In Isaiah 1:11-17, God scolds his children for their external, self-righteous, neat-nick religion. Read the passage. It will be convicting, I promise. If we can paraphrase, God basically says:
Stop going to church! Stop singing! Stop your Sunday school classes and your Wednesday night Bible studies. It all drives me crazy! And stop praying, too, because I’m going to stop listening. Your prayers are an abomination to my ears. I’ve had enough of your religion. You need to learn justice, mercy, and goodness.
That is quite an indictment, but that’s how God feels towards fake religion. If your worship is rooted in self and reputation and not Christ, then God says, “I hate it.” If you aren’t familiar with the rest of Isaiah (which some scholars call “the fifth gospel”), you would probably think that God is a cranky old man who loves making life miserable for human beings. Joyfully, that is not the case. In verse 18, God says, “You repent, and even though your sin stains your life like blood stains clothes, I will make you white as snow.” Ultimately, this is fulfilled in Jesus, who shed his blood on the cross in our place.
Jon Foreman, in one of his solo projects, records a song called “Instead Of A Show” about this passage. Foreman writes:
I hate all your show and pretense
The hypocrisy of your praise
The hypocrisy of your festivals…
…Your eyes are closed when you’re praying
You sing right along with the band
You shine up your shoes for services
There’s blood on your hands
I have read comments on this song on blogs and people have said things similar to: “He’s expressing what he has seen in the church and in the lives of Christians.” One comment said this: “Is Foreman fed up of christian bands singing vanilla pop so records appeal to the vast majority? Is he pulling back the facades to worship from the heart — and not a rehearsed performance?”
These kinds of comments frustrate me. From listening to Foreman’s other songs, both solo and with Switchfoot, I don’t get the feeling that Foreman is pointing his finger at Christians. I don’t think he’s fed up with Christianity. I don’t think he’s tired of the Church, Jesus’ beloved Bride.
I think he’s pointing his finger at himself. I think Jon Foreman is fed up with Jon Foreman.
When I listen to this song, and most of Foreman’s music, and especially when I read the Bible, I see my own sinful self. And when I don’t see my own sinful self? Then I need to reflect, confess, and repent to God instead of pointing at and blaming other people. When Foreman sings, “I hate all your show. I hate all your show,” I think he’s reminding his soul that God is telling him, through Isaiah, “Jon, don’t be religious. Don’t be a Pharisee. Don’t play church. Don’t worship publicly if you never worship me privately. That makes me want to vomit.”
True Christians don’t sing about how religious and plastic and messed up everyone else is. Don’t get me wrong: there is a place for calling out sin. But we first preach to our own souls. True Christians sing about their own sins and tendencies toward fake religion, and the greatness of a Savior who takes all of their blood-stained rags and gives them robes of righteousness because of the blood he shed.
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Listen to “Instead Of A Show” by Jon Foreman.