Would Words Matter?

would-wordsIt always surprises me how the Lord uses even fallen choices and behaviours in life to teach us. Take for instance a song that our church worship leader introduced into the service about six months ago. The song lyrics are OK, but not particularly great, and severely lacking in theological content. My bigger concern is that the song was produced by a cult, and therefore should have no place in our congregational worship. (But that’s an issue for perhaps another blog post.)

Something about the chorus bothered me as well. It took some examination to figure out that it was the use of the word “would.” Here it is:

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

(Small point of interest: I don’t know if it’s because of the CCLI Canada lyrics, but the ones on our church powerpoint slide say “You would lay down your life.” I wonder if others do, too.)

Now, as I said, the lyrics aren’t terrible, and there are far worse songs creeping into the church to be concerned about. But it’s that word “would” that I think represents a concerning attitude I find far too easy to fall into. And if that’s true for me, it’s probably true for others. Let me try to explain.

For a moment, let’s replace “would” with more direct, succinct wording, and look at how much more powerful it suddenly is.

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You took my place
That You bore my cross [More accurately, “bore my sin”, not “bore my cross”. Thank you Joe, for the correction below!]
You laid down Your life
And I have been set free
Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

It’s a subtle change, but also a pretty powerful difference. The former sounds hypothetical in nature (which may be the point so that unbelievers can sing along too), whereas the latter has a solid truth proclamation about it. Does it really matter either way? Well, I think it does.

How Does This Convict Me?

So when that song comes up in church, that’s how I sing it now. Maybe you think it’s nit-picking or much ado about nothing. But the more I have considered it, the more I also began to examine my prayer life, and found it needed needs a bit of an overhaul.

How often do I use that same word in prayer as if God may or may not answer me? “Lord, I pray that you would open the eyes of our worship leader and give him a passion to lead with music that really glorifies You.” No. “Lord, I pray that you WILL open his eyes….” Not only should we sing boldly with clear, true statements, but we should do so in prayer as well! It’s not that there’s some special power in my words (as that cult teaches), but that my words affect and convey my thoughts and attitudes. I don’t have faith in the power of my words, but in the power of the mighty Creator of the universe who is my Heavenly Father. So my prayers are not wishful thinking, but bold requests before a powerful, loving and gracious God.

That is what has affected me most profoundly through this. There is nothing wrong with the word “would.” It’s how I have been using it at times that exposes an improper attitude towards my Lord. Jesus DID actually die for me. And I must pray that He WILL be glorified. “Would” is just too weak in these instances. I am thankful for the opportunity to grow and learn through this struggle.

ETA: Since writing this post, my church continues to sing more Bethel music and other mind-numbing repetitive, vacuous content like it. Despite my objections, nothing has changed. So I no longer sing these songs at all. If you are a believer reading this, please remember us in your prayers. Thanks.

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6 thoughts on “Would Words Matter?

  1. The word “would” is not hypothetical, it expresses that something that has actually happened was unexpected. Unfortunately, your concern over the word “would” has blinded you to the simple error involved in stating that Jesus bore the cross of anyone. It sounds pious, but it contradicts the gospel narrative & Jesus’ explicit teaching about discipleship. Jesus clearly taught that anyone who became his follower must take up their cross & follow him. He did not bear a cross instead of us. He did not even bear his own cross. He started out bearing it (John’s Gospel), but collapsed under its weight & the terrible beating he had suffered so that the Romans commandeered an onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry it for him (Matthew, Mark, & Luke). He certainly bore our sin, but to use the phrase (in any form) that he “bore my cross” is not merely historically inaccurate, it undermines the force of his call to discipleship. Singing such words can only tend to immunize us against Jesus’ call.

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    1. Hi Joe. Thanks for your comments. To clarify, can you tell me if you believe that Christ died for anyone specifically or just died to make salvation possible, bud didn’t die for anyone specifically? Do you believe in the doctrine of the atonement? Also, it looks like you may be confusing sanctification with justification when comparing the command to take up our crosses with Christ dying on the cross. For the Christian, bearing our cross is the result of Him dying for us, justifying us, transforming us by the Holy Spirit so that we live (and die) for Him. We don’t bear our cross in order to be saved. We do it because we are saved. Are you saying that you have an issue with the line in the song about “you would bear my cross” as well, or just my restating it in a more completed, definite sense? I hope you don’t mind all the questions. I’m just trying to figure out where you are coming from on this.

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      1. Absolutely, I believe in the atonement! Christ died for all his people. I also believe that Christian song-writers can get things wrong when God’s Word, the Lord Jesus, & God’s written word, the Bible, never do.
        I do not think that I am confusing sanctification with justification. Phil Wikeham is the one who has made the confusion between Jesus bearing a cross & his dying on the cross. By taking the image of “bearing a cross” that Jesus explicitly uses for disciples (therefore in the context of sanctification) and using it as an image of justification (“bore my cross”) contrary to God’s inspired word tells us actually happened in history.
        Of course we do not bear our cross in order to be saved. Of course it is the work of Jesus by his spirit enabling us to “take up our cross & follow him”. But God’s Word never applies the concept of cross-bearing to what God accomplishes in justifying us; it only uses that image with reference to our sanctification & what is involved in being a disciple.
        My main issue is definitely with the line in the song – whether its original wording OR your revised wording not using the word “would’. Your “restating it in a more completed, definite sense” is fine re “took my place”, BUT “bore my cross” is simply restating an error. If you restate AND ALSO REVISE it using, say, “bore my sin” rather than “bore my cross”, then fine.
        I have only a very slight problem with your problem over the word “would”. Your understanding of the use of “would” in English seems to be limited to its use in a future sense (as in its use in prayer that you mention). I personally find the form of prayer, “would you …” a little bit strange; it is never used in any prayer in the Bible.
        BUT the word “would” has a perfectly common English usage in the subjunctive mode when speaking about a past action. For example: “it never occurred to me THAT YOU WOULD … need more money / take my comment that way / fail the exam / move house / misunderstand what I was saying / etc etc etc.
        However, that is really only a slight problem. My real problem with your revision without “would” is that it does not have enough syllables to fit the tune – it is readable & say-able but not very singable.
        Do forgive me for not being more clear in my original comment. I hope this has cleared up the confusion.
        Your brother in Christ, Joe Martin

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      2. Thank you for clarifying! OK, that is a good point about Christ bearing my cross vs. bearing my sin. It is another mucky part of the song that I had overlooked (Goodness… maybe there are even more that we’ve missed? I just don’t want to think about it anymore, or else it will get stuck in my head, lol).

        I do actually agree with you that the word “would” itself is fine. I was more just sharing my thoughts about how I hear it used too often and how I, myself too often have used it – and how that may be exposing some faulty doctrine that I have learned and not previously questioned either. I hope that clarifies where I am coming from as well.

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      3. It is good to understand one another & clarify things together. I will add that I was wrong about your rephrased words without “would” being unsingable. I should have tried to sing them before saying that! Your rephrasing is more powerful and it actually does fit the tune without any problem. But even with both of our changes, your comment still is true overall: the song is “not particularly great, and severely lacking in theological content”. When there are great songs & hymns available, why waste breath on trivial ones that are just collections of Christian phrases?
        I would love to share some such richly phrased & well-structured hymns with you (including one I have written), but I do not wish to clog up your website unless you choose to include them. Email me using your email address, and I can send several to you for your consideration (and, I believe, appreciation).

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      4. Oh yes, please do share them here for anyone who reads this post to see. Thanks!
        Honestly, I’m so glad and thankful to see that thoughtful, biblical, doctrinal hymn writing is having such a resurgence in recent years.

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