Do you remember mix tapes?
Today, we call them playlists.
When I was in high school in the 1990s, I was pretty good at making the perfect mix tape for any occasion. I probably made at least a hundred of those things. I’d make one for every road trip, every friend, every girlfriend, every summer weekend.
I always had dozens of blank tapes on hand — 60 minutes and 90 minutes, depending on the occasion — to use when the time was right. I’d sit for hours, scouring through hundreds of CDs that my stepdad had collected via the Columbia House catalogs. I’d pluck the best songs from the CDs and transfer them to the cassette tapes, crafting, through song, the perfect message.
My friend Jim and I would get together and compare mix tapes. His were always a little better quality because he had some secret way to blend the tracks. My transitions between songs were never as smooth.
I once met a man who would engage me in deep theological discussions. At the time, I had a pretty good idea of where I was coming from. I was still a fairly new Christian and explained my beliefs as best I could. He, on the other hand, seemed to be all over the place with his beliefs. On the face of it, it sounded somewhat like Christianity, but it had a pinch of some “new age” things, a dash of Buddhism (reincarnation), something I can only describe as a “happy hunting ground” scenario, and some other things I’d never heard of before.
I was confused. And I finally admitted my ignorance and confusion and asked him: What exactly do you believe?
The answer was surprising.
He told me that he’d developed his beliefs by picking some of this and some of that, and, over time, had built a customized theology. He told me that his belief system was comforting to him and he held to the idea that each person developed his/her life-after-death reality — and that reality, in some way, would be honored if you believed hard enough.
It was a mix tape.
He took the greatest hits of a variety of theologies — and a few ideas I believe he developed along the way — to produce something that suited his lifestyle and, I noticed, had nothing bad in it. Everything was good. There were no consequences for sin. There was no need for forgiveness because all was accepted — and if it wasn’t acceptable on Earth, there were no real spiritual repercussions.
I believe many people do this. In fact, before I gave my life to Christ, I think I did this. I pretty much believed in God, but I felt that as long as my good deeds outnumbered my bad deeds, I was probably good with the Almighty.
I’d pick and choose what I wanted to believe. That’s the wrong approach.
Do you remember when albums were works of art?
Each song on an album contributed to the whole experience. And if a song was skipped or listened to out of order — even if the song wasn’t very popular or something we enjoyed hearing — we didn’t get the full experience the artist created and wished for us.
It’s the same with God and His word. The Bible reveals to us a God of mercy and grace and, yes, a God of judgement. There are stories we like to hear and stories we’d just as soon forget.
But we don’t get to choose what to keep and what to discard. We need to know God in His entirety.
In our good times and bad, God wants each of us to experience the fullness of his creation — a beautiful and mysterious work of art that can simply be titled: Love.