Britain's "prince of pop", Cliff Richard, a devout Christian who has been singing rock'n'roll for nearly five decades, sang a great song some years ago that asked, "Why should the devil have all the good music?" Cliff's phenomenal career which has been largely secular but has also included many Christian songs, presents a worthy argument that it's fine for good Christians to listen to - and even perform - secular songs. No fair person could doubt that this man is a very genuine and committed Christian, whose life and words are a glowing testimony for his faith in God.
Of course there must be guidelines and limits with regard to the kind of secular music Christians listen to. It's clear that Christians should not listen to any heavy rock music that has satanic messages. Nor should they purposely listen to songs that have lyrics promoting a decidedly immoral lifestyle. When I say purposely I mean that they should not buy such music for their own personal collections. If we are living in the real world we cannot help but be exposed to such music. After all any secular radio station is going to play some such songs and if we want to listen to the radio, we will hear them - but we ought not condone or give credence to them by listening to them by personal choice.
I also believe it is decidedly inappropriate and unethical by Christian standards to fill one's mind with the kind of morbidly depressing songs which is classed as "emo" music. Why? Because it's very likely to promote suicidal thoughts. This type of music which so many young people are listening to in these times is terribly dangerous and I would say it certainly goes against the Scriptural instruction we are given to fill our minds with things that are positive, wholesome and God-honouring. Even Christians can get depressed and cannot be blamed for that - but purposely listening to such music would most certainly be giving the devil a foothold.
That's not to say that listening to the occasional melancholy love song or ballad is a bad thing - and as long as the lyrics are not out of harmony with Christian living and values, there is nothing wrong with listening to secular songs. Why should Christians have to miss out on the pleasure and personal enrichment of listening to a wide variety of songs and styles of music that express so much of the human experience? God has given us the capacity to create and enjoy music of all kinds. Christians can have all kinds of interests and hobbies that are wholesome and healthy without them necessarily being directly linked to their Christian faith. God can nonetheless be an integral part of all their life experiences - so as long as those experiences would not displease Him, that's all that really matters.
My mother used to talk of some pious people being so heavenly minded that they were no earthly use. Unless we take an interest in many of the same things that non-Christians do, we will be totally out of touch with their lives and experiences and will certainly have significantly-reduced chances of relating to them or stimulating their interest in our faith. They will see our lives as unattractive and alien to theirs.
Many secular songs can be related to Christian faith, teaching and experience anyway. I have heard secular love songs used as an expression of divine worship - and many times I have known secular songs to be used in worship services or referred to in sermons as illustrations of the message being communicated.
Jesus Himself used the ordinary experiences of life to teach people spiritual truths through His parables - which is clear enough indication that all of life's experiences are important and sacred to Him. To be a Christian doesn't mean that you disconnect yourself from natural physical, emotional and social experiences. When Jesus said that we are to be in the world but not of the world, He surely meant that we are to be involved in the normal human experiences of the world, while at the same time having an other-worldly nature that will be manifest in all the wholesome pastimes and pursuits that we participate in.
Recently I was reading about the singer, Jerry Lee Lewis, who, like so many rock'n'roll singers, was known for his wild lifestyle. Yet, when he was a young man just beginning his professional music career, his mother enrolled him in a Christian university, confident that this would mean his music would all be for the Lord's honour. But when he dared to play some of his so-called "worldly" music in a church assembly, he was expelled from the university. So he went his own way, with the resulting degeneration of his life. Years later, when the student president asked him was he still playing the devil's music, he is quoted as saying, "Yes, I am. But you know it's strange, the same music that they kicked me out of school for is the same kind of music they play in the churches today. The difference is I know I am playing for the devil and they don't."
Who's to say how different the story of Jerry Lee Lewis's life may have been if his music had been embraced by the university authorities - if they had seen in it an opportunity to reach young people with the Gospel? How many other young people of his generation might have been won for the kingdom through his music? Furthermore, I wonder how many young people rebelled against their Christian upbringing and pursued godless lives because of the narrow-minded reactions of the church to rock'n'roll music in those times.
There is nothing evil about rock'n'roll music - or even heavy metal music - unless it is being used to promote godless and immoral living. Like so many other things, it can be used directly or indirectly for God's purposes in the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike. Narrow human minds make rules and restrictions that deny Christians the right to enjoy too many things that God has given all His creation for our mutual benefit, blessing, inspiration, joy and meaningful reflection. So indeed, why should the devil have all the good music?