The Church, Derek Webb, and what matters more

Derek Webb has been the center of much controversy for taking a page out of Tony Campolo’s play book by using a few choice four letter words to make a point to fellow Christians in his new song “What Matters More”. I agree with the question he is asking in the title of the song, and it’s a question I’d ask him as well as myself. To give you a little taste of Webb’s angst driven lyrics before I comment more:

“You say you always treat people like you like to be
I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
You love when people put words in your mouth

‘Bout what you believe, make you sound like a freak…

…Cause we can talk and debate until we’re blue in the face
About the language and tradition that he’s comin’ to save
Meanwhile we sit just like we don’t give a
About 50,000 people who are dyin’ today”

I realize half of you are probably asking, “Who the heck is Derek Webb??” Being in Youth ministry I have a lot of teens who listen to his music, and have been asking me about this song. Until the recent Twitter explosion concerning the song I hadn’t had the time or desire to comment properly. However this morning my thoughts on the matter ironically lined up with the passage I was studying so I’ve decided to share my thoughts.

“In this love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. I John 4:10-11

The question at hand in light of this verse, the current state of the church, Derek Webb’s song is indeed: “What matters more”? Over the last 50 years we have seen the church get more bent out of shape that homosexuals exist then they have that most people in the church practice heterosexual immorality. We have seen churches protest outside of TV studios when Ellen DeGeneres “came out” on her show Ellen, then changed the channel over to Friends and had little to say about the casual sexual immorality being promoted there every week. Church goers get mad about cursing in their christian music but don’t care about it in their movie watching habits. Derek Webb writes the song above alienating himself from many in the church while blogging that his life goal is to bring peace and unity. I rebuked a teen for using a curse word during my Sunday morning youth service, then went home spilled hot coffee on my lap and exclaimed the very same curse word. We are hypocrites all, we are sinners all; and that’s the beautiful point.

Peter reminds us that we are commanded by Jesus to live a life that is unreachable: “You shall be holy as He is holy”. (IPeter 1:16) Is the homosexual in sin? yes. Is the heterosexual hooking up with his girlfriend in sin? yes. Is the guy looking at pornography behind closed doors in sin? yes. Is Derek in sin for cursing publicly? was I in sin for cursing privately? yes.

Being created in the image of God, sin has caused us to be but pale reflections of what we were created to look like. To be holy is to act, and operate in the way we were created to act and operate. Is this not why the gospel message is one of great hope? Peter goes on to say: “But with the precious blood of Christ… Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again”

Though we are broken in the image we bear, in Christ we are able to achieve true righteousness and reflect the glory of God. But not apart from Christ. Where I feel Derek’s song is in error is obvious, it’s a slap in the face of many well meaning believers who at times let their brokenness get the best of them. The error on many in the church is getting so up in arms about a curse word in a song that many have been hasty to claim that Derek Webb is no longer saved.

“If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I’m grateful for Webb’s zeal in drawing our attention away from specific issues and onto the thousands of souls dying everyday with out the message of this great hope and love which we have received in Christ. I’m also grateful for those who have called him out and are fighting for righteousness in Christian music. But I’m most grateful for Jesus who has taken our puny attempts at representing his name well, and rewarded us with mercy, and is faithful to perfect us in love as we learn love one another.

What matters more? The testimony of how Christ has taken our broken, sinful, and wicked hearts and redeemed by his unfailing love. The testimony of how Christ has made a way for us to rightly bear the image of His Father and have access to Heaven. The testimony that He is returning to make all things new, to eradicate sin and suffering, pain and greif, fear and striving. The testimony that there is freedom in the blood he has shed.

What matters more is the testimony of Jesus Christ.


11 thoughts on “The Church, Derek Webb, and what matters more

  1. Good post! I too have been toiling with the ‘Derek Webb’ issue, he has been pushing the envelope for years and sometimes think it is more of a shock value thing. There are people who are going to say ‘Jesus offended people with His message, so I am gonna ruffle some feathers of my own.’ Well Jesus was without sin when He ruffled feathers, I think we all need to take a page from the life of our Master and live accordingly.

  2. I think that your post has many good points, but there is one thing that I want to draw attention to, and that’s James 3:1.

    Those who teach will be judged more strictly. And this is in the chapter which really focuses on the taming of the tongue. One can say that musical artists such as Derek Webb are in a teaching position due to the audience they are able to reach. I’m not wanting to judge Webb by any means, as all of us fall prey to the trappings of sin this side of eternity. I simply want to draw attention to this portion of scripture and how it illuminates this situation.

    Another point – There was great time, thought, etc. put into the development of this song (at least I’m assuming there was). The words were chosen with great precision, and the fact that this word was chosen with that kind of thought in mind gives me cause to take pause. Teachers plan lessons in the same way that artists plan songs. And one could argue that songs often play an even larger role in an individuals heart than great teachings (for better or for worse) – they are things we exclaim with our mouths and repeat in our heads and hearts.

    For a person in a teacher-like position to write something that he knows many people will sing along with over and again makes this situation a bit more interesting than the situation involving you cursing to yourself, alone in your home. Both are sins, obviously, but the Bible seems to indicate that leading others into sin has some different implications.

  3. Ryan ! I LOVED THIS!! You are right on. I think I will write a post- and or re-post this comment.

    As a teacher myself I feel the sting of that, even in how I wrote this post. There is a real fear from the Lord to feel concerning teaching. It’s why I have to force my self to live the life style of prayer that I do.

    To be clear if it wasn’t I think Derek was in sin for cursing in his song. It is a big deal.

    great insight bro.

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  5. No no, it was totally clear what your position was – for sure. This was just something I’ve been hit with lately, and I wanted to just throw some ideas out there to think on.

    BTW, my wife and I are going to be in KC at the end of the month. I’m hoping we’ll get a chance to stop in at IHOP on Friday, Oct. 30th during the day sometime.

    Keep it real, homey.

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