‘See You Again’ – Culture Spot for Light Youth

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[The following post is an adapted form of what was written for St. Paul’s Anglican Carlingford’s Sunday morning Youth Group ‘Light Youth’]

‘See You Again’

It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again

There’s a debate that goes on about whether or not you should, or even can, examine a piece of artwork without knowing the story behind its development.

“Why can’t I just watch this film and critique it on its own terms?”
“Do I really need to know what happened in its development?”

“How about what this painter says when he’s not painting?”
“If he’s not a very nice person, should I let that affect my enjoyment of this painting?”

But even those who say that we shouldn’t generally care about the story behind some artwork can acknowledge that sometimes the story behind it all is so significant that it does affect how it’s received publicly. And that’s precisely the case with Wiz Khalifa’s song “See You Again.”

Released in March 2015, this song skyrocketed to number 1 of the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for 12 weeks. Here in Australia it shot up to number 1 on the ARIA charts, and the story is echoed worldwide. This song is popular. And like how Heath Ledger’s death affected the release and reception of ‘The Dark Knight’ in 2008, this song is tied to Paul Walker’s death during the development of the 7th Fast and Furious film ‘Furious 7’. It makes men and women cry. It is so saddening that many refuse to listen to it again. And I personally think that it is quite beautiful.

The song is unashamedly a tribute to the deceased actor, but the lyrics themselves tell the story of a person expressing their love for a friend who has left forever (presumably due to death). As Christians, how do we examine the song from a worldview that is informed by the Lordship of Jesus Christ? The goal is to consider what sort of message a song like this puts forth, analysing it, without trying to minimise the tragedy of the story that led to its composition. While a more extensive treatment would require more time, let’s dive into our framework we’ve been using for months: Receive, Reject, Redeem.

Receive: In the second verse of the song, Khalifa sings:

And what’s small turn to a friendship
A friendship turn to a bond
And that bond will never be broken
The love will never get lost (and the love will never get lost)
And when brotherhood come first

The idea here is that the relationship between the singer and this companion began small, but then blossomed into a friendship that has a permanence. There is real love and commitment here. In fact, a continual refrain throughout the song is the lyric:

How can we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?

The song puts forth the notion that this friendship is so strong that this other person has become like family. And as Christians we completely affirm that this sort of notion. Proverbs 18:24 says that “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Elsewhere on LAS I have made the case that friendship is defined as ‘a deliberate commitment to love another’, and the ultimate example of this is seen in Jesus Christ, who made a deliberate commitment to love the unlovable and give His life for those whom He called friends (John 15:9-13).

Christians listening to this song absolutely receive the message that friendship is a bond that can become as strong as a family tie.

Reject: Consider the meaning of these lyrics:

Now I see you in a better place (see you in a better place)

So let the light guide your way, yeah
Hold every memory as you go
And every road you take, will always lead you home, home

The assumption seems to be that a person who dies will not only be in a better place than they were while living here on Earth, but that regardless of what path they take they will most certainly make their way there.

For a society that claims to be secular, without the need for a divine figure or the belief in an afterlife, it is supremely paradoxical that such a message is found in one of the top songs of 2015. This song, which topped the charts for weeks, sets forth the idea of an afterlife that is better than Earth, and that there is a light that guides humans there. Intuitively, this sort of appeal is understood to be a comfort. Death and loss are difficult to deal with.

And yet, Christians looking at this have to wonder how it is that those who do not claim to have any religion, or god, can at the same time make an appeal to that which is contrary to their worldview. Now, to be clear, I don’t believe that most who appreciate this song are secretly believers in god. Rather, it is worth noting that the reality of death, and the presence of suffering, does tend to drive people to resort to comforts that may be contrary to their worldview. This, of course, says nothing about the truth or falsity of those comforts. It does, though, say that we as humans can tend to compromise our beliefs when, and if, it suits us.

But looking at the lyrics of the song again, Christians must reject the notion that everyone will definitely end up in a better place when they die. In Philippians 3:18-19 the Apostle Paul explicitly states that those who do not follow Christ will be judged by the one, true, living God. Not only do Christians affirm that there is more than one place where we can end up when we die, not only do we affirm that that place may not be better, but we also affirm that there is only one way to get there: by accepting the love and forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why are Christians so keen to share the message of Jesus with others? Because we take the judgement of God seriously, but also because we are compelled by the love of Christ to show people the light of salvation. Death is an enemy that must be fought, and the way to do that is to find eternal life in Christ.

Redeem: Consider the truly beautiful lyrics that are repeated throughout the song:

It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again

Whereas this may not be sung and affirmed definitively for those whom do not know Christ, Christians can sing and affirm it definitively for all of our sisters and brothers in Christ who are dead or alive. Immediately after the passage referenced in the last section, the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 3:20-21 that Christians, communally, have a citizenship that is in heaven. This does not mean that Christians will all be beamed up into heaven and live in the clouds one day – after all, Christians believe that when Jesus returns to Earth the Universe will be renewed and we will dwell physically here in a new creation with God. The idea, rather, is that their identity is rooted in the presence of God and that all Christians will certainly be found there at the end of all things.

For the Christians, goodbye is never truly goodbye. Whether we don’t see each other for 2 days, or 2 years, or 20 years, or ever again in our lives, we know that because of our common identity in Christ, and citizenship in heaven, we will see each other again – in this life or in glory. And so we can absolutely sing these lyrics, thinking of a friend who we haven’t seen in a while, or a friend who has died, because by the grace of God we will definitely see them again.

James Chen

James is a Philosophy graduate from the University of Sydney and is currently a teaching and learning manager of a senior high school tutoring centre. James is a member of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Carlingford and loves reading and teaching the Bible.

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