A perspective is a view or outlook. It is also a fundamental lesson in drawing or painting. The artist is trained to see the relationship of all things and render three-dimensional vistas into a two-dimensional representation.
Perspective is good not only for the artist, but for all. Sometimes we need to gain perspective. We need to see the relationship of all things. Perspective makes us pay attention to the details that seem troublesome when isolated, but make sense when seen in relationship to other things.
Perspective in worship is good. It saves us from tendencies and extremes. For instance, there is a tendency to focus on “old songs” or “new songs,” but do we ever focus on “Christ-songs?” With perspective we gain the insight that what is old was once new; what is new will one day be old. However, Christ is still Christ; he always has been and always will be.
But what about these Christ songs? Using that perspective enables us to recognize relationships we might have missed if we insisted on old versus new. As an example, take the hymn “O Sacred Head.” This “old” hymn has had a history of being made “new.” It has not always been in the form it is now. It has changed over the ages. It originated as a Latin poem that focused on the different parts of Christ’s body as he was crucified. Eventually, the stanzas concerning the head and face of Christ were translated and recomposed into the English hymn that has been fairly well known since the 18th century, but that old hymn is an innovation of a much older poem, Salve Mundi Salutare.
The writer of that poem used the meditation on the cross for a lesson in perspective. The poet believed that paying attention to the details of the crucifixion would wake us up to the futility of violence in our world. The cross corrects our perspective that our reliance on our strength and our power to control all things is necessary. Instead we see that it only leads to death. A cross-focused perspective opens our eyes to the truth that God’s love can bring life out of death.
Chris Benjamin is the preaching minister for the WestArk Church of Christ in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He previously served as preaching minister for the Lake Jackson Church of Christ in Lake Jackson, Texas, and campus minister for the CCSC on the campus of Arkansas Tech University. Benjamin earned his D.Min. and M.Div. from ACU and his B.A. from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, where he and his wife Karen were involved in the Razorbacks for Christ campus ministry. They have two sons, Wyatt and Ethan. When he is not restoring some portion of his 50- year-old house, Chris enjoys a good story told well—no matter if it is a novel, comic strip, movie, or comedian.