FROM THE BACK PEW: Song is the Gospel of simplicity

Pastor Ed Brouwer dispenses wit and wisdom in his regular column to the Boundary Creek Times.

The little Sunday School song Jesus Loves Me has an incredible message: a message of acceptance and love, in an hour when so many cry out for acceptance and love. God has wonderfully poured out his love on us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Not only His love but His peace…. check out this wonderful verse:

“God will quiet us with his love” – Zephaniah 3:17

I have my own story regarding this little song. I’d like to tell you about Old Mildred.

Mildred was a pioneer spinster, and we met her while we lived in Kelowna. She was pretty eccentric to say the least. Our kids knew her as the lady with the purple hair. She homesteaded a small acreage near Idabel Lake. Log cabin and barn, no electricity, no phone. She had a flock of sheep and put up her own hay using an old horse drawn mower.

Judi and I liked her and would visit with the hopes of sharing our faith with her. A few years into our relationship Mildred became ill and was hospitalized. I visited her regularly even when she drifted into a coma. One nurse told me not to bother, that Mildred was gone and would not come back. You know what I did? I visited anyway. I’d sit and talk with her like I did on the other visits.

One particular visit I had become a bit discouraged and I said out loud to God, I wish I was sure Mildred had made her heart right with You. I’d love to have a sign, but she is in this coma…. Suddenly Mildred sat straight up in bed and clear as can be, sang… “Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong.” Then just as suddenly she laid back down—unconscious—back in the coma.

Several days later she passed away. I officiated at her funeral and was able to share that story with hundreds of people who attended.

Jesus Loves Me was not originally written as a song. It was written as a poem, in a 19th century novel written by Anna Bartlett Warner. In her novel Say and Seal, the main character in the story recites a poem to a dying child, a poem to comfort the little one with the love of Jesus. Then in 1860, William B. Bradbury, considered to be a major force in American church music, read the book Say and Seal and discovered the poem. He was immediately inspired by the message and put it to music, completing it by adding the chorus. The rest is history.

Over the years dozens of additional verses have been added. I find it interesting how focused it is on the story of salvation. This is much more than a kid’s Sunday School song, it is the Gospel in simplicity.