“All those who were caught dancing were thought to be insane by those who couldn’t hear the music,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher who argued that Christianity has become identified with institutions while the church has failed to embody the life of Jesus. The failure of the church to embody Jesus Christ feels like watching people dance and wondering where the music is coming from. Am I listening right, or my ears haven’t been trained to hear the sound of music that is blaring through my ears?
That seems to me to be the challenge of our everyday life - to wonder if others hear the music to which we are dancing. I learned many years ago that the one who is truly saved by grace understands that they have been saved by grace and so that person does not need to be told that they are under a solemn obligation to serve Christ. Instead, that person is deeply aware of the new life that is within them, and it is that new life that alerts them to the awareness of the music and draws each of us to dance. If you have not fallen in love with that obligation to serve Christ, you might think that those who have are insane.
The tragedy is that you cannot dance because you don’t hear the music - you don’t hear the anguish of those who are crying for reform, you don’t hear the drumbeat of those who desire a dramatic shift in the way law enforcement interact with citizens, you don't hear the aching hearts of the mothers, fathers, and loved ones of those who have suffered gun violence, and you don't see the silent tears of folks who don't ask for much. That is the music that is blaring out.
Can you hear?
Do you hear?
Like many of you, I watched the trial of former police officer Chauvin on TV. The reaction to the guilty verdict was surreal. I really didn’t know how to feel about it. Like many of you, I was worried about the outcome of this case. "But why am I so worried?" I asked myself. My fear was about a verdict that will reinforce the idea that the system doesn’t apply equally to all, or that some might be dancing and some might not be dancing because not everyone hears the music.
"It isn’t only Derek Chauvin who is guilty," I said to myself. He is but a symptom of a much larger problem. The real culprit is a system that protects people like him who offend the dignity of God's children. The guilt lies squarely on a system that, for some reason, tolerates acts of violence against many people - especially minorities - which are some of the very people they have sworn to protect.
I wrote about the callousness of ex-officer Chauvin last year. I do not know him, nor do I need to personally know him to conclude that his actions on that day were borne out of a deep emptiness of the human soul. I also reminded myself that his action was one of a soul who needs as much salvation as you and I. But I was surprised by the sheer joy and celebration of people. "Why are people celebrating?" I asked myself. Why such joyous celebrations at his guilty verdict? Could it be that some can now hear the music and thus can understand why some are dancing?
There’s a story of King David who decided to move the Ark of the Covenant from the home of Obededom to the city of David. With shouting and sounds of trumpet, the house of Israel celebrated this major milestone. King David leaped and danced before the Lord, to the extent that his linen ephod fell off revealing his nakedness. But Michal - Saul’s daughter who saw David overjoyed and dancing - despised the king in her heart because she couldn’t hear the music. She couldn’t feel the joy in his heart. She couldn’t bring herself to dance because she couldn’t feel what the king was feeling.
It feels very different if you can hear the music. It feels very different if you know why the rhythm of the music moves you in a particular way. It feels very different when the music touches you in ways you haven’t been touched before. It feels very different when you hear the liberating power of the music. It feels very different if you can hear the music - it is always there. The tragedy is that you cannot understand why someone is so moved to dance when you can’t hear the music.
"Nobody knows the trouble I have seen," says the Negro Spiritual. "Nobody knows but Jesus." You haven’t walked in my shoes before so you may not understand why my shoes fit perfectly fine but why my feet hurt so bad.
Maybe, just maybe, if we tune our ears a little bit we may hear the sound of the music, and it is only then can we understand why those dancing are not insane.