The Music and the Dance

February 25, 2009 at 8:06 pm (Uncategorized)


Imagine yourself in a large house in which those who are deaf and those who can hear are living together. In one of the rooms, you see a guy sitting in a chair and listening to music on his iPod. Rhythmically, he’s tapping his foot, drumming his thighs, jutting his chin out, swaying to the beat. His entire body moves in response to what his ears are hearing. It’s obvious that he’s enjoying himself and listening to a pretty good song.

A few minutes later, one of the deaf persons enters the room. Seeing the guy listening to the music, he thinks, That looks like fun. I think I’ll try that. So he sits down next to him and begins to imitate him. Awkwardly at first, he tries drumming his thighs, jutting his chin out, and swaying to the music just like the guy with the iPod. With a little practice, he begins to catch onto it. By watching and trying, he begins to mirror the other guy’s actions pretty closely. But although he eventually gets better at keeping time, he concludes that it’s not as much fun or as easy as it initially seemed.1

After a while, a third person enters the room and watches the scene. What does he see? Two people apparently doing the same thing, apparently listening to the same thing. Is there a difference? Absolutely. The first guy hears the music and his actions are a natural response to the music’s rhythm and melody. The second guy is merely imitating the outward actions. Being deaf, he’s not listening to anything. 1


Dancing Lady

There’s an interesting parallel between this illustration and the spiritual climate in Rome today. I first heard it at my New Staff Training from Larry Kirk, pastor of Christ Community Church in Daytona Beach, Florida. I instantly thought of Italians. Many Romans live the life of a deaf man: perhaps seeing the “dance steps” of the Christian life in the moral teaching they’ve received without hearing the music of the Gospel– the message of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. After some time (or even as the generations have gone by) many see the steps as meaningless “religion” and abandon it as irrelevant, restrictive, and outright old-fashioned. Bitterness sets in as dancing without music has been reduced to a series of dance steps– do’s and don’ts, going though the motions and a behavior modification program. The music of the gospel is nowhere to be found, and Romans begin to revolt. I meet students like this everyday in Rome.

But the music of the Gospel isn’t just for Italians.  It also has strong implication for my life, and for yours as well. I remember writing in bold letters THE GOSPEL IS FOR ME on the top page of my journal my first year in Rome. When I encounter hard times, when I see sin in my life, or face a challenge, do I beat myself up for missing a step? Do I watch other believers around me and mimic their moves, or do I turn to Christ? When I approach another believer about sin, do I tell them 

“Christians don’t do THAT– do THIS instead! See? Put your foot here and wiggle it this way!” or do I point them to the cross and turn-up the music of Christ’s love and forgiveness and see their life change?


God created us to know him. We were created to respond to His music. I’m confident that the music of the gospel will change the city of Rome, and I’m anxious to return to call Romans to tune-in and turn-up the music of the gospel in  their lives and see a culture change!


1. Illustration developed by Larry Kirk ( but the text is by Keith E. Johnson, director of theological education for the U.S. Campus Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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