The “best” Christian music and hymns

It’s always a matter of opinion to say a certain hymn is better than the next one, so it might be dangerous for me to write this. But if you’ll consider it to be only my opinion, then you can see if what I say seems to be true. You can leave a comment below the post.

There are two ways that Christian music appeals to me. One of them is appeal to sentiment (that’s a tough guy way to say “feelings”). The other is when the message speaks to my basic human need for a loving, merciful God and Savior.

One of my favorite hymns is “Lord, Thee I Love With All My Heart”. It illustrates these two appeals pretty well. As you can tell from the title, The hymn is a prayer. But despite what you might think from the title, very little of the hymn is focused upon *me,* the one praying. Rather, the focus is on Lord Jesus as my merciful Savior. Yet throughout the hymn, Jesus is closely connected to me, showing that He is completely relevant to my life. More than relevant, this hymn says that He is *essential* to my life. This is a pretty sentimental message, so the hymn wins both ways. I find it particularly comforting in a heart-wrenching way when I consider that the gracious blessings I’m praying for in the hymn are already bought for me by Jesus’ death, and promised in His Word.

What else might Christian hymns or music be like? Some hymns are not so sentimentally appealing. Maybe they don’t seem very well connected to us, or maybe we don’t really like to hear the message. That’s not always a bad thing, because some good messages are like that, for example, God’s law. The Law always condemns us for not keeping it at God’s standard, which is perfection. It’s not a message we enjoy hearing, so any song expressing God’s moral Law would be hard to like for its sentimental qualities.

Sometimes a message like the Law can be offset by a catchy tune. You probably know of several songs that are memorable not because of the message, but the tune alone. You may not even know what the words really say, but the more you hear the song, the closer you get to learning them. It’s a good way to teach the Bible’s doctrine on subjects that don’t have much sentimental appeal.

A catchy tune is also sometimes joined with a message that’s not so good. You may actually like some songs in spite of a message that’s spiritually harmful. I’ve enjoyed and *played* quite a few songs like that. So every Christian needs to be aware of the messages we receive, and how they can affect our faith. Even music that refers favorably to God or Jesus doesn’t necessarily teach a message that builds our faith. Listening to harmful songs is the spiritual equivalent of playing with matches.

The best Christian hymns and songs not only have a sentimental appeal, but they also *edify* us with their message. I’ve heard people talk about how they like uplifting music, but that’s not what I mean. I see a difference between *edifying* and *uplifting*. Edifying music shows me, or at least reminds me of my Savior, and has me place my trust completely in Him and His gracious Word. Uplifting music simply makes me feel better about something. I like uplifting music, too, but that alone doesn’t make a religious song great in my book.

So that we’re not only thinking about hymns, consider a couple songs from a band I’ve recently been listening to quite a bit, called Lost and Found. All their lyrics are on their web site. Some of their songs are more for pure entertainment value than religious messages, but here’s a good example of their “Christian” songs. The message is basically a paraphrase of what the Bible says. Other songs are like this comforting song or this one, which is similar, but spoken from the standpoint of Jesus himself. For something quite different, have a look at this sarcastic song. I like it because I understand and sympathize with the sarcasm. It’s a sentiment of a different kind, but closely tied to the Gospel.

If you have an example of good Christian music, feel free to respond to this post with a comment. Include a link or a quote from the lyrics, and explain what about the song leads you to call it “good.”

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About Jesse Jacobsen

Pastor Jacobsen moved with his family to the Columbia Gorge in January, 2006. He has been a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod since 1998. He resides in The Dalles, serving Bethany Lutheran Church, Concordia Lutheran Church, and Columbia Lutheran School.

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