Overproduction is overrated. Simplicity is in. In reviewing The Lumineers (self titled) I was struck by how much I enjoyed this album, despite the fact that there is nothing revolutionary about it. It is simple pop, acoustic folk-rock. It is (simply) fantastic! As part of the so-called roots revival, their website says they are seeking to prepare “listeners for a new generation of rustic, heart-on-the-sleeve music.” The trio of Wesley Shultz (vocals, guitar), Jeremiah Fraites (drums), and Neyal Pekarek (cello, mandolin, piano) present a sound similar to a stripped-down Mumford & Sons or a prettier sounding Decembrists. Deservedly, they were up for a couple of Grammy’s (Best New Artist and Best Americana Album).
In my mind, “Stubborn Love” is the real standout song on the album. Shultz sings as a man desperately in love with a girl who continues to run from him. With painful consistency, she breaks his heart, but he would rather suffer the pain of her rejection than lose her. This song struck me for two reasons: First, it is just a good song. Period. Intriguing lyrics and poppy chorus make it a real delight to the ears. Second, it hit me that Shultz’s “stubborn” relationship echoes that of Christ’s relationship to the church. After all, we have a God who would rather suffer pain than be indifferent about us.
As I am listening to this song (and I’ll be honest, I can’t stop listening to this song), it strikes me how God sings this way to his church:
She’ll lie and steal and cheat,
And beg you from her knees
Make you thinks she means it this time
As the church, one thing we have to admit is that we are wreck! You and me, baptized though we are, lie and steal and cheat and come back on Sunday, to fall on our knees and confess. How many times have you committed that sin (you know the one) and said, “God I am so sorry! It is the last time! I swear! I mean it this time!” only to find yourself confessing the same thing next week?
Remember the book of Hosea? Here is an Old Testament prophet God commanded to marry a temple prostitute. That is, it was her job to sell her body to men as they came to worship false god in an idolatrous temple. Hosea marries her and she continues to “go to work.” God says this is like His relationship to His people. He gives them all He has and they continue to lie and steal and cheat. So do we. How does God deal with this?
This is where the song hit me:
She’ll tear a hole in you,
the one you can’t repair
But I still love her,
I don’t really care
In his marvelous apologetics book, The Reason for God, Tim Keller deals with the question of why Jesus suffers in order to forgive us. Why doesn’t God just forgive apart from the cross? Why the suffering? He suggests that there is no such thing as forgiveness without suffering. He says, “[No] one just forgives, if the evil is serious. Forgiveness means bearing the cost instead of making the wrongdoer do it, so you can reach out in love to seek your enemy’s renewal and change. Forgiveness means absorbing the debt of the sin yourself. Everyone who forgives great evil goes through a death into resurrection, and experiences nails, blood, sweat, and tears.” (p. 199). We literally tear a hole in Jesus he won’t repair. But He still loves, He still forgives. He does it taking our sin and the cross we deserve. His blood, sweat, and tears grant us forgiveness. As the song continues,
It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love’s indifference
So pay attention now,
I’m standing on your porch screaming out
And I won’t leave until you come downstairs
God is anything but indifferent towards His bride the church. He has paid for His bride with His blood and death. He wants to spend everything on us and give us all things. He keeps standing on the porch, sending messengers to call after us to come back! His Word, His messangers (be they prophets, pastors, fellow Christians, etc.) are screaming out and, present in His Word, He is not leaving till we come downstairs! He is just too much in love and He is just too stubborn.
Of course this song is not about Jesus. It is about love. But any good song about love is going to have echoes of the gospel, because the God this gospel gives is a God of love (I John 4:8). He creates us out of His love, He redeems us out of His love. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Ours is a God of stubborn love!
I highly recommend this very enjoyable album to you.