Discernment: the ability to see and understand people, things, or situations clearly and intelligently (Websters).
I found myself in a quandary the other day. I have rediscovered vinyl (yes, it really does sound different!), so I am always on the lookout for cheap records. Occasionally I find something that I used to listen to back in the 80’s, and it’s always fun to take a trip back in time, so I pick it up. What I sometimes discover is that I’m a more discerning person now than I was back then (thanks to the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and a little age), and that there are lots of messages in the songs that I just didn’t get or didn’t care about back then. That’s actually good news though! My problem is something different. What do I do about it?
It may surprise you to know that I’m not even really thinking about the rampant sexuality that is often explicit in so much music out there. I love harmony. I like a lot of folk music. But the messages often espouse philosophies that I don’t agree with. Here’s an example from The Indigo Girls, who have beautiful harmonies, but their lyrics can be problematic: “We go to the Bible, we go through the workout. We read up on revival and we stand up for the lookout. There’s more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line. The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine.” Of course, they are looking at life from a particular viewpoint based on their own lifestyle choices, so this doesn’t surprise me. But the greater question is, once I recognize what the song is espousing, what should I do? Is it enough to know that the message is wrong when listening, or should I not listen to it anymore?
I have to admit that I have waffled back and forth on this issue in my life, particularly with music. I may buy a record thinking “It’s not a big deal,” listen to it, and then get rid of it again! That’s when I’m glad that I only paid $1 for it! I end up disposing of the record because of an acronym that I learned when I was a computer science major: GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). The principle should be self-explanatory. What goes in, comes out. If it’s bad on the way in, it comes out bad. If it’s good, you’re golden! There are numerous Biblical passages that seem to say the same thing, but the best may be Philippians 4:8, and I’ll leave you with that…
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”