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  • Song Story - Christ For The World

    Christ For The World - words by Samuel Wolcott & Marty Mikles, music by Marty Mikles

    Salvation Army Song Book # 825

    It was late April of 2010, and I was away from work on family leave following the birth of my little girl, Grace Marie.  I'd previously been asked by Lt. Colonel Eddie Hobgood if I could arrange a new version of this classic song from The Salvation Army's song book.  He was responsible for a string of meetings on the Saturday of Commissioning Weekend (the festivities that surround the ordination of The Salvation Army's newest ministers), and he wanted this particular song to be sung in all 3 meetings.  

    As I began working on this one, I had to really think hard about how to treat this song.  It's such a great hymn, and I didn't want to obliterate its timeless message.  Written well over 125 years ago (Wolcott died in 1886), these words have been sung by countless congregations, no doubt, probably all around the world. However, it was hard work trying to get them to flow in an updated setting (what we like to call "bringing it into the 21st century").  For example, here's the original text to verse 1:

    Christ for the world, we sing;

    The world to Christ we bring

    With loving zeal;

    The poor and those who mourn,

    The faint and overborne,

    Sin-sick and sorrow-worn,

    Whom Christ doth heal.


    I'm hoping that you'll see how metrically odd this stanza is.  While the words are outstanding, they're in a strophic style that doesn't easily lend itself to even phrasing.  So this style was replaced by four simple lines.  Verse 1 in its new format:

    The poor, despised and overborne

    The faint, the weak, and those who mourn

    The plagued and sin-sick, sorrow-worn

    Our Christ can heal, with loving zeal.

    (In comparing the 2 versions, you'll notice "with loving zeal" takes on a whole new meaning this way... it originally was done just to make the lyric fit better.  But after singing it through a few times, I really began to love the imagery of Christ zealously loving to heal his children.  It doesn't hold the original intent of the lyric, but I think this is a suitable substitution).


    Another thing I immediately noticed was that each of the four verses started with the same line: "Christ for the world, we sing; the world to Christ we bring..."  That seemed like a good solid chorus right there, something to keep coming back to.  So I went with it, and wrote the rest of the chorus:

    Christ for the world we sing, the world to Christ we bring

    All of its suffering untold

    Every tribe and tongue into the strong arms of God

    Christ for the world, Christ for the world we sing


    The bridge is basically lifted from verse 4 of the original:

    Christ for the world, we sing;

    The world to Christ we bring

    With one accord;

    With us the work to share,

    With us the reproach to dare,

    With us the cross to bear,

    For Christ our Lord


    In thinking through all of this, all while working on it at a small desk in my house, while my weeks-old daughter was sleeping upstairs in her crib, I was really moved by the amazing, soul-stirring and missional message of this song.  I thought of the legacy that I would leave to my children, about how I might be able to teach and instill in them the urgency that we read about in the Gospels.  Jesus taught us so clearly that when we reach out in His name, meeting a need and showing His love, that we become His hands and feet.  I love the idea that every tribe and tongue can join in this song that Christ sings over the world.  It's a song that doesn't exclude one race, one nation, one tribe or people group.  Isn't that the perfect picture of how inclusive our Savior's love is?!  And we get to be a part of that love.  We get to give and share that love.  With the whole world.  

    We've been doing this song since the end of the summer last year, and one of the things that happens in this song that I love is the massive sound of the "OH's" at the beginning and the end of the song.  I know that the simple vowel sound doesn't have anything to do with the message of this song... but people LOVE singing this part.  Here's my take on this... I really believe that if we let the message of this song (and others like it) filter into our hearts, past our heads, and we start to live our lives reflecting the beauty of God's great redemptive love, then our lives would be transformed.  Every part of our lives.  The words we speak.  The conversations we hold.  The way we work.  Everything!  Even the words we sing... These can all reflect the wonder of God's great love for the world that He loves.  And so when we sing, even if it's just by singing "OH," we should be reminded of Christ's call on our lives to share His love with absolutely everyone that He puts in our path.  

    May you be challenged to bring the world to Christ, with all of its suffering, in every aspect of your life.  Trust God's incredibly and capably loving arms to use you to show His love to someone.