Over the years, I have grown comfortable making 3 changes to songs that we sing at church.

  •  From blood to love
  •  From father to savior
  •  From King to anything else

Blood To Love

Atonement theories are fascinating and I love exploring different historical approaches to understating what happened on the cross of Christ. My historic understanding is one of the many reasons that I intrigued with how many hymns and worship songs from the past 2 centuries are so bloody. In the past 200 years ‘penal substitutionary atonement’ (PSA) has become the dominant understanding in many protestant circles and our songs reflect it.

It has a simple fix however. Just cut ‘blood’ out and paste ‘love’ in and it amplifies the meaning of the song even better! It does not detract from the meaning of the song and actually amplifies it, making it better.

The love of God is bigger than just the blood that Jesus spilled. There is more to the love of God than the fact that Jesus bled.

Somebody is going to argue this is how God forgives us of our sins … but the truth is that Jesus forgave sins before the cross (Luke 7:48, Matt 9:5, Mark 2:5, etc.). Jesus forgives sins based on his identity rooted in God’s goodness, not our violence. The incarnation not the crucifixion where God to identified with humanity and brought us into a new relationship. (for more read about the victim [scapegoat] on Good Friday)

Example: and old hymn has been remade (Cornerstone) and makes so much more sense with the change, “My hope is built on nothing less that Jesus’ [love] and righteousness”. It is more singable (less distracting) and richer theologically.  It is not just our faith in Jesus but the faithfulness of Jesus by which God’s righteousness is imparted to us. [Here is another way to do it]

Father To Savior

In similar fashion, the change of ‘father’ to ‘savior’ is a significant upgrade. The Bible references God as ‘father’ not only because it was written in a time-period that was heavily patriarchal but because Jesus had a special connection to God he referenced as ‘Abba’ or dad. Here is the problem though, Jesus was not telling us the meta-physical (or ontological) reality about God, Jesus was using a relational metaphor to let us know how he (and thus we) might relate to God as a perfectly-pictured parent.

Jesus’ very identity was comprised of his connection to God and he said things that I cannot say like, “I and the father are one”. Things brings up several issues:

I love my father very much but don’t think that God is entirely (or only) like him nor is my father entirely like God. It is too limiting to confine God to my earthly understanding of paternal pictures.

Not everyone has a great relationship with their father. It is meant to be a metaphor. We have made it too concrete. We have concretized and given substance to something meant to be illusive and illustrative.

Example: In the new chorus added to the same Cornerstone song from our first example, it makes more sense to sing ‘savior’ than father. “Cornerstone, weak made strong in the savior’s love, through the storm, he is Lord, lord of all.” The confession of the early churches is that Jesus is Lord (not Caesar) and so this change is perfect both in our contemporary context and historically.

King To kin

Lastly, King imagery is so antiquated that Christians seems to be the last ones longing for a King. This is especially true of American Christians. The entire point of democracy is that we don’t have a monarchy. I cannot figure out the current obsession with royal weddings and royal babies on this side of the Atlantic. I also don’t understand our worship songs that make it seem like God rules from a far-off land and we are a colony of heaven here on earth. Between monarchy, imperialism, and colonialism I really worry about our Kingdom understanding.

God is here and at work among us by God’s Spirit. God is not high up and far off – that old picture of God was supposed to done away with in Christ’s incarnation. Yet somehow the church of N. America continues to long for a Roman way of ruling the world utilizing military power, coercive governance, and violent hierarchy to rule and reign.

It is almost as if we missed the upside-down, outside-in, anti-imperial, counter-kingdom that Jesus came to initiate. We have reverted to longing for monarchy and imperial rule. It is almost as if we missed the thing Jesus was teaching about and prefer the thing he was interrogating and subverting.

Example: Switch ‘kin-dom’ for ‘kingdom’ in your worship songs or prayers. See how big of a difference it makes to what you are picturing.  Then switch out ‘King’ for ‘Queen of Heaven – Mother of us all’ and expose both the way that you are imaging and imagining the Divine.

Remember – it is just as accurate and as inaccurate to call God mother as father. They are both word pictures and relational metaphors.

Make these 3 changes to the worship songs at your church

  1.  From blood to love
  2.  From father to savior
  3.  From King to anything else

I would love to hear about the difference that it makes – or what underlying ideology it exposes.