Music concerts, festivals and carnivals promoting secular music are on the rise, but what does the Bible say about whether Christians should participate?
For as long as I can remember, I have always attended Notting Hill Carnival. It was a whole family affair: Mum, aunts, cousins and siblings in tow, in overwhelming anticipation we’d make our way to West London for the two-day event to celebrate our Caribbean heritage of our native island of Barbados.
It was an opportunity to hear music from our beloved island, feast on familiar cuisine and wave our island flags with pride.
Seeing our British and Caribbean cultures collide in harmony and jubilation was heart-warming. We watched neighbours and friends who had accompanied us to the iconic street party, dance along to our native steel pans. They’d sample our island delicacies and smile in awe at the intricate artistry of the costumes, as they passed by in a glorious parade that went on for miles and miles, as far as the eye could see!
As the years passed and I outgrew my family entourage and was allowed to attend with friends, I found myself in my element! An opportunity to enjoy socialising and dancing with friends in the street along with millions of strangers felt like a true phenomenon and privilege. But as the years went by, I increasingly became aware of a shift in sentiment, and no longer looked forward to what was once my summer highlight with as much excitement and anticipation as I once had.
I found that the music had become more perverse with overtly sexualised lyrics. The costumes had evolved from symbolising creativity and innovation and seemed to be designed to be less artistic and more suggestive and revealing. I suddenly found myself feeling as though this event of cultural celebration and inclusion that I had valued so much, had been hijacked by increasing levels of crime and a binge-drinking culture.
So, when the UK’s largest and most historic street party was set to re-open after two years of being cancelled due to the pandemic, I, for the first time contemplated not attending at all and began to ponder the question, should Christians even go to secular music events? Whether it be a carnival for cultural celebration, a glamping music festival or a concert by your favourite pop artist, should we as Christians attend?
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Whether it be a carnival for cultural celebration, a glamping music festival or a concert by your favourite pop artist, should we as Christians attend?
When you are trying to work out what is the right thing to do you can draw on a range of biblical principles.
Paul says to the church in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
In all things we are called to honour God, and this extends to how we speak, act and think of ourselves and to others, so when making a decision about how to engage with an event you can ask yourself, “does this act or situation honour God?”
Wisdom is essential to govern our lives in a way that is pleasing to God. Proverbs 4:6 – 7 spells it out clearly, “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”
Wisdom requires faith and a knowledge of who God is. So, ask God as you are making decisions to give you wisdom to understand what He is saying concerning a matter or situation.
As Christians we are not expected to make decisions on our own, but to be led by the Holy Spirit. We are given the gift of discernment to decipher right from wrong and good from evil. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Listen to the Spirit and walk in step with Him; go where He leads you. Asking the Holy Spirit to guide us helps us hear God’s audible voice (in our spirit) and to navigate how to remain in the will of God.
We displease God when we sin, so it is important that we keep His principles. Pleasing God is in the “doing”, not just the “hearing”, so we must be willing to obey. It’s the difference between submitting to God’s will or our own. It is being willing as a Christian to lay down our agendas, desires and wants and surrender them to God, and in place of them taking up His. Which means sometimes engaging in a different way or disengaging altogether. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28)
A friend recently shared with me that in being mindful of his weaknesses he is often led not to partake in certain activities or events that other Christian friends feel led to be a part of. I thought this was a powerful testimony and serves as a good reminder that we must remember that we are flesh and that with that we have our own weaknesses. Being mindful of this as we mature as Christians is important to set boundaries for ourselves. This is not to say that we are not able to overcome our weaknesses, for ‘nothing is impossible through Christ who strengthens us’, but to remind us that we must seek God in all that we do, to make the right decisions, at the right time, for us.
Could you create an opportunity to make Him known even in a place of darkness?
Jesus sat with tax collectors and prostitutes and entertained adulterers and mixed with Gentiles, so it is important to consider if engaging in an event could provide you the opportunity to be a witness. Maybe God is calling you to engage for a specific purpose. Could you share the good news of Jesus at the event? Could you create an opportunity to make Him known even in a place of darkness?
We are in the world, but do not have to ascribe to the things of the world to be a part of it. Philippians 2:15 says, “That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world”.
We are called to live a life that emulates who God is and that is pleasing and acceptable to Him. The beauty of our heavenly Father is that He has given us free will, but with that comes great liberty and great responsibility. He is a God of love and compassion who delights in us and in turn we must seek to glorify Him daily in our relationships, work, conduct and lifestyle choices. The Bible is our handbook and the Holy Spirit is our guide so let’s lean on them to decipher in all situations the right thing to do, with these biblical principles as a starting block.
Nicola Morrison, Editorial and media manager of the Evangelical Alliance United Kingdom. This article was first published on the EAUK website and re-published with permission.