First of all, thank you for reading this post.
I’m struggling to put the right words down on paper as I write this particular post because I know that what I’m about to say is going to step on a fair amount of toes. I don’t like stepping on toes. I’d like to smile and say that everything is all good.
But it frankly isn’t.
About a year and a half ago, I was shown a song “Holy” by punk rock band Pvris (pronounced “Paris”). I was encouraged to listen to it because “This song makes you think.” Over a year later, it’s still one of my favorite songs. Pvris is a creative and unique band, displaying an artistic flair that I think most bands are missing, and resonates with my soul; but “Holy” is a specific favorite because when I listen to this song, it makes me ask myself “Where do I fall in this giant sea of people claiming the name of Jesus?” “Holy” makes me sit with my questions and examine my heart and ask “Am I a display of something pretending to be Holy, or am I actually Holy?” (And yes, we’re supposed to be Holy – 1st Peter 1:16 “Be ye Holy for I Am Holy.”)
That led to this week’s post.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I usually like songs for having strong lyrics, and “Holy” is a perfect example of this.
The song starts out with the strikingly simple line:
You’ve got it all / But you’ve got it all wrong / you don’t know / you’re a poor, unfortunate soul.
Oh, I know / you make it seem that you feel whole / but you don’t know / you’re a poor unfortunate soul.
I hear this, and faces instantly start coming to mind. My own face among them. Faces of Christians using our beliefs as a way to legitimize ourselves. Using our faith as a status that we can wield, to be able to say “I’m doing just fine – after all, I’m a Christian.” I’ve often noticed that Christians (any religion can do this, but I can only speak from my personal observations/actions) do not practice their beliefs like a true love, but instead like a level of hierarchy. “I’m a Christian. I’ve got my life together.” Christians so often think they have it all, showing up in church, posting inspirational verses to their social media, knowing all the right “buzz words” and phrases, but in the end, we so often do these things because we want to appear whole, when instead, we are poor unfortunate souls. We dress ourselves up in ridiculous costumes trying to bring some kind of identity and validation to our attempts at living the “good life” and hoping to achieve some kind of “inner circle”.
You put on a faith façade / think you’re holy when you’re not / I hate to break it to you, baby, but you’re simply lost.
I’ll never forget the first time I read Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. (An incredible book about the magnitude of God’s love and the most heart-shattering, soul-filling depiction of what our lives really mean) I read it, and I was angry. How dare this man tell me that I wasn’t strong enough as a Christian. He didn’t know me. How dare he tell me that there should be greater expectations for Christians. How dare he tell me to stop being “comfortable” in my beliefs, and start living like what I claimed is real. How dare he tell me that I shouldn’t want to plateau, and instead that I should rather desire that I would die before my beliefs do.
The truth is, I read that book and I didn’t want to be changed. I read that book and I thought I was great and holy. I started reading that book with the idea that “I know what I’m doing. I was raised in church. I can quote scripture like most people quote movie lines. I don’t need some pastor from California telling me that I’m being lukewarm and settling in my beliefs.”
I thought I was holy, when I absolutely was not. (Still am not) Instead, what I was, is completely and utterly lost.
You can right all the wrongs / just to feel you belong / but simply calling out sins don’t bring you closer to God.
Every time I share this song with someone, they always come back and highlight that lyric. I find it both convicting and freeing. It’s convicting because I have done both of these things – and ended up empty both times. So often I would make specific “moves” in my Christian walk in order to gain the approval of others and make myself feel like I belonged. I didn’t try to right the sins in my life because I loved God, I did it because I wanted others to see what a “good Christian” I was. I stood on my holy façade and judged those around me and thought I could teach them a “thing or two”. I cringe now as I remember a lot of those thoughts. I cringe even harder when I think about all the other things in my life I’m currently doing/thinking that are easily comparable to that previous state of mind. Remember I said, homeostasis will never be achieved? Here it is, live and in person, my friend.
Don’t let this become you. Don’t make your life about pleasing others – to be honest, people are too easily pleased. People are pleased by our outward projections. God is pleased by the changing of our hearts. Say all the right things, follow the right trendy Christians on Twitter, save K-LOVE on your car’s radio or iHeartRadio app, show your face in church now and then, people will be pleased. God won’t be pleased until you change your heart to love others more than yourself. It is so much easier to please people.
Author note: I do want to make the point that when I talk about pleasing God, I’m not talking about earning His love. You don’t have to earn God’s love; it’s freely given. God will never love you any more than He already does right now. God always has and always will love you. It’s a freebee. You can’t do anything to gain more of it or lose any of it.
You’re just a ghost at most / a set of empty bones / searching for anything and everything to make you feel whole / when it gets cold
The visualization in this stanza is exquisite; there’s a line from Mo Isom’s book Wreck My Life where she refers to many Christians as empty skeletons lining church pews, hoping for something to bring us back to life. My heart breaks when I think about the days when I have allowed myself to be that exact image – a shallow skeleton hobbling through my days, desperately seeking something to change me, when what I need is the Breath of Life to be breathed over my soul. Interestingly, there’s a story similar to this in Ezekiel when God calls Ezekiel to speak to the Israelites and raise them up from their hopeless, lost states of mind. In the vision Ezekiel is given, God compares the Israelites to dry bones. “I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry…so I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying…the bones came together, bone to bone…tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.” (Ezekiel 37 broken for conciseness) I read this and I think of the modern day church – so many of us are (figuratively) walking corpses – we appear to have everything we need to be alive, but we lack the breath of God within us. Oh, church, wake up. You aren’t fooling anyone. The world has grown cold with the lack of the Holy Spirit moving through Christians. We are here to be salt and light, and instead, we have become staggering ghosts, searching for whatever new emotion-filled moment we can grasp to give us fulfillment. Stop searching for warmth in the “Holy façade” and find the fire of the Holy Spirit.
There’s no way that there’s weight in the words that you preach/ when you’re claiming your faith and you contradict your speech / so I sit here and listen to your tongue in cheek / I know that when you sit and pray you’re only praying for keeps.
The first time I heard this line, I felt like Lynn (Lynn Gunn, Pvris lead vocalist and co-lyricist of “Holy”) was singing directly to me. Ask anyone that has hard feelings against Christians why they feel that way, and 9/10 times they will tell you “Christians are some of the biggest hypocrites.” Christians, how can there be weight to anything we say, if it’s full of nothing but riddles and pompous hypocrisy?
How long will we be like the white-washed Pharisees that loudly proclaimed their love for God in the temple, then went out and lived their lives with some of the worst malice and slander? How long will we proclaim love while remaining intolerant to people different from us? How long will we stand in judgement of the people we feel have so deeply wronged us, when our own King gave his life to receiving the deepest wounds from our own sins?
You’re shallow and empty and filled with regret / I think your chest must be heavy from that cross on your neck / you only wear cuz you’re wary of what comes next / after your death.
Again, amazing visual: I picture us dragging these giant crosses that are anchored to chains around our necks – like the dime-a-dozen cross necklaces so signature to trendy Christianity – weighing us down like a religious ball-and-chain that keeps our feet from dancing to God’s music. What’s incredible is that God never required us to be weighed down by these religious standards and rituals. We put them on ourselves. Jesus came to free us from all of that. Shockingly, we willingly shackle our hearts to these weights, hoping for some sort of affirmation to our lives and belief systems. We become slaves to our rituals because we aren’t trying to be like Jesus, we’re trying to mimic other Christians. We’re chasing shadows when we should be chasing the real, three-dimensional thing. We treat our Christianity like an insurance policy on our souls, and call it good – rather than recognizing it for what it really is: an opportunity to have every fiber of our being and every moment of our lives completely changed by the one true God. Stop. Selling. Yourself. Short. There’s so much more that you can be experiencing if you’d just drop the script and love Jesus for real.
Don’t think I didn’t notice.
Final line of the song. “Don’t think I didn’t notice.” You ask yourselves why so many people are turned off by Christians. You ask yourselves why so many people are turned off by church. You ask yourself why so many young people are leaving church. You ask yourselves why so many people are turned off by the mere mention of Christianity – maybe its because our hypocrisy raises such a stench to non-believers that they can’t stand to hear any more. Do not think that your façade goes unnoticed. I can’t help wondering, how embarrassing we must sometimes be to God – that we are here to be representatives of His love and truth, and instead so often become demonstrations of legalism and hypocrisy. We’re so caught up in appearing Holy to the people around us, we rarely stop to even consider if we appear righteous before God.
Final Call: This was another post that I wrestled with. For the past week I’ve written, erased, re-written, re-erased, fussed, stress-ate (so many orange slices…), sought outside opinions/advice, written more, erased more, and so on, until finally I said “I’m over it, it is what it is.” God pulled me down onto my knees for this one – which is frankly where I should have started in the first place – and said “Why did I give this idea to you? Why did I give you this tongue for speech? Why did I give you these talents? I did not give you these abilities so that you could lie or stand complacently.”
Okay. I won’t lie. I won’t stand by complacently.
The majority of us in the church are missing the whole reason for why we are here. We are wrapped up in the facades and the rituals, the buzzwords and charades, the character shows and making sure that we stay within the religious “inner circle” – where is our broken humility? Where is our heart for teaching about who Jesus really is? Where is our uncompromising conviction to obeying God? Why are we walking as dry bones instead of being evidently filled with the Holy Spirit? Where is our burden to love others around us? I write all of this and I think “These are some big statements you’re making. Are you sure you want to do that?”
And then I think about “Holy”
I ask myself “Why haven’t I said this before?”