Musical Dissonance

Whether you can hold a good tune or not, the appeal of a Karaoke night with friends releases all those feel-good endorphins within us, right? Funny how the musical dissonance between the song someone is attempting to sing Karaoke style and how the song truly sounds when the real artist sings it is never questioned in that setting because everyone knows a Karaoke singer representing the song sounds nothing like the artist who sang the original version.

And yet, many have rejected God due to a musical dissonance within the church because some people singing the melody of God’s redemption sounded more Karaoke-clanging cymbal than a symphony of love.

I’m sharing this thought around musical dissonance because a friend sent a YouTube interview of John Dickson, author of the book, Bullies and Saints to me recently. He was talking about how some Christians in the church’s history haven’t always represented God or the gospel well. The interviewer, Pastor Andy Stanley, asked why that was the case. John replied, “The melody is meant to animate their whole life, and Christians need to listen to the melody of Jesus and sing it well.” 

Oh, that’s good, John. “Listen to the melody of Jesus and sing it well.” He’s definitely onto something with his melody thought as I can so resonate with what he is saying.

Sadly I’ve experienced first-hand Christians who believed they were singing the song of God’s redemption, however, it came across as a little off-key. The musical dissonance of His perfect version of love sounds a little off-key, revealing how some professing believers didn’t practise the gospel well, and instead of a full symphony of God’s mercy, grace, and compassion, a song that echoes and reverberates through the corridors of time, it was more Karaoke version.

The apostle Paul talks about a kind of musical dissonance in 1 Corinthians 13:1, ‘If I were to speak with eloquence in earth’s many languages, and in the heavenly tongues of angels, yet I didn’t express myself with love, my words would be reduced to the hollow sound of nothing more than a clanging cymbal.’ 

I ran away from the church and some Christians for years, all because I listened to the wrong song rather than tuning my ears to the exquisite rhythm of God’s sacrificial heartbeat. I understand deeply how after listening to the wrong tune, you eventually find yourself tuning out because something doesn’t sound quite right. And when you are shown the musical dissonance between the clear melody of the gospel and a Karaoke version that has caused a gap, it’s because the gospel has been sung a little off-key.

However, this isn’t how the gospel was intended to be heard. 

In John 10:27 it says that the sheep respond when they hear the Shephard’s voice, and God’s character in His grand symphony is offered to each listener who decides to tune in through every single line and each perfect note of His love song that runs right the way through the pages of the Bible. Make no mistake, dear reader, once you hear the true artist of love’s redemption song, you’ll realise you’ve been listening to a Karaoke sing-along that doesn’t represent God well.  

People have believed that the Karaoke version some Christians have been singing throughout the church’s history is the correct way God sounds. And I can honestly say that the enemy will do his best to make sure people don’t wake up and realise they have been listening to a sub-standard, dubbed-over version of God’s perfect masterpiece that needs to be sung and played better by the very ones who claim to know Him well. 

Being British, I grew up watching Morecambe and Wise. There is a famous sketch on YouTube with the conductor and composer, Andre Previn. There is a part where Andre asks Eric what music he’s playing when he starts playing the wrong tune on the piano. Eric gets up from the piano, kindly grabs Andre by his tuxedo lapels and says firmly, “I’m playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.”

As hilarious as this 1970s comical sketch is, it’s no joke when trust in a relationship is fractured and broken because someone in the faith believes they are playing all the right notes but they are not playing them in the right Godly order.  

The truth is when we’ve heard the grace-filled sound of God’s character after spending a considerable amount of time in His Word then the off-key song some Christians are singing is just a chaotic, unordered, clanging loveless cymbal version of the gospel which was never the way God intended it to sound.

But if someone’s never heard the true melody of Jesus, how do they know the real deal when they hear it?

Well, ‘Go ahead – sing your new song to the Lord! Let every one in every language sing him a new song. Don’t stop! Keep on singing! Make his name famous! Tell everyone every day how wonderful he is. Give them the good news of our great Saviour. Take the message of his glory and miracles to every nation. Tell them about all the amazing things he has done.’ [Psalm 96:1-3]

This is how they hear the true version, by someone telling everyone every day how wonderful God is. Giving them the good news of our great Saviour. Taking the message of his glory and miracles to every nation and telling them about all the amazing things he has done in our everyday lives. 

 If someone’s faith has all the right notes in it, not perfectly mind you, as we’ve all fallen short, right? But the song of how God intended the gospel to be heard, then that version of His song will always unite rather than divide, build up rather than tear others down, as the right notes naturally come together in a heavenly harmony that is other-worldly. And by a believer singing it well you’ll notice the musical dissonance gap will start to close as the melody of Jesus comes through.

Perhaps the message John Dickson shared in his book Bullies and Saints, is a wake-up call for the ones who are tired of listening to church people singing a Karaoke version of the gospel and decide they want to listen to the real artist’s song instead. As John says in the interview, “If you’ve been hurt by the church, give the melody another listen.” 

And for the believers who have learned to play the right notes in the right order, not perfectly, but in tune with God’s heartbeat, then they will be the ones who will make the melody of Jesus completely irresistible to others. Guaranteed.

Wendy xo 

Have you experienced a ‘clanging cymbal’ in the church because of a musical dissonance between the love symphony of God and a Karaoke version of His redeeming love song?

If you’ve been wounded by the church, then I’m sorry for your experience. Maybe tune into some real believers and give the melody of Jesus another listen. x


Wendy Parker

Comments (2)

  1. Leonie Schlosser
    January 12, 2024

    beautiful writing Wendy, love the picture you are creating with the song.

    • Wendy Parker
      January 18, 2024

      Thank you! x

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