I Love that Dirty Water
If you were sitting among a group of God’s people or any average gathering of Americans on a Saturday afternoon and someone asked, “How many people here like rock and roll music,” how would you respond? In most cases, if you’re honest you would quickly raise your hand as would many others, including myself, because whether it’s the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, or even the ’90s and beyond, many of us have heard songs with a beat over the last seven decades of rock and roll’s history that have influenced our common musical tastes and touched our collective conscience as a nation.
Depending on your generation, you probably have a number of rock tunes you connect with personally—I admit I have my favorites. Yet recently, some of the lyrics I have heard in mainstream rock offerings have caused me to slowly shake my head in amazement, and I’m beginning to say, “What have we done!?” But this should be of little surprise to most of us because one the undertones of rock music has always been a glorifying of a youthful heart with a determination to live freely as one pleases without concern for the consequences of sin. However, not all rock and roll songs have this defiant tone, but many do fit a rebellious profile.
If you were a listener of rock and roll music in 1966 (I’m dating myself here), you may well remember a popular song entitled, “I Love That Dirty Water,” by the Standells, the title of the song referring to the polluted Charles River that flowed around the city of Boston, Massachusetts at the time. (Pollution in the late sixties and early seventies was a huge problem in many major cities in the US). Over the last 50 years this song with its catchy beat has become a party anthem for the city of Boston. As a matter of fact, the music by itself is played at Red Sox baseball games every time one of their players hits a home run! It’s a musical theme embedded in the culture of the city. Following the terrorist attack on Patriot’s Day, April 15, 2013, which killed three and wounded 260 people, a Boston Strong benefit concert was arranged for the victims of that attack, and the grand finale of the concert was a ruckus rendition of “I love that dirty water” sung and played by the band Aerosmith with a crowd of musical guests joining them on stage. The message of the song is that the seedier side of life is cool. The opening stanza states, “That’s where you will find me down by the banks of the river Charles with the lovers, the buggars, and the thieves.” It’s a strange homage to the devastating results of terrorist bombs. But this is part of the culture that we live in today that rallies to do good on the one hand, yet ignores any real godly morality or true repentance in the time of national calamity.
I think one can see that dirty water is a metaphor of a dark culture that pollutes many cities in this country today, because as a nation we have become a people seeking our own glory in all types of defiant and perverse ways with an in-your-face soundtrack that boasts no accountability for our actions before God, and this blindness is getting darker and darker by the day in the Good Old USA.
American Patriot Patrick Henry said, “Bad men cannot make good citizens. A vitiated state of morals and a corrupted public conscience are incompatible with freedom.” (The word vitiated means to spoil or impair the quality or efficiency thereof.) In this case, we are talking about the corruption of the morals of a nation that affects every facet of American life. We have seen it most recently in both political conventions where the background music was mostly rock and roll. The advertising of products with a rock connection is popular today because it links youthful musical reminders to our psyche and causes us to effectively buy. In the same way, also, sin can be embedded in our culture. We have a justice system that makes law against the will of the people instead of interpreting laws on the books, and many have bought into these slow assaults on our freedoms. We see it with the ambushing and killing of our police officers in the streets of our cities because the mass weight of sin always leads to public violence, and when we see these trying difficulties coming on our nation, many times we also see a prideful response with an open tolerance of sin like we did on the eve of Pentecost when there was immediate outcry following the mass shootings in Orlando. Immediately, we heard from the Islamic mindset, with their talking points describing the innocence of their religion, and we heard all the talking heads with their own slants of the truth suggesting that it might be a hate crime, and that guns were the problem. Pam Bond, the State Attorney in Florida, weighed in with judicial promises of protection, along with both State Representatives and the Governor, and even the President of the United States went to Florida to make a show against the outrage of 49 dead Americans. Even Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Jerusalem, voiced his opinion and exercised sympathy for the victims of the LGBT community because it was such a sad, grievous event, and it should not be made light of by anyone. Now, there is no denying it was an evil act, and it is very sad that people lost their lives and that families were devastated.
However, in the process of exercising sympathy and grief for these victims, there was an even a greater legitimizing and acceptance of this defiant lifestyle of those who died in a dance club called Pulse. A confused and defiant lifestyle God has called an abomination (Leviticus 18:24-29), and both political campaigns have endorsed the LGBT community to be a politically correct lifestyle choice in order to garner votes, which poses a question for all of us as God’s people. After all the talking and grief, who actually spoke up for God in the Orlando shootings? Maybe you heard someone speak up, but I personally did not hear anyone in any real public way. This tragedy was all about mixed blame and how we as a people have to come together to be strong of ourselves during these dark days of terrorism. And in the church we tend to reach for clichés at times like these. We say, “Hate the sin and love the sinner,” and then we let it go, but how does this set with God’s command in Isaiah 58:1, which tells us as watchmen of God to, “Cry aloud, do not spare, lift up your voice like a ram’s horn, and show my people their transgression, and the House of Jacob their sins”? I know we have to be careful to pick our battles; however, what should concern us in this self-indulgent culture is we are rightly viewing the consequences proclaimed to Moses by God Himself recorded in portions of Deuteronomy 29, 30, 31, as each generation drifts further and further away from our Creator God.
The question is, “Does God hold us accountable, and if so, how do we respond?”
I have four short points I believe can bring us into perspective on this question. The first point asks another question: “How do we give hope and encouragement to our children, young teens, and young adults to stay on God’s path in a vitiated state of ever-changing morality? Psalms 78:1-7 speaks to this obligation:
“Give ear, Oh my people, to my law; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will speak of the dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from thy children, showing to the generations to come the praises of the LORD and His strength and the wonderful works He has done, for He has established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, and He commanded our fathers, that they shall teach them to their children; so that the generation to come might know, children which shall be born; and they shall arise and tell their children; so they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God and keep His commandments.” (This is God’s desire for fathers, mothers, and young adults, and we can see positive results in a number of families in the church.)
My second point is we must recognize we have been called to be accountable witnesses before God. We hear the words Boston Strong, and Orlando Strong and Dallas Strong, but the reality is we cannot rely on our own strength alone and be a good witness before God. We cannot do anything that God cannot do Himself. He could fix it all tomorrow if desired, yet He has called us to be accountable witnesses and teachers to the world (Matthew 28:18-20) and to bring about a revolution in thought and behavior called “the Way” because God is looking for those who are not strong in boastfulness, but those who are strong in faith and obedience, which is a spiritual accountability. He has purposed for us to take to the world as an example of His family. To the younger people who may be reading this article, your youth is not a drawback; it is a blessing because you are part of building plan to create one kingdom under God which will become a reality when Jesus Christ returns, and you can be as powerful and purposeful as God allows in your voice and your actions in His cause now.
Recently, I discovered an article in the newspaper entitled “Founding Fathers Created Our Country While Oh So Young.” The gist of the article was many of the founding fathers were actually barely of an age to shave in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Part of the article, quoting historian David McCullough, said, “We tend to see them much older than they were…because we see them in portraits by Gilbert Stuart and others when they were actually truly the founding fathers. When they were President, or the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, when their hair if it had not turned white was powdered white. We see them as elder statesmen. Yet at the time of the revolution they were all young. It was a young man’s, young women’s cause,” and on July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, this was the age of some of the founding fathers: Nathan Hale, who reportedly said, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country,” was 18. The French Major General Marquis Lafayette was 18. Alexander Hamilton, a signer of the Declarations of Independence, was 21. Betsy Ross, who made the first American flag, was 24. John Paul Jones, the American naval captain, was 28. James Madison, who would later become the fourth President of the United States, was 25. Twelve of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were under 35! Paul Revere was 41, and there were others whose ages were up in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, with the elder of the group, Benjamin Franklin, in his 70s. The greater preponderance were young men and women, and they all had the same purpose and the same zeal to create something bigger than themselves.
This is an advantage the Infuse Magazine has, because it can be a powerful tool to reach many young people who need to hear the same purpose and a same voice that its members have, because God is working with them now. Each one, no matter what the age, has an opportunity be to a light and voice for the greatest cause ever imagined. “Oh so young, and oh so important!”
The apostle Matthew tells us this very point in Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on the mountain cannot be hid. [Many scriptures translated Strong’s #3735 as “hill” but the first translation is “mountain,” which can be symbolic of a nation, or we could say a new nation that God is creating called the Kingdom of God.] Neither do they light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket, but on a lamp stand [the Scriptures also tell us that a lamp stand is symbolic of a church]; and it shines for all who are in the house. You are to let your light shine then before men, so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
What we see here is a church whose light is reaching all that are in it and for all that are coming into the House of God and even to all nations—a people of light who represent the God of truth openly and fearlessly but with a humble spirit. Those called to raise their voice when necessary with a purpose, not to glorify themselves but to glorify our Father in Heaven, and to continue seeking His wisdom.
My third point: Do not ignore the practical advice in God’s Word that will help you display your light on a daily basis. This brings us to the book of Proverbs, because it is not just a book of a father doling out good advice to his son. It is really a book for all ages, because it is full of very practical, blunt advice that many older men and some ladies have yet to learn in the church, including myself. Basic skills for being an accountable witness begin with seeking Godly wisdom.
In Proverbs 2:1, it tells us we are to seek wisdom as a starting point for everyone. It tells us wisdom comes “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20 from God’s mouth and we are to apply our hearts to find understanding. Verse 5 says, “Then shall you understand the fear [or the reverence] of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.”
Proverbs also teaches aspects of sound character and social graces in very practical ways. I like to call Proverbs the “Miss Manners” book of the Bible, because it tells us plainly what God likes and does not like, what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable behavior. And it explains simply the many nuances that can make our lives much richer and more holy. Verses 7-11 say, “God lays up sound wisdom for the righteous. He is a shield to those who walk uprightly. He keeps the paths of right judgment and preserves the way of the saints. Then shall you understand righteousness and judgment, and equity, every good path. Wisdom shall enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasing to your soul. Discretion shall preserve you [when Proverbs mentions discretion it’s talking about not running your mouth, which can be a big problem in the church and can cause much hurt]; understanding will keep you.” You have been called to lead the way to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
One of the best ways to be an accountable witness is my final point, which is keeping God’s ordinances, His statues, and His laws which include the Holy Days, which I am calling for the purpose of this article, the “Days of Accountability” when we are commanded to come before the great Teacher Jesus the Christ, and to imbibe in the Father’s Spirit and understand His plan for mankind and share our uncommon purpose with others of like mind. Why is this serious? The answer is described in Leviticus 18:1: “And the LORD spoke to Moses [to make things very clear about how the culture can affect His people], saying I am the LORD your God! As they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, you shall not do [don’t follow their culture or their gods]. And you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Neither shall you walk in their ordinances; you shall do my judgments and keep my ordinances and walk in them. I am the LORD your God.”
The idea is when a society becomes acceptant or indifferent to iniquity in the culture, its citizens begin making ordinances to validate that iniquity so that it becomes a way of life in the land God has given them, and eventually when it becomes too common the land will become defiled and come under God’s judgment, and the darker side will always be hateful to those bold enough to shine in the face of their dark ways.
In the real “Lord’s prayer” of John 17, Christ gives His loving acknowledgment of our unique relationship with Him, and in John 18:1: “After saying all these things to His Father Jesus went out with His disciples to a place beyond the winter stream of the Kidron, where there was a garden into which He and His disciples entered.” The Kindron was a brook that ran alongside the old city of Jerusalem at certain times of the year. It was a lot like the Charles River that flowed around the city of Boston.
The word kindron actually means black, obscure, and full of darkness, and as a dirty river it had a polluted reputation of its own with temple wastes and blood from mass lamb sacrifices that were dumped into Kindron Valley during the year. When the waters in the spring came, it flowed into a black river, and Jesus and His disciples crossed that river (most likely on a small bridge) and entered a garden, which was the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a defining moment in Jesus’ relationship with His Father and His sleepy disciples.
This was the beginning of one of the darkest moments in human history. Jesus the Christ had a target on His back for a simple act of doing well, which in this case was telling a man to pick up his bed and walk. In John 7:21, “Jesus said I did one work, and you were all amazed.”
The reality is, we live in a world as did Jesus where the people are blinded because of their lusts and traditions and self bravado and their ordinances of sin, and relatively few people have answered the call throughout the ages of time to be an accountable witness for Christ.
Yet, even Jesus, when he was a fairly young man, followed His Father’s lead and did great works. One of them was in a moment of spiritual boldness on the Last Great Day when Jesus faced His accusers who wanted Him dead, and He stood up an offered “rivers of living waters” to any man that would believe in Him, speaking of a coming new covenant. Clean water, living water, which we all have been blessed with, if we have been baptized, even that Spirit “water” that gives us the power to be accountable witnesses of God’s truth—for His glory and His purposes and not our own.