I’ve known a fair number of people in my lifetime who were gospel song lyric critics. Some for good reason, and some not, they are quick to point out when the lyrics of a song we sing in church don’t really align with God’s Word.
There was a hymnal some years ago in the Churches of Christ that went by the name “Sacred Selections”. A friend of mine referred to it instead as “Scarred Selections”, due to the number of songs in it that had been modified by the hymnal’s editor, for what they apparently thought were unscriptural lyrics.
I’ve never been one of those folks, pretty much allowing the poet or songwriter who penned the thoughts in a song the freedom to express what they feel. I believe in the power of God to translate those words into what I need most to hear.
But there’s a song that’s occasionally sung in my home church, and was sung today in a church that I visited, that I feel a very strong urge to correct.
The song is “How Deep The Father’s Love” by Stuart Townsend. It’s a beautiful song, full of rich imagery about the terrible price Jesus paid for my sin.
However, the second verse troubles me just a bit. It reads:
“Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished”
I think I know what Townsend is trying to say with the phrase “It was my sin that held Him there”, in that it was, indeed, my sin that sent Jesus to the cross.
But it wasn’t MY SIN that held Him on the cross.
It was HIS UNFATHOMABLE LOVE that held Him there.
It was the same love as that which brought Him to earth in the first place. It was the same love that led Him to put the Father’s will ahead of His own in the garden. It was the same love that led Him to willingly walk the road to the cross.
And it was the same love that kept Him on the cross when He could have called twelve legions (10,000) of angels to set Him free. He chose to stay on the cross, when He had the right – and the power – to leave it and return to His rightful place at the Father’s right hand. That choice – and the unfathomable love behind it – saved me from all that I had done to separate myself from God.
I applaud Stuart Townsend for writing such a beautiful song (something I could not begin to do). And I thank him for leading my thoughts to the awful suffering that Jesus endured for me. I do know that he wasn’t trying to refute any theological truths or lead anyone astray.
However, I do believe that it’s important to understand the beautiful realities behind what our God has done for us, and the lengths that He’s gone to reclaim us for His own.