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Music: Food of Love or Fuel for Lust?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012 · Christian Life
Most students of literature are familiar with the following lines that open one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Twelfth Night:
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
In this play, Orsino who claims to be madly in love with Lady Olivia, wants only to lie around on beds of flowers, listening to sweet music and dreaming of her. He asks for the musicians to give him so much music—the “food of love”—that he will overdose (“surfeit”) and not be hungry for love any longer.  The genuineness of Orsino’s emotions comes into question, however, when he later switches his affections from Olivia to Viola without a second thought.

While it seems a little obvious that the affections of Orsino is more of lust than it is of true love, our main concern is with the metaphor, “If music be the food of love…” Just like it is happening here with Orsino, many today think of music as the food of love and they turn to it to rouse their love emotions. Perhaps, that is the reason why tons of musicians choose to sing more of love than anything else. But the question is: “Can we say an emotion of this sort roused by music is true love?” Of course, we know that such emotions are vented on immorality (which confirms it as lust and not love). So we can clearly see these “worldly” music fueling inordinate passion and gross immorality in the hearts of men.

As children of God, we see the highest and perfect demonstration of love as Jesus’ death for our sins and we emulate only this kind of love towards our fellow men and God alike. Our love for God is often expressed in songs of praises unto Him. This kind of music draws our hearts closer to God and helps us to eschew all forms of lust. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Also in Ephesians 5:19, we read: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord

Conclusively, music can be “fuel for lust” if used to rouse ungodly emotions but can also be an instrument for demonstrating our reciprocative love towards God as seen in the verses above. It should be noted that our hearts are to continually stay in touch with God as we make melodies unto Him from our hearts. In fact, if we do this there would be no time to sing songs that do not glorify Him. That was exactly what Frances Ridley Havergal meant when he put down these lines of the hymn, Take my life and let it be:
Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my King ;
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
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