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Hauntingly Beautiful: “Strength and Beauty” brings lament, rebuke, reprove, reproach, and reminds us that we must listen to God and each other

  |   All, Articles, Song Review

Citizens new single “Strength and Beauty” is a prophetic and edifying piece of music that the modern Church needs in this time in which we are reeling from so many ills within the Church, mainly not loving and being gracious to our neighbors. The background vocals mixed with Zach Bolen’s voice are a tour de force through the song.

 

(Verse 1)
Strength and beauty
Deep in our blood
We separate it
Profane the pages
Hatred taken over our eyes
And we defend it
Reform repentance
Violence stealing
Love from our lips
We justify it
Go on divided
Listen…

 

 

I couldn’t help but think about the Church the entire song. How many times do we give into to the culture wars going on around us in politics and join in? How many times have we defended hatred towards our neighbors instead of loving them, listening to them, praying for them, and sharing the truth of the Gospel with seasoned speech? How are we living out repentance from sin in the public square when we are enslaved to the idols of nationalism and being right all the time? Bolen and Citizens capture the plague of the Twitter-verse and its way of interaction in our day in verse one.

 

 

(Verse 2)
Grace and brilliance
Flow through our veins
But we defy it
Placate the crisis
Justice cratered
Under our fists
But we deny it
Pass on the virus

 

Bolen’s rebuke and reprove of the Church doesn’t stop at verse one, he goes on to show how our idolatry and apathy against fighting idols has creeped in how we downplay the absolute destruction sin has brought upon our neighborhoods, systems of government, and institutions that are supposed to protect us, but really don’t seem to protect us.

 

 

[Pre-Chorus] Listen…
Listen…
Hear the broken singing…
Listen…

 

 

The pre-chorus reminds us all in the Bride of Christ that we are broken and come from this world of sin and death that has broken us, but not only that it reminds us how we have sinned against our neighbors in not listening to them and being gracious and loving them. Isaiah lamented “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”(Is 6:5). The pre-chorus reminds us of Psalm 51 and how God is near the broken-hearted, but also is awaiting you to respond to His summons to come to King Jesus; “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps 51:17).

 

 

[Chorus] I see a shadow of survival
I see a starlight in my dreams
I see a cursed forgotten child
I see the tears drip down her lips
I see a stone made from a Bible
I see a bruised and beaten skin
I see the fear that keeps her silent
I see a bird with broken wings
I see a cold dejected diamond
I see her dug out of the mud
I see a soul no longer frightened
I see the life rush through her blood
I see her crying turn to laughter
I see her dancing in the rain
I see her hope in this disaster

 

 

And then in this triumphant Chorus, Citizens gives us the Gospel in raw, creative, imaginative form. Oh, how we were lost without Christ! Look at how our denominations and some Pharisaical leaders have used the Bible to wound and break people and instill a sinful man-made fear  instead of letting the truth of God set us free and do what Augustine said is the job of the Church:

 

 

“So someone says, “What’s the use of the church if you can confess, and be brought back to life by the voice of the Lord and come out immediately?” “What use is the church to you as you confess—the church to which the Lord said, ‘What you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven?’ ” Look at Lazarus’s case. He came out, all tied up. He was already alive, by confessing, but he was not yet walking around freely, being still entangled with the bandages. So what does the church do, told as it has been, “Whatever you loose shall be loosed”? The church does what the Lord went on at once to tell the disciples, of course: “Unbind him and let him go.”

 

 

I couldn’t help but think of how we who have been redeemed by Christ are the prostitute caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11. In fact God uses the imagery of how the people of Israel have prostituted themselves and continues to call them to repentance seen in the books of Isaiah and Ezekiel. But not only is the song reminding us of these Biblical truths, it’s reminding us how we in the Church have neglected to show compassion, grace, and the love of Christ onto those who have been hurt by others sinners and those who dare say they are leading the Church in a godly way. And yet look how Bolen sees God’s regeneration and restoration to those who have been broken and how it drives us to this prayer, “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old—” (La 5:21)

 

 

I couldn’t help but rejoice in how God rescues His bride, the Church, from the mire and answers our cry, “Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. (Ps 69:14). We no longer live in fear Church! Look what God has done! Look what Christ has done! He has saved us! Look at what the Church is to remember:

 

 

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 Jn 4:16–21)

 

Oh Saints let us remember that we are the Bride of Christ and, as Bolen says, “I see her hope in this disaster.” We await the day when our King and Bridegroom, Jesus, will come again to bring justice to those who have sought to destroy, beat, and mame His Bride:

 

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.  And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Re 19:11–16)

 

Let “Strength and Beauty” be a catalyst that drives us to God in repentance, to love and listen to our neighbors, reading God’s word, and rejoice as we no longer stumble in darkness, but walk in the light.

 

 

AUTHOR - Jack Barry