It was a warm morning at the flea market so I headed for the section of the open-air trading grounds nestled under the grove of towering oaks. After a full day of setup, it was the first morning the market was open to shoppers. Many vendors were taking it easy in their lawn chairs, with bare feet propped up and a cup of black coffee in hand. I spotted a man with an authentic Marlboro man cowboy hat tipped over his eyes in full nap mode. This was preferable because he had mounds of 45s on the three tables set up under his tent.
I like to take my time when flipping through old vinyl records. As a personal rule, I only buy them one at a time so, I needed to choose wisely. But, I didn’t need long this go around. As I flipped through, there it was at the front of the first box; A Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits. The jacket was faded and frayed on the edges, but the record itself was in mint condition, revealing a little bit of history about this once loved album. It was a perfect addition to my collection. Marlboro man awakened out of his mid-morning slumber. No bargaining was needed. He had a fair price on the cover. He handed me his card with the record and told me to call him if I had any issues with it.
That night before I started dinner I gingerly placed my vinyl prize on the turntable. I let the kids assist me in dropping the needle that sent the warm, crackling tones of the 60s into the room. Forty-four seconds into side one I hear my 7-year-old ask a question.
“Is that true?”
“Is what true?”
“They just said, ‘Heaven holds a place for those who pray.’ Is that true?”
As if on cue Paul Simon sang the line again,
God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson
Heaven holds a place for those who pray
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
I didn’t realize a folk-rock theology lesson was part of the bargain when I purchased my gem at trade days. But, our theology isn’t always shaped solely from the pulpit. It is affected by the music we listen to, conversations we have, influencers we watch, and more. Peter warned some of his dear friends against false teachers who would come into their midst, twisting God’s truth for their own devices. He said:
"…beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:17-18)
Just because we have learned truth doesn’t mean it can never be twisted and used to turn us away from God.
How do we find the answer? We do as the Berean Jews in Acts did. They:
...examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
“Is that true?” is a great question to constantly ask when it comes to what we choose to believe about God.
Thankfully, he gave us His Word to use as a litmus test for any teaching we hear about Him. We study it to get our foundation and we continue studying it to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.”
Were Simon and Garfunkel "the wicked" trying to lead us away in error? Probably not. But, unfortunately, they shared a works-based gospel with a lot of people when they wrote this grammy award-winning song. I’m grateful my daughter asked the question. It was a striking reminder to me and a great teachable moment for her.
So, whether it's The Apostle Paul, the music legend Paul Simon, or some other Paul, remember to search the scripture to see if what they are saying is true. As you do you will grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.