin out, and swaying to the music just like the guy with the iPod. With a little practice, he begins to catch onto it. By watching and trying, he begins to mirror the other guy’s actions pretty closely. But although he eventually gets better at keeping time, he concludes that it’s not as much fun or as easy as it initially seemed (especially the chin jut—very difficult to do when you’re not actually hearing the music).
After a while, a third person enters the room and watches this scene. What does he see?Two people apparently doing the same thing, apparently listening to the same thing. Is there a difference? Absolutely. The first guy hears the music and his actions are a natural response to the music’s rhythm and melody. The second guy is merely imitating the outward actions. Being deaf, he’s not listening to anything.
There’s an important spiritual parallel here. The dance (outward actions) represents the Christian life, while the music represents the grace of the gospel. Though we have come to know Christ through grace, we are often like the deaf man in the story who tries to perform the dance without hearing the music. Our spiritual life is reduced to a series of dance steps— external behaviors and activities—devoid of God’s animating and transforming power. God’s desire is not to get us to do the dance but to get us to hear the music of the gospel, with the dance (godly actions, character, and activities) flowing naturally from it.
This word picture just sent my mind spinning into further applications that apply to my life. Frankly, it is easy for me to try to do the dance without hearing the music. I can become caught up in the cares of this world or even the cares of this ministry and stop listening for the music. I can see how I showed my children the dance steps (how a Christian behaves) without exposing them to the music, the love of Jesus in my life. I can see how the kids in Young Life or adults in church figure out the dance, but never really hear the music, so they miss the power of the Gospel.
Being a person with absolutely no sense of rhythm, in real life, I could never figure out the dance by myself. Back in my college days, we had celebrations at the Duling’s home fellowship with dances. We did square dancing, waltzes, jitterbugs, and the Amos Moses (precursor to the Cha Cha Slide). I had to seriously watch people’s feet and then count to stay in step. I would still have to count when I dance–except I married a drummer. 🙂 He can lead and I have the ability to follow (mostly, sometimes I still count). But I look less of a fool when I dance with Rick because he hears the music and the rhythm and he knows how to lead.
In the same way, the Holy Spirit can speak to my heart and lead me, helping me to hear the music of the gospel and to live in step with it. My goal should be that my life, my dance, is in response to His love, nothing less.
Your dance may not look like my dance, even though we are both listening to the music of the gospel. I tend towards slow and rhythmic, while the music you hear may lead you into a wild frenzy, but they are both based on grace given and received.
Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:25