My friend, Arnold, who passed away Saturday night, two days after his 82nd birthday, loved listening to George Beverly Shea sing hymns and gospel songs. He had an Alexa player by his bed, and at least once a day, his wife, Marie, would call for a George Beverly Shea shuffle. For Marie and me, who both grew up on hymns, it was a welcome return to familiar territory. “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” and of course, “How Great Thou Art” brought back a lot of childhood emotions.
I love the hymns for their ability to capture, emotionally, so much good theology into a few lines. Take the last verse of “At Calvary” for instance:
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!
There’s enough there to reflect on for the rest of your life.
There are also concepts built into those old hymns that we don’t think about as much today. In other words, they can teach us. Like the first verse of that same hymn:
Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.
These lyrics describe Arnold so well. All those years he didn’t care one bit about Jesus being crucified, nor did he know that it was for him that He died.
1 John 2:2 reads, “[Jesus] is the sacrifice that atones for our sins — and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”
This is information we know about everybody. No matter who they are or what they’ve done, everyone is someone for whom Christ died. And whether they know it or not, they need to know it. It’s a way we come to see every person we view or encounter — not as a person who is an immigrant, or a Muslim, or a liberal, or conservative, or a star athlete, or a criminal, or transgender, or a millionaire, but as someone whose sins have already been atoned for on the cross. That’s what we see, and what we need to focus on for everyone. It’s what really matters.
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.
George Beverly Shea died on April 17, 2013, at the age of 104. He was still singing. I’m sure he and Arnold are buddies now.
Don’t miss our Independence Day Eve BlogTalkRadio show tonight (6pm PDT) with special guest Keith Giles, author of Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb. As we dust off our American flags for the Fourth of July tomorrow, how do we balance love of country with love of God? I don’t know about you, but someone who wrote, “You can’t convert a culture that has already converted you,” is someone I want to hear from.