Last October, I posted a response to a newly released (at that time) song by Macklemore called “Same Love.” The YouTube video of the song had already been watched 5 million times by that point, and has now been seen 75 million times. Recently, the video received the 2013 MTV Video Music Award for Best Video with a Message. The song has definitely gone mainstream as you can hear it in the background at Walmart or the ballpark. As a result of the continual attention on the song — and a large number of comments showing up recently at the original post — I thought it would be good to bring back “from the archives” my original post where I made some Gospel reflections on the song’s lyrics.
Macklemore, a hip-hop artist from Seattle, recently produced a powerful music video called “Same Love,” about a gay man’s journey from birth-to-death.
The video builds an argument against the conviction that homosexuality is a sin by showcasing the beauty of common grace (friendship, family, joy, food, companionship, commitment). The quality of the video merits the nearly five million views the video achieved in its first two weeks. Music, lyrics and videography all unite to tell a moving narrative of a man and the loves of his life.
As you watch, you will be moved. The video is designed to do just that. But we are more than our emotions and the Word of God is a more serious matter than Macklemore communicates.
After watching the video, one is left with the impression that only an ignorant person who “still fears what we don’t know” would forget that “God loves all His children” and condemn homosexuality as a sin.
Macklemore belittles Scripture: “we paraphrase a book written 3,500 years ago.”
In this one simple line, he dismisses the entire corpus of Christian teaching on sexuality.
The “we paraphrase” leads the listener to understand that all this debate is merely a matter of hermeneutics – and “right-wing conservatives” interpret Scripture wrong.
The line, “a book written 3,500 years ago” provides a contemporary example of what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” – the belief that ancient thoughts are suspect and probably wrong because they are … ancient.
The statement that the Bible was written 3,500 years ago also reveals that Macklemore does not know the timeline associated with the things he condemns. The New Testament, where strong condemnation of homosexual practice appears, was written less than 2,000 years ago.
Before Macklemore can condemn those who believe in the God revealed in the Bible by asserting that “God loves all His children,” one must ask that the deeper question be answered: “Do you, in fact, believe in the God revealed in the Bible? Or are you appealing to another god?”
Does the self-revealed God of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments love all His children? Yes. The same sovereign Lord who created all things from nothing and established and blessed monogamous heterosexuality within the bounds of marriage, also bled and died on the cross to redeem sinners who transgress those sexual standards in countless ways. That is to say, the real God really loves all His children so much that He really died a real death to set them free from sin. He also really rose from the dead to set them free from death itself. And, it is God alone who is in a position to determine what sin is, since He alone is holy.
Macklemore beats out the lyrics:
The right wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made rewiring of a predisposition
Playing god, aw nah here we go
Does this accurately represent the fullness of what we say the Bible teaches about sexuality? How would you respond to those lines? Do we make false statements about the nature of sexual sin, taking lightly or dismissing altogether the very real presence of sexual desires that lead to temptation and sin in many forms? Can addiction to pornography or lust or homosexuality be cured by Christ? What does that even mean – “to be cured?”
The Gospel of Jesus Christ leads anyone who calls Jesus “Lord” to turn away from all sexual acts prohibited by God’s Word because God has communicated that they are contrary to what He knows is best for us – as individuals, in relationship with one another and in relationship to Him. Although the desire and temptation for sexual acts may lurk in the shadows of the one who commits their life to Christ, they are no longer enslaved to committing the sin or even enjoying the thoughts of the sin. Instead, the very thought becomes repugnant as it is contrary to mind of Christ being actively cultivated in the one who believes.
The redeemed mind is not set on pursuing and satisfying the insatiable desires of the flesh. The redeemed mind is set on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” (Philippians 4:8). And it is God who determines what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, not we, ourselves. Why? Because God alone is holy and in a position to set the parameters of what is good and what is not.
We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:6 ESV)
The Gospel of Jesus stands against the “I can’t change” lyrics of Macklemore’s chorus:
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm.
What is impossible for us (spiritual transformation) is possible with God. Idolatry is idolatry. The same God who can change the heart of a money-lover into a God-lover (Matthew 19:26), can change the heart of anyone who is willing to be changed. To deny that is to deny that God is sovereign.
God is God! If He made you, He can change you. When God moves, there is no fist strong enough to continue clinging to lesser loves.
Even the personification in the song of “my love, my love, my love” as a female presence that keeps the singer warm, betrays a worldview that elevates and celebrates the gratification of the physical flesh over the spiritual presence of a holy God.
The change that Macklemore says is impossible is precisely what he’s advocating. He wants heart change, just not for those who are held captive by a lifestyle that is contrary to the revealed will of God. He wants the heart change of those who, in his view, stand in the way not only of the legalization of same-sex marriage, but the heart change that would exchange the truth of God for lies.
The lyrics acknowledge that same-sex marriage recognition is only the start.
And a certificate on paper
Isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start.
Ask yourself, what comes the day after same-sex marriage receives legal recognition throughout the nation? How will those who continue to uphold Biblical sexual standards be perceived? Ideas have consequences – including that revealed truth that God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. God’s holiness does not change. God’s ideas about right and wrong do not change. What is popular or even legal is a moving target, God is not.
All humanity stands on level ground at the foot of the cross to receive the grace of pardon from sin and sexual brokenness – heterosexual or homosexual. Biblically faithful pastors and Christians must never say to a heterosexual adulterer, a teen-consuming porn, or a homosexual in a decades-long monogamous relationship: “You can’t change – even if you tried – even if you wanted to!”
The Apostle Paul knew something about heart change. He hated Christians and he loved works-righteousness (Philippians 3). Then, everything changed. The Gospel reversed his loves, his affections, his mindset, his thinking, his pattern of life – everything was changed by a sovereign Savior. We must have the same confidence in Christ that Paul had:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ESV)
Nearly five million people have heard Macklemore’s version of the gospel. [Update for September 2013, now 75 million people have viewed the video]. They now need to hear the truth from Christians who genuinely love them.