Friday, June 6, 2008

Like Nails on a Chalkboard to Me

That's how I'd describe the song"We Shall Overcome." The anthem of the Civil Rights Movement was loosely based on an earlier hymn, but it in itself should not ever, in my opinion, be considered a Christian spiritual given its lack of focus on the person and work of the Overcomer, Jesus Christ, who redeems His people from sin and death and raises them to new life. It's also extremely gauzy and vague (see lyrics at bottom of post) and hence not very encouraging, scripturally speaking, for a hymn.

Here are my objections:

1) We can't overcome anything (sin, death, our guilt before a holy God who justly judges us for our sin) apart from our union with Christ.
2) The best corresponding biblical passage I can think of for this song is from Revelation 12:7-12, which makes clear the saints overcome by the "blood of the Lamb [Christ's atoning work] and by the word of their testimony [the Gospel]."
3) While it is true that one day we shall see the ultimate establishment of universal peace and justice under Christ in a new heaven and new earth, this is a victory already obtained by Christ at the cross, hence it is more proper for Christians to remember that and celebrate it in the past and present tense, just as Paul does in his letter to the Colossian church (2:13-15):

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities [2] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. [3]


1.

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day

CHORUS:

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

2.

We'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand some day
CHORUS

3.

We shall all be free
We shall all be free
We shall all be free some day
CHORUS

4.

We are not afraid
We are not afraid
We are not afraid some day
CHORUS

5.

We are not alone
We are not alone
We are not alone some day
CHORUS

6.

The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around some day
CHORUS

7.

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day
CHORUS

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