Sunday, September 17, 2006

Christ's Focus on the Cross: Was it ME?


How often do we sing songs in church without giving much thought to what we're saying, i.e., what we're proclaiming about the Lord, or to the Lord?! I know that I've been guilty of this - turing off my brain and just singing along with the others.

Well, recentlly my interest has been picqued with regard to the widely popular song, Above All, sung by many including Michael W. Smith and Darlene Zschech with Hillsong. If I may, let's give this song some thought.

Above All
(Words and Music by Lenny LeBlanc, Paul Baloche)

Above all powers above all kings
Above all nature and all created things
Above all wisdom and all the ways of man
You were here before the world began

Above all kingdoms above all thrones
Above all wonders the world has ever known
Above all wealth and treasures of the earth
There's no way to measure what You're worth

Crucified laid behind a stone
You lived to die rejected and alone
Like a rose trampled on the ground
You took the fall and thought of me
Above all

Consider the theology of this song, specifically, the last line that says, "You took the fall and thought of me above all." Consider the "flip" in attention and focus from the Lord and His majesty (that He's above all, He is measureless) and how then, at the end of the song, we flip the attention, the focus, from Christ to man - to ME.

Wasn't it in Hebrews 12:2 where it says that it was “for the joy that was set before Him (that Christ) endured the cross, despising the shame.” It was His Father’s glory that was chief in His affections at all times.

What did Jesus himself say? John 12:27-28 tells us, "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” Once again, Christ's focus was the Father, and the Father's glory - the glory of His name!

In fact, would not His thinking of "[us] above all" (including above Himself and His glory) be a form of idolotry (e.g. focusing attention on the creation rather than the creator)? I think this would be in line with Jonathan Edwards' thoughts that God, at the risk of idolatry, must always be uppermost in God's mind.

Consider Isaac Watts’ famous hymn: “When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God!"

Quite a different focus, eh? Look at the antithesis - the focus of God's thinking about ME, above all; versus the focus of pouring contempt on my pride (the same pride that sings that it must have been ME about which He, above all, was thinking!)

So, He thought of me above His Father's glory? I think not.

But, I want to see what you think. Can anyone give me a chapter and verse that would Biblically support this line? Where in the Scripture does it say that in His crucifiction the Lord "thought of me above all?"

This wonderful, humble and Biblical assessment from Bob Kauflin at Worship Matters:

"There are a number of things about this song I really like. The melody is enjoyable to sing and easy to remember. It does a great job emphasizing God's sovereign rule over all, and focusing on the sacrifice of Christ. The poetic images are engaging and the harmonic progression is creative. But two parts bother me, both near the end of the song. The first is the line "you took the fall." It seems like an understated way of describing what Jesus did. Not wrong, but not the best. The other problem is the line, "and thought of me above all." I have no question that Jesus loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20). But he didn't think of me "above all." Jesus went to the cross to satisfy God's righteous judgment against a sinful humanity. He thought of his Father's holiness, justice, and glory above all. It may seem like a theological nuance, but it's the difference between our faith being man-centered and God-centered. I don't think that's what the writers intended, but I think it could cause some confusion in people's minds. Besides, I think we have other songs that better articulate Jesus died for because he loved us and for his Father's glory."


At 9/22/2006 1:31 PM, Blogger Steve Weaver said...

Great post! I have been troubled by that line since I first heard it. The first time I heard the song, I was really enjoying the lyrics as the song seemed to be building to a crescendo focusing on God's glory above all, but when it came to that last line I couldn't believe that "me" was the high point of the song.

At 9/25/2006 11:10 PM, Blogger Gavin Brown said...

Agreed. That line's gotta go.

The thing is, it would be a great song if the last line were re-written.

At 9/26/2006 1:06 AM, Anonymous Joey said...

I couldn't agree more. I first heard this song in the chapel at the seminary I attended and I was dumbfounded... this song is biblically and theologically not sound. It's not about me, it's about God and his glory.

At 11/03/2006 3:16 AM, Blogger thebluefish said...

A former colleague of mine, penned this alternative:

"Crucified and laid behind a stone,
You lived to die rejected and alone
On the cross, hanging there for me
You paid the debt, you made the way so I go free"

At 11/16/2006 5:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you considered that the lyrics are supposed to mean 'above all earthly things' ... He loved us so much that he SENT US HIS ONLY SON... I think that classifies as above most things...

Would you give your son so that others may live? Consider this thought? I think that to a parent this would be a 'ultimate' sacrifice, would you not?

At 11/26/2006 4:11 PM, Blogger thebluefish said...

i think the thing is that the rest of the song is great cos it says how Jesus is above all things.... but Biblically his ultimate concern in salvation is going to be his own glory, not us. Clearly he is concerned for us but not "above all".

At 11/27/2007 1:02 AM, Anonymous David said...

IMO there is a resolution here between the lyrics & the concerns expressed.

Yes, Jesus was focused on God's glory, but what aspect of God's glory. God was glorified by Jesus' act of submission to the cross BECAUSE it was an act of salvation for humankind & this was Jesus' focus.

Therefore IMO the link between the salvation of humankind ('me') & God's glory is so intertwined as to be indistinguishable.

At 8/02/2008 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have struggled with this last phrase of this song too. Consider that in Romans 3:25-26, it says that Christ died on the cross to DEMONSTRATE HIS JUSTICE because previous sins had been passed over. One purpose of the cross was to vindicate God's reputation as unjust by passing over sins and therefore God was thinking about his own glory and making it known... HOWEVER, who was he demonstrating his justice and glory to through the cross? We don't demonstrate something unless there is an audience. We are the audience. Without an audience, a demonstration has no receiver. If you or I give a demonstration, who are we thinking of, ourselves or the one to whom I am demonstrating? To some extent, both. We are thinking of the point we want to make but also we have an intent in it all that includes the well-being of others.

In Romans 5 it says that Christ's death was a demonstration but emphasizes something else other than justice - "Christ demonstrates his love FOR US in this, while we were still sinners, Christ dies for us."

So, as the previous poster said, God's passion for his glory which includes vindicating his justice and His love for us are highly intertwined. He is thinking of His own glory, righteousness and justice and he wants us to think about it and know it too.

At 5/11/2009 6:26 PM, Anonymous lemmingz said...

Great post! It's a catchy and easy-to-follow song, and the lyrics bar the last part are ok as well.
I thought I might share some alternatives:

“Exalted Lord, We worship you above all” (William Harrah)
“You gave Your all, unfailing love, Above All” (Ted)
“You paid the price, and honoured Him, above all” (Jono Macfarlane)



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