Friday, November 29, 2019

Walk with me. . .

The first lines of hymns and spiritual songs are often an interesting place to see more clearly a glimpse of what is going on in the hearts of those who sing them.  We may sing "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light" and "Jesus, Lead Thou On" and "Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus" but I fear what we are really singing is "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me."  It is one thing to follow Jesus but it is quite another to have Jesus tag along with us.

This anonymous spiritual of the African-American tradition has become the theme song of Christianity.  While one commentator has characterized the song as a “communal lament,”  another said it is a 'sorrow song,' meant for individual rather than group singing.”  All of them beg Jesus for His companionship throughout life but most especially in the hard times.  Though the sentiment is understandable -- who has not felt this way -- the direction is wrongheaded.  Jesus is not the follower; we are the followers.  He leads.  We follow.  He cuts the path.  We follow behind.  He forges the way.  We tread where He has trod.  All the way to everlasting life!

I want Jesus to walk with me
I want Jesus to walk with me
All along my pilgrim journey
I want Jesus to walk with me
In my trial, Lord, walk with me
In my trials, Lord, walk with me
When the shades of life are falling
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me
In my sorrow, Lord walk with me
In my sorrows, Lord walk with me
When my heart is aching
More of our songs have it right than have it wrong but I wonder if we are hearing the words or merely filtering them through our predisposed idea of Jesus walking with us?  That is why the scandal of preaching is so damaging.  When the pulpit reinforces the idea that it is God's job to walk with us, to fix our problems, to take care of our mistakes, to clean up our messes, and to make us feel better about where we are, who we are, and where we are going, the whole Gospel is lost to us and the cross becomes antithetical to our relationship with God.  So it is no wonder that we expect God not only to accept us as we think we are but to approve us and and commend us for being true to ourselves (instead of being true to Him and His Word).

I don't want Jesus to walk with me.  That is the last thing I need.  I need a Jesus who will challenge the direction I am going and call me back (repentance) and guide me where I may not want to go but need to go.  I expect I am not much different than anyone else.  So maybe we need to pay attention to what we sing and stop singing some of the things that get it all wrong. 


Anonymous said...

I agree with your message, Pastor. We are to walk with Jesus in the Christian life, not ask that He walk with us, according to our whims and feelings. We often meet disappointment in our lives, such as children not being in the faith, or career setbacks. That is why Paul asks for the saints to encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11), and we are given the vision of standing around God’s throne by John in Revelation.
Ted Badje

ginnie said...

This is good in that the words are displayed.

Janis Williams said...

And he walks with me, and he talks with me.... ICK! Just another version of our sinful recasting of Jesus’ role in our lives. Yes, there is great comfort in having Christ as our Savior, but as Savior, not as buddy, hiking companion, or even trail blazer. We are not able to walk where he has, and we don’t need to: it was and is a once for all sacrifice he made for our forgiveness. In Advent, the other season of repentance, let us recognize our need of that gift he gives, repent, and be absolved.

Anonymous said...

This area has been of concern to me for two reasons:
1. The “anonymous spiritual of the African-American tradition.” The amount of suffering that African slaves endured in America is beyond our understanding. Therefore, the spirituals that arose during the period of slavery should not be analyzed through the experience of our affluent, white culture. Neither should we criticize their choice of words, when we cannot begin to imagine the sorrow and misery contained in these words. These songs were not composed by theologians or religiously sophisticated people. Surely, they were not denying that our Lord leads them. But they also yearned for someone to be next to them during their unimaginable suffering. Remember the scene in Leo Tolstoy’s “Taras Bulba”, when the son, being tortured to death, cries out to his father, “Can you hear me?” At moments like that, the soul yearns for someone next to them.
2. Our hymns. There is no reason why contemporary hymns should not be theologically correct. Unfortunately, much of Christendom has turned to subjectivity from the traditional objectivity of hymns (See also “How to Become a Bishop Without Being Religious,” by Charles Merrill Smith, publ. 1965, the section on hymns). Those hymns in which the personal pronoun, first person singular, appears too often, tend to be of the subjective type, and should never appear in our hymnal. But there is also a surprising number of hymns that are doctrinally incorrect. The best example is the famous, “Come Holy Spirit enter in, and in our hearts Your work begin.” This, and similar hymns are obviously intended for catechumens before baptism, or at baptism, but not for those in whom the Holy Spirit has dwelled a lifetime. Look at “Oh little town of Bethlehem,” and you will find a similar problem.
Pease and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Anonymous said...

Correction: that is, of course, Nikolai Gogol, who wrote "Taras Bulba," not Tolstoy.
George A. Marquart

Pastor Rich Balvanz said...

So Jesus didn't mean it when he called on his followers to yoke themselves with him and walk in step with him?