It was an ordinary thing to do, to play Jesus loves me on the piano, but the effect wasn't ordinary that day. I was at a drop-in centre where the less fortunate come for lunch and companionship. As usual, I heard heart-wrenching stories — like the one from the woman across the table.
When I showed interest in her, she burst into tears. She got strangely absorbed in her cell phone and eventually pulled up a cat photo. Then, she revealed the tragedy: Her beloved cat had been confiscated by the authorities. Through her sobs, she said, "I couldn't pay the vet bill; I didn't have money for the medicine." I remarked, "The cat has been your friend, hasn't it?" She nodded.
At first, I felt angry with the authorities for not simply covering the cost and easing her pain. But as I listened more, I realized that she lacked basic living skills for everyday life. For such folk, any issue can become a devastating crisis. They can't figure out what to do.
Later, I went to the piano and quietly played hymns. When I played Jesus loves me, the tearful woman came and started singing. Others joined in. Then, the cook started singing. Soon, lovely singing filled the room; a calm peace flooded the place. Afterwards, a different woman, who had shared upsets with me, said, "When I heard Jesus loves me on the piano, I suddenly felt a huge load lift off of me. And I know Jesus is with me. I know He can help me. Without Him, I couldn't make it through one single day." And we hugged.
At this centre, all kinds of people hang out: addicts, released prisoners, the mentally or physically compromised, those who have lost well-earned fortunes, LGBTQ folk, the unemployed, and others. Here's where even faint remnants of past Christian experience, like old hymns, can have exhilarating power — even in this secular association. In such places, at the outer edge of society, much human potential lurks beneath the tragedy of societal brokenness, waiting to be awakened.
God can do mighty things at the outer edge. Historically, every great renewal in the church began at the outer edge of the mainstream church, not normally in the halls of power and authority. That's because God's redemptive love, like water, flows along the lowest places. Jesus said:
Mark 2:17b – It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (NIV)
To be sure, no place is lower than the experience of our wretched sinfulness in its naked truth, shielded by our fineries, good deeds, and righteous illusions. And it's here, in the lowest of the lowest places, where the best of human potential has germinated. Here has been the beginnings of massive social and political reforms, great strides in education, art, music, literature, and untold blessings to countless people around the world. Still today, spiritual awakening can make a better civilization — of astronomical proportions.
Prayer: Lord, we long for Your redemptive love to become a mighty river flowing through the channels of our society — again — through humbled sinners whole-heartedly seeking You. Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "Jesus Thy Blood And Righteousness" (Lyrics)