I recently caved and jumped on the Hamilton bandwagon. The two-and-a-half-hour hip-hop soundtrack took me about four days to listen to all the way through, and, I must admit, I now understand and appreciate what the hype is about. Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and winner of eleven Tony Awards, tells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton: how he came to America, his role in founding our country, and all the (romantic) drama in between.
One of my favorite songs at the moment—which is probably very telling about my taste in music—is “You’ll Be Back.” King George (Jonathan Groff) sings “You’ll Be Back” in the form of a letter to the revolutionaries in an attempt to exert his power over the colonies. This song, as well as King George’s other songs throughout the show, stands in stark contrast to the rest of the soundtrack as the hip-hop beats fall away in exchange for pop rhymes, paying tribute to British-invasion pop (get it?). An entire post could be written about the symbolism and significance of this distinction, but, long story short, it serves to contrast the antiquated ways of the British monarchy and the forward-thinking ways of the young revolutionaries.
My first thought in listening to this song was, “Wow, I’m glad God doesn’t treat me like that when I run from him!” Then, the more I thought about, I realized that King George sounds remarkably like another ruler I know: the prince of this world, the Devil. (I know, I know, King George is not the Devil, that is certainly not my point.) In “You’ll Be Back,” King George tries to win back the revolutionaries with reminders of their time under his rule and numerous sugar-coated threats. For example:
Oceans rise, empires fall,
We have seen each other through it all;
And when push comes to shove,
I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.
And, sounding somewhat like a possessive, disgruntled ex-boyfriend, he promises his undying love to them, once he wins them back:
You’ll be back, like before;
I will fight the fight and win the war,
For your love,
For your praise,
And I’ll love you till my dying days.
This “love” is brutally conditional and unrelenting in its demands. And yet, unfortunately, this is the love we all know so well, the default form of love among sinful humans. Our love for each other, by nature, is dependent on the performance of others and what they can do for us. Eventually, the burden of such conditional love can become too taxing (pun intended), resulting in the breaking down of relationships and, eventually, revolt. As human love continues to fail us, the unconditional, perfect love of Jesus becomes all the more appealing.
Not unlike King George’s reaction to the revolution, the moments we do turn our backs on the world and its prince, the Devil fights tooth and nail to win us back. He tries to convince us that life under his rule wasn’t actually so bad and that following Jesus isn’t worth it. He wants to win back our affection and servitude to him. But he is the prince of lies, artfully disguising his end game: “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).
Fortunately, we are far more well-equipped for battle than the revolutionaries were. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is dwelling in us (Romans 8:11). We also have access to the Armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the readiness of the gospel on our feet, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit (Ephesians 6:10-20).
We can relish in the hope of the Gospel in a way than the American revolutionaries could not hope. They had no idea what the outcome of their war would be, but, as Christians, we already know that our battle is won by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By God’s grace and mercy, we are declared victorious over our sin. Period. End of story. As the Apostle Paul tells us:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rm 8:37-39).