I should say, right off the top, I like Bruno Mars a lot. I don’t think that he’s trying to go for the whole “social consciousness” pop thing. He’s an entertainer, he sings fun, sweet or emotional songs, and connects with his audience. He’s a heartthrob, and a good singer. Richard and I saw Janelle Monae and Bruno Mars this spring at Roy Wilkins, and while Janelle was far and away my favorite part of the night. Bruno was a good show.
So, I realize that critiquing his music for theological content is a little bit of a stretch. I’m not trying to critique, though, not really. What I’m hoping is that as we look at his songs we can understand what it is about his music that resonates with us, and where God would speak to us in those cries of the heart.
So without further ado, “Grenade” by Bruno Mars.
Darling, I’d still catch a grenade for ya, throw my hand on a blade for ya, I’d jump in front of a train for ya . . . but you won’t do the same.
When I first heard this song, I thought, “wow, there’s a song with some theological significance.” Here’s someone who would do something so extreme that he would give his life for someone that he loves. Just like Jesus right?
I mean, the Bible says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends..” (John 15:13)
And “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
But the more I listen to this song (and I’m still listening to it quite a bit), something in the lyrics just hasn’t been sitting right with me. There are two things I think.
If your hope is in your partner, you’re going to have problems. If you are so committed to a partner that you would do anything for them and they won’t do anything for you, I would say that you are being taken advantage of. This is a toxic, co-dependent relationship and you need to get away. You may also need to talk to someone and get help. This sort of love is not romantic, it is gross. Love should make you feel alive. Love is hard, but in a romantic partnership both partners should have hard times and good times. Times of being served and taken care of and times of serving and taking care of.
Why we Love and Give
The other part of this song that sits funny with me, is Bruno’s expectation of what it means to give love. Yes Jesus gave himself freely, and the Christian martyrs have done the same. Yes, we like Bruno’s lover will rarely do the same for Christ. Yet, I don’t think that Jesus’ response to us is to say:
Tell the devil I said, hey, when you get back to where you’re from – Mad woman, bad woman, that’s just what you are,
Instead, he calls us friends, he asks his father for forgiveness. He offers his life knowing that he will be rejected, he doesn’t do it looking for reciprocity, he does it because he loves us.
So too we, don’t give generously, or love deeply in order to get a response. We do so because as God’s dearly loved children, we give our love away freely. Yes we have boundaries, we don’t give what’s not ours to give away. But we don’t give expecting reciprocity either. We invite people into reciprocal love, but we don’t demand it.