After reading the Facebook post and the various comments that followed, my mind was fully engaged. I tried my best, but I couldn’t walk away from the situation. Not only was a Christian sister from our church being attacked in her stance for Christ, but the attacks were uninformed, insane and insensitive. The would-be theologians confidently expressed their infallible positions with abject ignorance.
The original remark that sparked this firestorm of strong opinions centered on the Grammys that recently aired. The show that recognizes the top achievements in the musical industry was opened by a supercharged performance from the Australian rock band, AC/DC. The second of their two songs was their billboard classic, “Highway to Hell”. Accompanying the band were plumes of fire on the stage and an audience merrily singing along sporting red horns and flashing satanic symbols.
Ain’t nothin’ that I’d rather do
My friends are gonna be there too
I’m on the highway to hell
On the highway to hell
Highway to hell
I’m on the highway to hell
How does this make you feel?
My friend expressed her grief. Most of her friends replied with bewilderment, lashing back attempting to correct her ill-informed conclusions. So after reading the comments and thinking about this one for the evening, I responded. My sentiments were intentionally brief. But if I were given a greater platform, this is what I would have liked to say.
1. Respect Another’s Conscience
The conscience is a warning system that alerts us when we are in or are heading toward moral danger. The more we violate our conscience, the more it loses its effectiveness. Perpetual violations can leave us hard hearted and completely insensitive to any ethical values. That’s why the Bible repeatedly warns us to never act contrary to our conscience (Jas. 4:17). The Bible even strictly commands us to limit our freedoms if it means respecting the conscience of another (1 Cor. 8:7, 10, 12). Therefore whether one agrees or not with my friend’s moral convictions, the right response is to respect her sensitivities rather than condemn her for having them. I would like to assume in our age of “tolerance” we’d get this one right!
2. Liberty with Musical Choices
Though many have tried throughout the church age, the attempts to draw a dogmatic line in the concrete as it pertains to right and wrong musical choices have been futile and harmful. We see nothing in Scripture that teaches us which instruments and genre are appropriate. Even many believers will find great disagreement in the grey areas pertaining to lyrical choices. Thankfully the Lord has given us freedom (Gal. 5:1). We take the principles of Scripture along with guidance from the Holy Spirit and conscience and personally apply them to each particular situation in a way we deem will best honor the Lord (1 Cor. 10:31). Yet with that said, I believe this song crosses the line for all believers. My problem with the song is not so much that it mentions hell, but rather that it celebrates the voyage to this awful and God-forsaken eternal destination (Mt. 13:42). I’m sorry, but there is nothing funny or God-honoring in making light of or rejoicing in that tragic predicament.
3. Honoring the Lord
So our Savior goes to the cross and suffers excruciating pain to pay the price for guilty sinners to be saved from hell (Mt. 26:39). After telling us about hell’s miseries, the sinless One personally condescends to experience hell on our behalf (Mk. 15:34). In the greatest display of love and mercy that the world has ever known, God permitted Himself to be crucified. How much grief it must bring to His heart, to see the apex of His creation not only reject His love offering, but celebrate (whether seriously or in jest) the broad road that leads to destruction (Mt. 7:13). I can imagine the grief must have been exponentially profound if any of His redeemed were participating in the party.
4. Words Do Matter
The comment was clearly articulated, “But it’s only words.” Well, here’s news for you – words do matter. We have all been significantly injured by what others have said (Pr. 12:18; Jas. 3:6, 8). Reverse the roles. What if a Christian band were playing and they proclaimed God’s design for marriage between one man and one woman? Do you think the opposition would say, “But it’s only words”? I can imagine that the audio would be cut, the band would never be invited back and the vilification campaign would spread through the media for months. We are told in the Bible that words are a reflection of our hearts (Mt. 12:34). When I watched this video off the Internet this afternoon, my heart grieved for those souls no less important than mine singing of hell in a celebratory and cavalier matter. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34).
5. The Wages of Sin
And perhaps the most repeated comment was, “Listening to this song won’t send you to hell.” Implied in that remark is that either one is sinless and enjoying this song will be the deciding factor between heaven and hell or that a bunch of sins is necessary to send you to hell and this one could be the tipping point to push you over the edge. The sad reality is that all those attending the Grammys had already committed enough sin to send them to hell, regardless of how they responded once AC/DC took the stage. Furthermore, all humans are in that category as well (Rom. 3:23). Will one sin send a person to hell? Yes (Jas. 2:10), but the problem is that none of us are guilty of just one sin. That is why we all need Jesus Christ who took away not one or a few of our sins at Calvary, but died for all of our sins, even the ones we’ve yet to commit, to provide us complete forgiveness (Heb. 9:26).
So for those celebrating this song at the Grammys without Christ the call is for them to receive His life-giving sacrifice with faith and accept the complete pardon offered by His grace (Eph. 2:8-9). And for those who have received His forgiveness, the call is to examine all our actions and ask if they bring honor to our Savior. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col. 3:17).