If “Love Wins” were a Hymn…

If “Love Wins” were a Hymn… January 30, 2012

I’m currently attending a wonderful church, connected to my seminary.  I love the way in which they represent the Anabaptist way of following Jesus, not giving into nationalism or violence.  They are a voice of peace, grace, and love.

I noticed this love recently in a hymn that was selected to sing.  I was so impressed that I pulled out my phone and took a picture of the song right out of the hymnal.

If “Love Wins” were a hymn…


There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

1. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
Which is more than liberty.

2. There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

3. But we make God’s love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify its strictness
With a zeal God will not own

4. For the love of God is broader
Than the measures of the mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

5. If our love were but more simple,
We should rest upon God’s word;
And our lives would be illuminated
By the presence of our Lord.
Lyrics: Frederick William Faber (1854)
Music: Lizzie Shove Tourjée

This might be the most beautiful hymn I’ve ever sung!  Love truly does win!  Of course, we could also recognize that the title of the hymn is also the title of the prolific book by the late Clark Pinnock.

How does this old hymn speak to you?  What other hymns or modern worship songs demonstrate the deep and wide love and mercy of God in Christ?

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  • Chuck McKnight

    Truly, the love of God is a glorious and magnificent truth, far beyond what we could ever comprehend! However, His love is balanced with justice. As clear as the Bible is on God’s love, it is also perfectly clear about the wrath of God on those who do not obey Him.

    “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36, NASB)

    “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18)

    “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5:6)

    Certainly, there is a huge danger of going too far in the other direction as well and becoming a hatemonger. We must never overstate either God’s love or or His wrath to the exclusion of the other.

    • Raleigh

      While recognizing that the wrath of God is very real, we must also be careful not to cloud our understanding with our own human attributes. In verses 24, 26, and 28 of Romans 1, His wrath against those who refuse to know Him is clearly defined as “giving them over” or “giving them up”.

      It’s also interesting that in His prayer in John 17:3, Jesus described eternal life as knowing God. And while suffering God’s wrath on the cross, He cried out, “My God, my God, why are you forsaking me? (giving me up)”

      It seems to me that God’s wrath is completely consistent with His love. When someone consistently rejects His love and healing, the only loving thing to do is to give them up to the natural consequences (wages) of their selfish (sinful) choices… Death.

      • @b19abe779321861d7bbab04c52ca5026:disqus … this was a seriously excellent comment.

      • Ian

        I’m also reminded of the 40 years Isreal spent in the desert. Any time they would do something showing their lack of faith in God’s ability to provide for them, He would stop providing, and then they get bit by lots of snakes.

    • With you, brother. All the best.

      – Pastor Joel

  • This is magnificent. What a find. I’m off to learn it on the guitar now.

  • Justin Heap

    Kurt. This is legit, brother. Thanks for sharing. 

    I have also equally been moved by the As Cities Burn lyric, “Son, this is it / this is it / we are sunk for our sins / unless grace be the wind!”

    Simple and straight. Unless grace be the wind ;]

  • Jim Folsom

    Come, now is the time to worship. Come, now is the time to give your heart. Come, just as you are, to worship. Come, just as you are, before your God. Come. One day every tongue will confess You are God. One day every knee will bow. Still the greatest treasure remains for those Who gladly choose you now. Come, now is the time to worship. Come, now is the time to give your heart. Oh, come. Just as you are to worship. Come just as you are before your God. Come. One day every tongue will confess You are God. One day every knee will bow. Still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose you now. (Repeat) Come, now is the time to worship. Come, now is the time to give your heart. Come, just as you are to worship. Come, just as you are before your God. Come. Oh, come. Oh, come. Oh, come. Worship the Lord. Oh, come. Come, come, come…   

  • Anonymous

    I love this.

  • Stewart Fenters

    The love of Christ is rich and free is a great hymn. Check out Indelible Grave’s version.

  • Andy J. Funk

    For me, this is very significant. This hymn supports Rob Bell’s claim that he has said nothing “new” in his book “Love Wins”. Theologians and church song writers have been saying it for centuries. Kinda puts things into perspective, I think.

    • Chuck McKnight

      Interestingly, Bell’s opponents agree on this point. Certain theologians and song writers have been distorting the truth in the same manner for centuries. His version is nothing new.

      • Kmillard

        Ouch. Not sure I ever want to claim right or wrong on an issue. Where does that place me?

        • Chuck McKnight

          That would place you roughly in the postmodernist camp with those who believe truth is relative. As Christians, however, we are called to “examine everything carefully, hold fast to that which is good, and abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

          • @google-f38f10e5ab87878cc3090f66881b54c7:disqus  at least we can have confidence that your theological conclusions are the only *right* ones 😉 

          • Chuck McKnight

            I make absolutely no claims of inerrancy for myself. However, I would die defending the Bible’s inerrancy. And one cannot make a hermeneutically sound argument against eternal punishment for the wicked without denying the Bible’s inerrancy.

          • Nic D “the Singing Preacher”

            “I  would die defending the Bible’s inerrancy. ”

            But we both know that when preachers preach that’s not all that gets said. If we say only what we have authority to say (as expressed by God/Jesus/Apostles) we will have said enough. But preachers oft say one word more or less  … AND THAT’S WHEN THE FIGHT STARTED.

          • Hilson Thomas

            I hate the arrogance that assumes that the current popular reading of the text is the correct reading. I am also fed up with the characiture of anyone who dares disagree – that they believe truth is relative etc.


            Quit believing stuff just cause your pastor says its true. Quit mindlessly consuming all that the most vocal branches of Christianity say, and accept that at the very least, sound cases can be made for multiple readings. No doubt there is a ‘true’ reading of the text. But to assume so arrogantly that your reading is that one true understanding, why that’s about the most unChristian thing I have ever heard…

          • Dave

            Chuck McKnight,

            Just wondering, which Bible is inerrant?  The original manuscripts which no one has?  One of dozens of English translations?  Maybe the Septuagint since that’s the one Jesus quoted but it only has the Old Testament and I don’t know how to read Greek?

            What is your recommended hermeneutic so that we can all read the Bible correctly and get the one true meaning from every verse and eliminate, once and for all, all this needless confusion over issues such as eternal punishment?

          • Dave,
            Yes, textual criticism is tough, but not an impossible task.   Making a solid academic case for the original text is an art and science that can be learned.   The Scripture is not preserved in a single original copy, but in the multitude of original language texts that correct one another and other ancient translations.  The Septuagint is valuable part of the discussion, but so would be the ancient Hebrew text.   


  • Kurt – The ELCA has this hymn in its songbook, too. Thanks for posting and connecting it to Love Wins.

  • Verse 3 is the clincher for me, and so often overlooked.  Thanks for sharing this.

  • Matt McKimmy

    Ah yes, one of my favorites. I recognize the particular setting, as well, from the Church of the Brethren/Mennonite “Hymnal: A Worship Book” – it’s full of many gems like this, including quite a few from Anabaptist hymn writers that you seldom find in more mainstream hymnals. 

    As a CoB pastor I’m so thankful to have such beautiful and theologically meaningful hymnody to easily draw upon, including the excellent Brethren and Mennonite hymnal supplements. 

    Verses 3 and 4 almost always give me goosebumps when sung in congregation, especially when a cappella. Thanks for sharing. 

    • Nic D “the Singing Preacher”

      “especially when a cappella”

      As a coC worship minister I can dig that sentiment.

      : )

  • I know a different setting of this hymn from my days in the Episcopal Church. Glad you discovered it.

  • makes me wish i was good with reading music…

  • “Oh Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High”


    • Jonathan Aigner

       We sing this as an introit at my church periodically.

  • Mary Anne

    I love the hymn. I love the church that sings that hymn!

    • @bb4f0c6220022bab94c3b0b938c6fcdb:disqus … Me Too!

  • Kbsagert

    The hymn that keeps running through my mind lately is Here I Am, Lord: 
    http://www.livingwaterunity.org/music-program/Hymns/here-i-am-lord.htm. I’ve been  focusing on what God wants me to do with my life, which is probably why I keep thinking about this particular hymn.

  • Nic D “the Singing Preacher”

    Wonderful, WONDERFUL post. Thanks so much!

  • I think this song is a wonderful portrayal of God’s love and mankind’s ability to get caught up in some of the unimportant parts of our faith.  Its correlation to Love Wins I don’t agree with (I ultimately found myself disagreeing with a good bit of Love Wins), though I thinks the songwriter here saw himself in a time where the church had much misguided passion and destructive thinking.

  • Kurt, this is some of the gold you can find in a church that hasn’t sworn off hymns (as mine, sadly, has).  If you’re in an Anabaptist church, perhaps you’ve also found Heart with Loving Heart United which I’ve only found in Mennonite hymnals.

    Though honestly, things like “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” and “How Great Thou Art” remain among my favorites.  As I said before, I prefer worship to focus on God and his greatness rather than us and our emotions.

    • Jonathan Aigner

       Well said, Dan.  I’m sure you know well my opinion on the subject.

  • Shari

    Thanks for reminding us of this hymn.  Beautiful.   Mercy triumphs over judgement!  – James 2:13.  

  • Sylvia

    “The love of God is greater far, than tongue or pen can ever tell.  It goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell.
    The guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win.  His erring child he reconciled, and pardoned from his sin.
    Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of  parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade–to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.

    Oh love of  God, how rich and pure, how measureless and strong.  It shall forever more endure the saints’ and angels’ song.”

  • Jonathan Aigner

    Kurt, as a music teacher, church musician, and theology student, thank you for highlighting this hymn.  CT recently included in a list of the most popular hymns of all time, although their criteria was a little narrow.  In any event, I’m convinced that, for better or worse, what we sing is the greatest  influence of our personal and collective theologies.  Texts like these are great places to start.


    • Jake Enns

      As a former pastor, who after 10 years of doing something else and just starting a new church plant now, I have come to realize that what we choose to sing together does indeed have greater and longer reaching impact in peoples lives than what is heard from the preachers homily, regardless how well research, composed, and delivered. For it connects with several regions in the brain, not just the pathway from the ears, for it hits kinetically as our mouths create the words, it connected audit-orally as we hear those around us repeat the words as well, it hits us emotionally as we feel the meaning of the words sung, etc.

  • my church is going to crank this one out for the first time this Sunday.. there are more lines to it though than in this hymnal… 

  • Kurt, I came across this article of yours again, and I’m seeing my comments from four years ago. Goodness! I can’t believe how arrogant I was. You had a lot more patience with me then than I think I’d have with me now.

    Anyway, I strongly disagree with pretty much everything I said here before, and I’ve come to love this hymn.

    • Haha. Well, the beautiful thing about Christ is that he disrupts what we know and invites us to know him. Glad you are finding more freedom in your walk with God and your story, is one of many, that made these years of blogging totally worth it!