And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
This great hymn by Charles Wesley has long been one of my favorites, and to understand its meaning you need to hear it a certain way. To hear it one way is to hear that last line without any real inflection. That Christ should die for me along with everyone else is a grand enough thought. But to make it even grander you need to add an embellishment on that last “me.” How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die “for ME?”… and the question mark is appropriate. It’s in the original lyrics. Charles Wesley would have resonated with Kris Kristofferson’s “Why me, Lord?”
“Me?” meaning the least likely for anyone to love. “Me?” meaning the worst of sinners. “Me?” as in: “I can maybe see Him dying for somebody else, but not me.” Or as Paul says it in Romans: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).
While we were still messed up, lost, unlovely, unlovable, selfish, conniving sinners, Christ died for us! It’s preposterous! The idea is not only that you are messed up, but that you see yourself as more messed up than anybody else.
When you think about it, it makes sense. We should all think of ourselves as the worst sinner we know because … well … we don’t know anybody else well enough to make any comparison. I’m the worst sinner because I know my sin intimately. I don’t know your sin that well. I can’t even judge it. That’s not up to me, but I do know myself and I am amazed that “Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
I ran across a great statement on someone’s twitter account. “What makes the gospel offensive isn’t who it leaves out, but who it lets in.” And at the bottom of the list of who it lets in would be me.
If there’s anybody you’d rather not have in heaven, then you need to check your Pharisee monitor, because that kind of thinking registers high on the Pharisee chart. If I think there is anybody out there worse than I, I’m engaging in wrong thinking.
We need to hold onto this perspective and never let it go. The person I should be most amazed about finding in heaven should always be me.
He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!