by Jared Grenfell
“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth — and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11
It is difficult to decide where to begin with the story of What Love. Over the past six months, I spent most of my morning quiet times on a slow journey through the Gospel of John and the book of Acts. I’d like to point to a particular word or passage in either text that jumped out and did the work for me in writing a deeply personal song. That was not the case here. Rather, there was an accumulation of dwellings in my mind and heart over the mystery that is Christ’s love for us. As I described in my previous blog post about The Price, Ephesians 2:1-9 has long been a near and dear anthem of salvation for me. In verses 4-5, Paul says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” Notice the part, “because of His great love that He had for us”. This is the reason He died on the cross. This is what led to our salvation. We were not worthy of eternal communion with God, nor could we ever do anything to change that. We had turned on our Creator and had nothing but broken spirits, filthy rags, to offer Him. How He, in all His power and perfection, responded to our eternal calamity is something that can be explained by none other than love – an unfathomable love I was compelled to attempt to illustrate.
The song came together almost in its entirety late one night. It began with me writing in my journal the words, “What Love would…” and listing specific examples of how Christ’s love manifests itself in His life, death, and resurrection. Using a melody I had come up with earlier, and much trial and error with the words I had written down, I formed the chorus.
What love in the form of God, would take up the role of a Slave?
What Love would abandon the ninety-nine for the one gone astray?
The wrath that should have been mine, was poured out to Him on a tree
What savior could be such a faithful friend, to lay down His life for me?
The verses and bridge followed shortly after. My intent with verses 1 and 2 was to tell the story that would stir up the questions I reflect on in the chorus. The bridge is aimed at being an anthem of praise – namely bringing home that Phillippians passage above. Finally, the outro verse – originally written as the second half of verse 2 – was themed around the legacy Christ left behind. The manner in which so many early church leaders – Peter, Paul, and Stephen to name a few – portrayed Christ’s character is something that stuck out to me throughout Acts.
His body ascended above, His Spirit alive in us,
The stone that the builders rejected, now our foundation
Jesus not only set the perfect example for unconditional, sacrificial love by dying for us – He also gave us His spirit to dwell in us and, through us, produce the fruit of that love! He was humbled, beaten, and rejected by the world around Him, but is now the Cornerstone (see Peter’s declaration to the Jewish leaders in Acts 4:8-11). We do not have to fear persecution or death because we have been called into life eternal with the God of the universe for no reason other than that He loved us!
In The Price, I wrote of the transactional nature involved in Jesus’ blood paying the penalty for our sin; one of eternal punishment that could not be erased without being paid. He was the one perfect sacrifice that could cancel the debt. However, His love is not transactional. On paper, it makes no logical sense. As a type A who struggles when things don’t make logical sense, this is what brings me to my knees in adoration and praise. This is the personal tie I feel with these words. That God wanted me back so badly that he would go to the lengths He did cannot be explained by anything besides this mysterious love. In What Love, I encourage the worshipper to dwell on the concept of love through the lens of the example God set. The world has, in some ways, become desensitized to the word by its overuse. My hope is that the lyrics of this song sing to Jesus’ redefining of the word to His followers. His love was not a feeling nor a sensation. Rather, it was a conscious choice to make the ultimate sacrifice for a broken and vulnerable people with nothing of worldly value to gain for Himself. In addition to that, He called us His brothers and sisters despite the chasm between us, and proved the legitimacy of that relationship by giving Himself up for us.
Finally, I pray that this message would re emphasize a core truth of the Gospel; that our salvation has nothing to do with our efforts or our own righteousness but is 100% a free gift from God who is rich in mercy because of His great love that He had for us. I will conclude with one final Scripture:
“No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.”John 15:13