A Paradox full of Contradiction
In 1986, the soft rock band Chicago, recorded a song entitled If She Would Have Been Faithful, and it was on their album, Chicago 18. The song tells the story of a man that thought his world was falling apart when his girl left him. The twist is that it was the impetus of a chain of events that eventually led him to find the girl of his dreams. Had the first girl not been a cheater, he would have never found the true love of his life. The song focuses on the unexpected results that can be obvious once we are able to see the big picture.
When I began to look at the lyrics to the song “Nothing but the Blood,” I kept having this one particular line from this Chicago song jump out at me. To be honest, I couldn’t remember where I had heard the line until I researched it online. But once I found the song, and listened to it again, I was quickly sucked into the storyline and that line hit me again with a sudden pop of reality. It fit.
The line is this: It’s a paradox full of contradiction, how I got from there to here, it defies a logical explanation.
“Nothing but the Blood” is a song that is full of contradiction. It is an enigma that when logically examined makes no sense whatsoever. That is, until one looks at it with the heart. Let’s look.
In 1875, a First Baptist Church pastor, Robert Lowery wrote these words in Plainfield New Jersey and introduced it at a camp meeting. Immediately, the people were so captivated with it that it spread quickly across the country, breaking denominational lines, until it was finally published in Gospel Music: A Choice Collection of Hymns and Melodies (Chicago: Bigelow & Main, 1877). It originally had six stanzas with the first being a little different that the one we now sing. Originally it said, “What can wash away my stain…”
The next time the hymn was published, less than a year later, it had already changed to “What can wash away my sin…” As we dig a little deeper into the contradictory lyrics here, we will find a very compelling mystery.
What can wash away my sin (stain)? Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Now to the ‘unchurched’ ear, this statement is impossible. According to the Home Fresh cleaning guide, blood is the number three toughest stain to remove preceded only by hot cocoa and poop. In fact, most every stain cleaning website you visit will list blood in the top three, even more difficult than permanent marker stains. So to say that blood can wash away a stain immediately speaks to the homemakers and even the hard labor workers of the day that would have been the ones to first sing these lines. 1 John 1:7 clearly states this spiritual concept. So to the singer/reader, the truth of the sacrifice of our Lord is blatantly evident without any soft shoe approach.
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Here again, we have the evident contradiction that wholeness comes from the blood shed of Christ. Blood shed only happens when there is a breach to the wholeness of the contributor. When we donate blood, for instance, the skin is broken with a needle and the vein is invaded while the blood is drawn away from its host. Isaiah 53:5 tells us that we are healed through the stripes given to the sacrificial Lamb of God. This concept is one that must be addressed and accepted for us to truly understand the love that He has for us. Through His pain, His blood shed through injury, we find healing for our souls.
Oh precious is the flow…
I remember being given the task to clean up the blood left from a tragedy that took place in my family. Blood is a nasty substance and is not easy to clean up. But, I can say with total honesty, as I was on my knees wiping up the blood left behind by my loved one, I did so with a reverence I never could’ve understood before. As I cleaned and his blood was on my hands, I was caught away into his life. I was reminded of how much I wish I could touch his hand and put my arm around him whole and healed. Beloved, because of the blood that Jesus shed that day on the cross, one day we will, indeed, be reunited in wholeness. But for now we anticipate that day. And this particular day, because of my love for this man, I was cleaning up this scene and I found this blood flow to be very precious.
I’m also reminded of a story that a former pastor of mine used to tell of a father that lost his son in a car accident. After preaching the funeral, he went to find the father to let him know that he was available if he needed to talk. After walking all through the crowd looking for the man, he couldn’t find him. It was later revealed that he was found on the street where the accident had happened. He had taken his suit coat off that he had worn to the funeral and was using it to flag cars around the spot where his son had been thrown from the car and bled onto the street. This blood stain that had flowed from the body of his son was precious, and with great agony he was trying to tell others so they would not defile it.
The blood of Jesus is a paradox to the carnal eye. Blood is a nasty, yucky substance that we see in scary movies. But to the believer and follower of Jesus, His blood is a precious, beautiful symbol of love. 1 Peter 1:17-21 explains that because Jesus was willing to die on the cross for us, we can have a living and life-altering relationship with our Lord God.
This is all my hope and peace… this is all my righteousness
Our hope is found in the foundational truth that Jesus shed His blood for us. While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us so that we may have eternal life with Him for His glory (Romans 5:8). Edward Mote put it this way in 1834, “My hope is built on nothing less that Jesus’ blood and righteousness”
My friends, if you are reading this, when was the last time you truly thought of the sacrifice made for you? The price for our salvation cost our Lord everything. The precious blood of Jesus is our foundation and our hope. When the Father looks at us, He sees the blood of His Son covering our sin. Hebrews 10:19 says that we are able to freely approach and enter the Holy of Holies, the presence of God Himself, because of the sin atoning power of the blood of Christ. Just like death passed over the children of Israel that had put the blood over their door posts (Exodus 12:13-28), eternal death and separation cannot touch those who have applied this life-giving blood to their lives.
So, we are now presented with this true “paradox of contradiction.” And we are left trying to see the big picture. There is no logical explanation, that is, until we look at it from the heart with spiritual eyes. God turned what was the tragedy of the ages into the ultimate love story. If Adam had been faithful, like the girl in the Chicago song, we would not have this opportunity to experience the love of Jesus’ sacrifice. That’s not to say we wouldn’t know His love in some other capacity, but this example has now been made of paramount importance to us as Christians.
Has our Lord, in the fullness of all of His creation, ever given us a more powerful example of His Love? Never. Will there ever be a more striking and sobering picture of grace? Never! Is there anything down through the ages that will ever be more tangible proof of His compassion? Nothing! Nothing but the blood of Jesus!