Please don't change the song words

It is disappointing when, for no good reason, people change the lyrics of beautiful songs.

Take Worthy is the Lamb. The original version describes Jesus as the “Darling of Heaven”. Someone took exception to that somehow and so now he has become the “treasure of heaven”. What’s wrong with ‘Darling’? It means a dearly beloved person. Much warmer than cold coins and stones. (If you are worried that it is often used romantically, you’d better ban the word ‘love’ as well.)

And then what happened to the line ‘Wholly lean on Jesus’s name’? ‘Lean’ is such a vivid image, so easy to picture in the mind. A refreshing way to think about how we depend on the name of Jesus. Of course, ‘trust in’ is OK and perhaps even more theologically correct. But we are talking here about imagery and colour and poetry. And about meaning that grabs our attention.

The same thing happened to ‘Nothing but the blood of Jesus‘. The original line, ‘What can wash away my stain’ was perfect. Why change it? The word ‘stain’ is a vivid biblical image that is easy to visualise. No doubt the word ‘sin’ is biblical but it is actually less striking than the word ‘stain’. Which also, by the way, rhymes better with ‘again’ in the third line.

There was a time when hymns were written by poets and then set to music. These days it sometimes appears that the music is the main thing and lyrics are secondary. Oh well, my friends say, what does it matter? Some of them don’t have a poetic bone in their bodies.

The one behavioural thing that separates us from other creatures of God is language. Jesus came as the divine Word. Words are unique tools for the conveyance of the Gospel. Just think about Charles Wesley’s hymns. He was a poet! Has there ever been a greater song than And Can it Be? Please, dear friend, don’t let anybody meddle with it.

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