Published 2/10/2009

Paul's Epistle...
"The Love Song"

What is the best-known Christian song in the world?

What Christian song has been translated into more languages than any other song?

The answer may surprise you. You know the song well. In fact, it's probably one of the first songs you ever learned.

Back in the mid 19th century, two unmarried sisters, Anna and Susan Warner, lived across the Hudson River from West Point. After the death of their father, who had been a New York attorney impoverished by the depression of 1837, they supported themselves by writing. Susan wrote novels which became best-sellers. Anna wrote poems and hymns and, in fact, wrote a new hymn each month for a Sunday School class she taught made up of West Point cadets.

One day in 1860, Susan was writing a story about an ill child and wanted to include a song that could be sung to the dying youth. She turned for help to her songwriter sister. That's when Anna penned these memorable words:

Jesus loves me! This I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak, but He is strong.

That is the song that has become the best-known Christian song in the world. Anna later published it separately in a hymnbook. And the tune we use today was composed in 1862 by William Bradbury. He is the one who, in fact, added the refrain:

Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.

Is there any more basic – or any more important – precept than this in Christianity? Love is the one thing that sets Christianity apart from all other religions, because our God is the only deity in any of the world's religions whose fundamental quality is love. John reminds us, in fact, that God not only loves, but, more fundamentally, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). Love is His very essence. He showed it by sending His Son so that "whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven's gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.

But there's more than salvation in this simple song. It even goes to everyday Christian living:

Jesus loves me still today,
Walking with me on my way,
Wanting as a friend to give
Light and love to all who live.

Jesus called Himself "the Light of the world," adding, "He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12). And we are to reflect His love: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:11).

Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
Thou hast bled and died for me,
I will henceforth live for Thee.

In the early 20th century, one of the world's foremost Christian theologians was Karl Barth, whose profound theological treatises were enormously influential throughout Europe and America. But one day a student asked Barth if he could sum up in just a few words what was most important about his life's work and theology. Barth briefly considered the question, smiled and responded, "Yes, in the words of a song my mother used to sing me, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.'"

And so it is that the most profound and widely-known Gospel song ever written was a song written for children. But that seems appropriate. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:14).

– Paul

"I will sing of the Lord's great love forever..." (Psalm 89:1 NIV)

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