“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17).

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The Verve, Bitter Sweet Symphony music video

I don’t know what the artist, or artists, had in mind when they wrote the song Bitter Sweet Symphony, but the lyrics bring to my mind, in essence, the futility of the world and all of its empty promises. Life, itself, is the bitter sweet symphony; the song describes one ceaselessly toiling to make “ends meet”, a slave to money, only to die in the end. The song describes a state of unrest where one “can change,” perhaps, even, the singer is expressing a desire to change, yet conceding that being “here in (his) mold” makes doing so seemingly impossible.

First warning His disciples of difficulties to come, which I imagine had to have seemed grim to them at the time, Jesus went on to offer encouragement, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The troubles to which Jesus was referring undoubtedly included some awfully gruesome stuff, but I don’t think overt examples, such as stoning or crucifixion, were all that Jesus had on His mind. Our adversary is cunning, and his attacks, I’d wager, more often than not, are far more subtle. No wonder Paul warned the believers in Corinth so that Satan would not outwit them (2 Corinthians 2:10-11); likewise, no wonder Peter cautioned the churches to be sober minded, characterizing the enemy as “prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). No wonder Paul instructed believers to avoid foolish quarrels (Galatians 5:15; Titus 3:9-11), or pass judgement on fellow believers over disputable matters (Romans 14:13); these arguments of law and religious practice may seem far removed from the petty squabbles we frequently stumble into today, but they really aren’t all that different. So, you see, the snares, noted in the song, may not refer to some grotesque, grandiose spectacle, but I believe the subtle ones were, nonetheless, very much among the troubles Jesus had in mind that day. Besides, does the subtle not give rise to the grotesque?

Jesus came to free us from this bitter sweet symphony that’s life, but the enemy seeks to use its snares to keep nonbelievers enslaved and to cause believers to stumble. The song Bitter Sweet Symphony soundtracks the closing scene of the 1999 movie Cruel Intentions. Kathryn Merteuil, one of the main antagonists, is a wealthy, beautiful and popular teenage socialite. Outwardly, Kathryn is charming and brilliant, but inwardly, she is manipulative, self-absorbed, and frequently uses and destroys people for her own amusement. In the final scene, the details of Kathryn’s manipulations are finally made public, and her spotless reputation is destroyed. I am not necessarily recommending the movie, as I was more receptive to TV-MA content back in those days, but if you do see, or have seen, the movie, Kathryn, along with most of the other characters, are the embodiment of the bitter sweet symphony. Although the movie depicts people of wealth, privilege, and social status, in reality, wealth, privilege, and social status aren’t requisites to being enslaved to sin and the trappings of the world, but there’s one requisite to being set free. “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (1 Peter 1:13-14).

Jesus said, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17). I have to admit that I was exuberantly rooting for Kathryn’s wrongdoings to be brought out into the open, yet in hindsight, now I realize that I should adopt a more gracious disposition, especially, toward the Kathryn’s in my own life. After all, God has freely showered me with patience, and that mercy has led me to repentance, restoration, and fruitfulness over the years. Please understand that I am not advocating against exposing wrongdoing, but probably not in the way I was exuberantly rooting for Kathryn’s demise by the end of the movie. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do just about everything, in the same way there is both good and bad yeast. Whether in praise or admonishment, I am called to be sober minded and to do what ultimately builds up, not tears down (Romans 15:2). Lest I forget that I was once enslaved to sin and the trappings of the world too, minus, of course, wealth, privilege, and social status.

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