There’s a song we sing in church sometimes, an old hymn called “Oh How I Love Jesus.” I grew up singing that song. It has a very simple tune and a very repetitive chorus – easy for a young boy to pick up on.

As I mature, both in years and in my understanding of faith, songs like this begin to bug me. Just take a look at the lyrics:
There is a name I love to hear; I love to sing its worth
It sounds like music in my ear; the sweetest name on earth

It tells me of a Savior’s love who died to set me free
It tells me of his precious blood – the sinner’s perfect plea

It tells of One whose loving heart can feel my deepest woe
Who in each sorrow bears a part that none can bear below

Chorus: Oh, how I love Jesus; Oh, how I love Jesus
Oh, how I love Jesus because he first loved me

Here’s the problem I am beginning to have with this song and others like it. It makes us feel good, but it doesn’t encourage us to do good. There is nothing in this song that would spur me on towards “love and good deeds.” Yes, Jesus came to save you, but he didn’t come to save only you. And he didn’t save you so that you could “go to heaven” some day. He saved you from this corrupt generation so that you could bring heaven here this day.

Yes, we should sing the praises of God our Father, Christ our Savior, and the Spirit our guide. By all means, our God should be glorified in song and praised through music. But as we do this we should also keep in mind these two things: 1) Our singing is to have a horizontal dimension as well as a vertical. In other words we are to “speak to one another” through our songs. We are to “teach and admonish one another” in our music. 2) God is glorified more greatly by a life well lived in service to Him. Our lives should reflect his glory. Others (read: non-believers) are supposed to be so taken aback by how we live that they have no choice but to “glorify [our] Father in heaven.”

I’ve often heard people complain that many modern worship songs sound more like sappy love rock ballads. And I grant you that many contemporary Christian songs played on the radio do have a certain “Jesus is my boyfriend” feel to them. But this is not new to the Christian music scene. “Oh How I Love Jesus” was written in the mid-1800s.

I’m not trying to totally dismiss our beloved hymns, either. I think that some of them simply need a fresh update with more theologically sound lyrics. What if the song went something like this:

There is a name I love to share
With those in deepest need
A name to lift them from despair
And show them grace indeed.

Oh, how I love others
Oh, how I love others
Oh, how I love others
Because Jesus first loved me

We love because He first loved us… And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:19 & 21)