A recounting of a 1962 interaction during a post-lecture Q and A session between a university student and the late theologian Karl Barth tells of the inquisitive student asking Barth, “Can you summarize your whole life’s work in theology in a sentence?” Barth answered, “Yes, I can. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
“This I know.” Whenever I hear or see those three words uttered or written in that exact order, I am transported back to a yellow-walled church-basement room where I sat with my pre-school peers at a low-sitting table in tiny chairs singing our Sunday School songs. It’s the well-known song “Jesus Loves Me” to be exact. And the three-word phrase follows that declaration of divine love. It also precedes a statement about the source of that knowledge: “For the Bible tells me so.”
So simple. And, so true. That little song has served me well as I have endeavored to fill the well of my life with as many biblical “this I knows” as possible. Filling the well is especially important when facing the promised and inevitable troubles of life. You can only draw from the well that which is in the well. If the well is dry, the bucket will come up empty. Youth workers and parents. . . this reality serves as marching orders for our parenting and ministry endeavors.
This week I continue to think about pain, heartache, and grief. Without the “This I know’s” and the promised grace of God, I’m not sure how people get through tragedy. It is a mystery of grace, but it is a reality.
Recently I reached into the hymnal rack (yes. . . we have one of those in our church!) and pulled out a little supplemental book of hymns written by the late Dr. James Boice. I’ve grown to love the words of #5. . . . and I think the text of this simply titled “Hallelujah” brings great light and hope in the midst of grief and questions. This song is offers a “this I know” that’s in the well.
What can separate my soul
From the God who made me whole
Wrote my name in heaven’s scroll?
Trouble, hardship, danger, sword
Brought by those who hate my Lord?
Slander here? Or no reward?
Angels, demons, now or then?
Wickedness dreamed up by men?
Persecutions come again?
Victors we’re ordained to be
By the God who set us free
What can therefore conquer me?
We face death for God each day
What can pluck us from his way?
Let God’s people ever say