BEHIND THE SONG WITH KEVIN DAVIS
#954 - "Native Tongue" by Switchfoot
Love is our native tongue, not hatred. Switchfoot's Chad Butler explains this theme in the band's new call-to-action anthem.
 


BEHIND THE SONG WITH KEVIN DAVIS, #954 -
Posted: January 15, 2019 | By: KevinDavis_NRT
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Switchfoot has had a major impact on my walk as a believer, going back to their third release Learning to Breathe, which features the songs "Love is the Movement," "I Dare You to Move," and the title track. I was a new Christian at the time. And, my favorite bands were Lifehouse, Collective Soul, and Weezer. I greatly enjoyed hearing my favorite alternative rock musical style wrapped around hope-filled lyrics as I was processing the events of the world through my new worldview, trying to see as God sees.
 
The band's next releases have been a constant companion on that journey as my faith has matured and their songs "Meant to Live," "We Are One Tonight," "Awakening," "This is Home," "Your Love is a Song," "Always," "Restless," "Where I Belong," "When We Come Alive," and "Live it Well" have strengthened my resolve that this world is not our permanent home. 

While we're here, our life is a vapor and we have a responsibility to remember that "we were meant to live for so much more" than what the world tells us. And, in the name of unity, looking at all people as made in God's image, know that "love alone is worth the fight."
 
Considering the recent tragedies surrounding us in our fallen world, the band's 11th release, Native Tongue, is another timely reminder of the aforementioned themes. Switchfoot's new album is arguably the band's strongest release to date with songs about healing, including the title track, "Let it Happen," "All I Need" and "Voices." These songs and others provide more edification to believers trying to make sense of it all. I had the chance to speak with band member Chad Butler about the album's title track, "Native Tongue."


Please tell me the personal story behind the song.

We're living in a difficult time where so much emphasis is put on our differences as people, living in our current society and culture. "Native Tongue" and the concept for the album is a reminder to all of us that hatred is not our first language, love is. We're born into this world and someone embraced us and cared for us and loved us. It's easy to forget and give in to this overwhelming notion of fear and conflict. This song resonated with me the first time I heard it. While talking to my bandmates about the concept for this song, it became such a strong conversation, when we watched the news. We saw an overwhelming amount of fear, conflict, hatred and hate-speech. So, it felt like a timely message, wrapping this whole record around the concept that love is the language of our native tongue.

Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?

Hebrews 13:14 (NLT): "For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come."

Proverbs 25:21 (NIV): "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink."

Matthew 25:40 (NIV): The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me."

Psalm 19:14 (NKJV): "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer."
 
Matthew 15:18 (NKJV): "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man."
 
James 3:9-10 (NIV): "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be."
 
Matthew 5:14-16 (MSG): "Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand--shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven."
 
Romans 12:15 (NKJV): "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep."

What is the takeaway message?

Kindness, goodness, patience, and faithfulness are all attributes of love. There's a lot under that banner. Break down the action of love as a verb, and you'll come up with words like time, effort, and self-sacrifice. This past year was an interesting time for us as a band. We took a year off from touring and stayed home with our families and focused on our personal lives and less on our professional lives.

It was a really good year for me personally as a husband and as a father, a friend, and a son. All of those roles are mine and yet, it's so easy to get caught up in all of the "doing," instead of the "being." First and foremost, I'm a human being. What does that look like? When I look in the mirror, I think about how much I have to work on. For me, it was a really good season of self-reflection. I realized how much I needed to grow. I realized that "acting out love" has to come from a place of looking inward and understanding that I'm loved and then loving others.

Lyrics:
Sing to me, baby, in your native tongue
Sing the words of the wise and the young
Show me the place where your words come from
Love is the language, love is your native tongue

Feel your heartbeat bang the drum
Open up your eyes and fill your lungs
The same word from where the stars are flung
Love is the language, love is your native tongue

My heart is a beating drum
My head in oblivion 
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

My friend, where did we go wrong?
My Lord, we forgot our sound
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

Sing it to me, whisper into my ear
Accuser's voices start to disappear
In the wind, in the tongues of the flame
In my soul, in my one true name, oh

Back before we learned the words to start a fight
Back before they told us that the haters were right
He spoke the truth, "let there be" and there was
Love is the language, love is your native tongue

My heart is a beating drum
My head in oblivion
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

My friend, where did we go wrong?
My Lord, we forgot our sound
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

So sing it loud, get loud, get
Louder than the voices in the crowd, yeah
Even when they tried to drown you out, eh
Your lips, your lungs, your native tongue

So sing it out, get loud, get
Louder than the darkness and the doubts, eh
Louder than the curses and the shouts, yeah
Your lips, your lungs, your native tongue

My heart is a beating drum
My head in oblivion
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

My friend, where did we go wrong?
My Lord, we forgot our sound
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
To sing it like when we were young
Back before the pendulum had swung to the shadows

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
Maybe we could learn to sing along
To find a way to use our lungs for love and not the shadows

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
To sing it like when we were young
Back before the pendulum had swung to the shadows

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
Maybe we could learn to sing along
To find a way to use our lungs for love and not the shadows


Closing Thoughts

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world," wrote C.S. Lewis in the book "Mere Christianity." As believers in Christ, we know that we are made for God. We were all created to find our home in Him. I love that Switchfoot has based many of their great songs on the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is filled with Solomon's wisdom being passed on to all of us.

There are many passages in Ecclesiastes which are very challenging, such as: "You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things, God will bring you into judgment." —Ecclesiastes 11:9 (NIV).
 
"Native Tongue" really reminds listeners of the power of words and the need to "tame our tongues" from James 3. The tongue is capable of use for both virtue and vice. The same mouth uses the tongue for these contradictory purposes. James echoes Jesus' emphasis on the crucial importance of the use of words in daily life. This is a great brand new collection of declaration-style anthems designed to inspire listeners to fight the good fight of faith. 

In our society filled with war, bullying and a lack of care for others, this anthem is the cry of my heart with a much needed call-to-action message. Jesus has promised us that the world will hate us, because it hated Him first. Jesus commands believers to love others as He loved us, and to show His love by helping people who can't help themselves. Live out the words: "Feel your heartbeat bang the drum/Open up your eyes and fill your lungs." One of my daily resolutions is to live with my eyes wide open and live out love as this song challenges.
 
Another theme from the last several Switchfoot albums has been "Love Does" as stated by the Bob Goff book. In "Love Does," Bob Goff described that "sometimes we present ourselves as a copy of who we are instead of the original version of ourselves because we don't want to get damaged." As Christians, we need to live it well in the good times and the bad times. "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." Rather than keeping feelings to yourself, live in community and that's one of the ways we can live it well."

If you're looking for the words to express the feelings of your heart and you want a spiritual "Awakening," belt out this anthem at the top of your lungs: "He spoke the truth, 'let there be' and there was/Love is the language, love is your native tongue." Amen to that.

NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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