Earworm: Songs that stick in your head and get your toes a-tapping and fingers a-drumming. Sometimes you hum the tune out loud. In a quiet office. Just when the boss walks past.

I don’t know what the latest song stuck in your head is, but this Lent season, my heart has been stirred by an old hymn.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts is a meditation on how the Cross – an instrument of torture – has been transformed into the greatest symbol of love. Because the Prince of glory died on it.

Jesus deliberately turned the logic of the world on its head. Jesus had his face set towards Jerusalem, where He knew the Cross awaited (Luke 9:51-56). The Son of God was determined to face flogging, insults, and a long-drawn death.

While we were still sinners, Jesus chose to die for us (Romans 5:4-6).

It wasn’t a series of unfortunate events that took Him there. Not a silver-seduced Judas, not the braying crowd, nor the spineless Pilate. It was Jesus’ love for sinners – that is, everyone that has ever lived – that led Him to chose the difficult, messy, and emotionally-wrought path of dying on the Cross.

Perhaps the hymn-writer had that goriness in mind when he wrote the third and rarely-sung fourth stanza of the song.

See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown.

His dying crimson, like a robe
Spreads over His body on the tree
Then I am dead to all the globe
And all the globe is dead to me.

And so, Watts argues, knowing Christ is the only thing that matters.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

These lyrics reflect Philippians 3:3-11, where Paul shares how he is acutely aware that his salvation comes from Christ and Christ only. Not his pedigree, rule-following abilities, or zeal.

Same goes for us.

We’re part of the family of God not because we were born into a Christian household. Definitely not because our parents are deacons or Sunday School teachers. Not because we’re excellent at keeping God’s commandments, or because we’re always white hot for God. Nope, none of that.

We are children of God because God had mercy on us. Though we were hopeless, unworthy, sinners (1 Timothy 1:12-17).

We can call God Abba Father, because Jesus conquered death and atoned for our sins by dying on the cross and rising on the third day. (1 John 2:2)

Forbid it Lord that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ my Lord
All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrifice them to His blood

Those of us who call Jesus our Saviour are now sons and daughters of God.

Now, if he’s our Father, I’d invite you to draw a parallel with your earthly father: You know how difficult it can be to find the perfect gift for Mum or Dad? “Oh, anything also can.” 

God spells it out for us: We are offer up our bodies, our minds, and our lives as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). Or, as the hymnwriter puts it:

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were a present far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.