My wife is a Midwesterner.  As such, she was not taught to speak the correct way.  She always said “wah-ter”, but it’s pronounced “waw-ter”.  We drink “root beer” (double O as in “food”);  she drank “root beer” (double O as in “wood”).  And although everyone knows root beer is “soda”;  my wife called it “pop”.  I spent the early part of our marriage fixing her speech impediments.

You know I’m kidding, right?  We did have our share of laughs as we discovered our differences of pronunciation and perception, and my wife’s speech gradually changed because of immersion in our East coast culture.

Culture is the way of life that you learn among the people you grow up with – the way you see things, hear things, interpret things, understand things;  the way you speak and behave and respond.  Most of your culture isn’t formally taught;  it’s absorbed.  We do what those around us do;  we observe and mimic.  That’s how we learn life.

Most of us assume our own culture is the way everyone does those same things until we encounter others who were raised differently.  At first, the differences are quaint.  But if we are surrounded by or immersed in an unfamiliar culture for any length of time the discomfort of continued difference can be annoying, angering, and may even generate hatred and hostility between two parties.

Maybe some cultural practices are important.  But wouldn’t it be silly to hate someone because they insisted on ordering “pop” instead of “soda”?

Let’s kick things up a notch.

What about people who think only pianos and organs and traditional hymns should be used in church as opposed to people who like contemporary music played with electric guitars and drums?  Would it be silly to not be able to get along because of those differences?

I’ve seen a lot of energy expended and a lot of ink-spilled by traditionalists arguing that drums are of the devil, that syncopated rhythms are morally debauching, and the contemporary Christian music is spiritually empty and devastating to the church.  I have concluded that most of that is overkill – an argument over whether God wants the beverage called “soda” or “pop”.

Does God even care?

Jesus said,  “By this will all people know that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”  The identifying mark of Jesus’ followers is love for one another.  Getting people to love one another through their differences is what I’m shooting for as a pastor.  Isn’t that where genuine love is the most difficult but also the most important to cultivate?  Anyone can love the person with whom she has commonalities and agreement.  The real power of love must be exercised when you don’t agree, when you find yourself at the opposite end of a spectrum from another soul.

God’s concern is not our musical taste, but our ability to love and bless people, even if their culture differs from our own.  Jesus doesn’t say “love each other’s music”.  He doesn’t even say “learn to love each other’s music”.  And he doesn’t even say “try to learn to love each other’s music.”  You may never love their music!  But you must still love each other – seek to understand and accept each other, differences and all.  
Love is the great stretching exercise for the soul.

When you read in Revelation 7 about the great multitude before the throne of God, the crowd from every tribe and language and nation, all clothed in white, waving palm branches, praising the Lamb for the salvation of their souls – what language do you think they will be using?  What bodily gestures?  What tunes?  What rhythms?  What style of music?

Does it matter?