James 1:22 and James 2:17
These words, “love so amazing so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all“, were first penned by Isaac Watts. They have been sung by Christian congregations for nearly 400 years in Watts’ hymn entitled, ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’. The power, beauty, and truth of these words are evidenced by the longevity and popularity of this hymn over centuries, but the question for us to consider is this: do we live these words?
One contributing reason for the love of this great hymn is that it’s message echos the teachings of Jesus.
“If any man will come after me, let him den himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” -Matt 16:25-25
We have sung, do sing, and will continue to sing these great lyrics. However, are we being honest as we lift our voices in our praise to God? I assume the answer is yes. I honestly sing these words to God, and I honestly want to live in harmony with what my words profess. So then, lets move forward from that perspective together.
Let’s consider our failure further, not for self-pity, but to identify our sinfulness rightly. We may clearly see our folly as we replace the actual lyrics we sing in the hymn with new lyrics that we actually live. So then, our new version of the song might rightly read, “Love so Amazing so divine, demands my assent, my Sunday, my some.”
When our life sings “my assent”, that means my agreement, approval, or my official endorsement. We might readily admit that the Love of God, especially seen through the self-sacrificing death of Jesus. This love makes us want to say Amen. We are in total agreement that the cross shows God’s love for sinners. However, the word ‘assent’ is very different from ‘soul’. Soul carries the idea of the whole being. For example; the greatest commandment in the law is to love God with all. Watts seems to use the term ‘soul’ to encompass the entirety of the inner man; intellect, emotion, and affection. We are often guilty of merely giving intellectual assent to the amazing, divine love of God.
Not only does our life often to fail to sing ‘my soul’ but it often fails to sing ‘my life’. We naturally replace ‘life’ with ‘Sunday’. So we end up singing, ‘love so amazing so divine demands my assent, my Sunday…’. What I mean to point out here is that we often compartmentalize God. We don’t often make our entire lives about Him, rather we give him portions. We give Him a little bit here and a little bit there. But to give God every day? That would seem a bit extreme wouldn’t it? Yes, I agree it would be extreme. However, it is this kind of extremism that Jesus and His apostles are pointing us toward on every page of the New Testament. We might argue, “but I do pray at my meals. I do live morally. I do try to keep my nose clean, as it were.” But, is that really giving Jesus our life?
Are we giving ‘my all’ or are we giving ‘my some’? This amazing and divine love certainly should demand ‘my all’ but quite honestly, it’s only retrieving ‘my some’ from a great number of us isn’t it? Someone might argue, “but it’s the duty of the Pastor and the Missionary to give all.” Is it not the duty of all the redeemed to give all? Has the divine love only demanded all from some group of elite Christians, or has the divine love demanded all from all Christians everywhere? The answer is clearly obvious in light of NT texts like, Matt 16:25-26 as we referenced earlier.
Consider leaders of our church, your church, who work diligently all week long to provide for their families needs and wants, but they still make financial sacrifices in order to support their local congregation with tithes and offerings. Then, they go far beyond financial donations because they are donating their valuable time, week in and week out. They clean up our dirty places around the church, fix our broken things, prepare lessons for our children, pray for one another, and do all of these things with almost no recognition or applause. I tell you, these kinds of church leaders are the real deal giving “all” and not some. Are you giving ‘some’ or ‘all’?
What about that amazing love so divine that demands “my soul, my life, my all”? That’s the question.
If you feel guilty because you’ve noticed in yourself some error that embarrasses you, I am sorry because you’ve missed the point and I have no interest in embarrassing anyone. However, if you feel guilty because this love truly is ‘so amazing so divine’ that it does indeed ‘demand my soul, my life, my all’ but you’ve been missing the mark. I do not apologize. I praise God for you. You and I are both sinners who need to yield our souls, our lives, and our alls to Jesus everyday, beginning again with today.