My Song is Love Unknown
It is always exciting to sing songs that have been enjoyed by Christians over centuries. This beautiful example is over three hundred years old! It comes from England, from the pen of an Anglican minister who ministered for a time at All Saints’ Church (!) in Sudbury. The beauty of the hymn’s words is in its poetic descriptions of our Lord compared to us. The focus is on the way in which our natures are “unloveable” because of sin and yet our Savior’s love for us despite this fact.
The first verse explains the goal of Christ’s work: “love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.” We were at one time separate from Christ, without hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12). Now as we present our bodies as living sacrifices, we become holy and pleasing to God and, indeed, lovely (Romans 12:1). The verse also asks the question: who are we that Jesus should take for our sake “frail flesh and die”? It is certainly not for anything we have done, or He would not have done so!
Some of the other major points and themes of the song are great examples of poetry about an aspect of Christ’s passion. “Sometimes they strew His way” begins verse 3, alluding to the triumphal entry found in Matthew 21, “then ‘Crucify!’ is all their breath, and for His death they thirst and cry” (verse 3). In context of Christ’s great love for the loveless, this story of His work for us is all the more striking: humankind, and here the Jews in particular, made His decision to be obedient to death (Phil 2:8) a difficult one! Jerusalem’s people’s hypocritical actions in praising Jesus one moment and cursing and calling for His death the next shows just how “loveless” humanity is. Verse 4 makes this point further, that He who “made the lame to run” and “gave the blind their sight” was still offensive to men. He who truly did no wrong and knew no sin, was made to be sin for us, His people (2 Cor 5:21).
Verses 5 and 6 give us more to think about. Pointing at those same people who crucified Christ, verse 5 says, “A murderer they save, the Prince of Life they slay,” in allusion to the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus in Matthew 27. This would be another point where Jesus could have said, “These people are ridiculous, I’m done with this;” and yet as we sing, He went cheerfully “to suffering…that He His foes from thence might free” (verse 5). Again with verse 6, we see Jesus who had no earthly home nor even His own tomb to be buried in “but what a stranger gave” (verse 6). And all that even though “heav’n was His home” and “the tomb” really belonged to us, He took the trade and was laid in the tomb that should have been ours.
This is why we sing: “No story so divine! Never was love, dear King, never was grief like Thine” (verse 7). This is our Friend, He who bore all these things for our sake, and whose love we could write across the sky and still not have room to write it all. This is a great reason to sing loudly this Lord’s Day!