Do We Have the Great Commandment Backward?

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Hallelujah – the music that moves my spirit

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I’m listening to Leonard Cohen’s hallelujah in my headphones as I work late into the night against a quickly approaching deadline to finish a client project. The beauty of it paralyzes me until I can do nothing but listen.

I remember a time, not so long ago, in which I read where a Christian musician changed the words of the entire song to more accurately reflect what she thought a true Christian song should say lyrically. At the time I was a bit caught up in the “us/them” phenomenon that has penetrated much of the western church today (i.e., we’ve got it figured out and everybody else is doing it wrong), and I agreed that her version was indeed more reflective of what Christianity means and what the Bible actually says.

I always loved that song, however, despite any conflict I had with the lyrics. It just made my heart dissolve and had that wonderful capacity to remove me from my thoughts and worries. It gave me this inner peace that music often does. How it connects us to our inner voice, lifts our spirits and brings us back into balance. It’s that unexplainable feeling that conjures up spirit – that breath of life that reminds us of our oneness with our Creator and that all is well.

“Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” — Martin Luther

Tonight as the song came on again and I enjoyed it through my hifi headphones, I felt ever so sure that music, which helps reconnect us to our essence – to our inner and divine nature, can only be from our loving Creator. I doubt any one religion can lay claim to music’s true spiritual nature; when created from the heart and spirit and with pure intention, music is the song and spiritual expression of God’s very heart.

The musicians in 1 Chronicles were said to be trained and skilled musicians for the Lord. If God has seen to it that we receive skills and talents in music, as well as special training, and says that all of this is for Him, then isn’t our mere act of making music the giving back to God that he speaks of? If I listen to music that touches my spirit, isn’t that music pleasing to God as well? And doesn’t, as James tells us, everything that is good come from God? Every perfect gift is from Him. Even the Hallelujahs, whether Leonard Cohen’s or Shrek’s or the little Christian lady who dared to change the lyrics?

Sure, there is music that has been used for bad, with lyrics that are degrading and vile. Obviously I am not speaking of that. Common sense tells us that those kinds of songs aren’t going to evoke feelings of goodness and love in a person anyway. There’s no argument there.

I love that music comes in all kinds of styles and genres, and there is a beautiful song ready to touch the heart of every person on earth. I’m over my days of trying to tell a composer that his lyrics are wrong. I may as well tell him his finger prints are wrong! I’m also not going to tell the lady who changed his lyrics that her version is wrong, because that’s her truth. And it’s what makes her soul sing. Hallelujah!

“Music should be healing; music should uplift the soul; music should inspire. There is no better way of getting closer to God, of rising higher towards the spirit, of attaining spiritual perfection than music, if only it is rightly understood.” ~Hazrat Inayat Khan

Here’s a beautiful rendition done by Three Famous Girls https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooZonYCkz-Q
Here is a very soulful rendition by KD Lang https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_NpxTWbovE
Here’s a beautiful remake written for Christmas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GSTH3G1YIs
And finally, here’s the song sung by the composer genius, Leonard Cohen, himself! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FpwjQLZTTs