This is the last post in the What is Love? series, based on 1 John 4.
To download a 14-day Bible study to accompany these devotions, click here.
Jesus loves me—this I know, For the Bible tells me so.
Most of us learned that simple refrain as children, but do you know of the story behind it? It all starts with a couple of sisters living in New York during one of the hardest periods of American history.
A Tough Move
There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still. ~
Anna Bartlett Warner was born in August 1827 on Long Island. Her daddy, Henry, was a wealthy lawyer in New York City, but he lost most of his fortune in the Depression of 1837, so the family moved to their summer home on Constitution Island in the Hudson River. Here, in this beautiful home on the river, Anna and her sister Susan began to write stories.
West Point sat across the river from their home. Anna had a missionary’s heart, and more than anything, she wanted to share Jesus. And so she and Susan taught Bible classes at West Point.
As the 1840s passed and the 50s took hold, rumors of war became more persistent. Anna knew that if the Southern states withdrew from the Union like they were threatening, many of the young men that she saw at West Point would be called to the battlefield, probably dying before they really lived. A nation on the brink of war imparted great urgency to Anna, and sharing Christ’s love became her life’s mission.
Jesus loves me
Her mission carried over into her writing, and in 1860, Anna and Susan published a story called Say and Seal. It’s a tale about a widow and her daughter who take in the town’s new schoolteacher. Unexpectedly, this very Christian man changes their lives forever. It was one of the best-selling fiction books across the country in 1860.
About a third of the way through the story, a child lays dying. Nothing can be done to ease his pain or extend his life. And so Mr. Linden, the schoolteacher, looks into the lad’s eyes and says:
Jesus loves me—this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to him belong,—
They are weak, but he is strong.
Jesus loves me—loves me still,
Though I’m very weak and ill;
From his shining throne on high,
Comes to watch me where I lie.
Jesus loves me—he will stay,
Close beside me all the way.
Then his little child will take,
Up to heaven for his dear sake.
Jesus Loves Me Set to Music
The words of Anna’s poem were an instant favorite and memorized by many across the country. In 1862, with the country fully embroiled in civil war, William Bradbury, part owner of a leading piano company and an accomplished composer of songs—like Sweet Hour of Prayer and On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand—added a childlike melody to Anna’s words and a simplistic chorus.
His company published it and sent it through its network. And both sides of a divided country sang on the battlefield and in the drawing room of Jesus and His love for us.
But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is costly because it involves sacrifice and presence. It’s a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright. ~
Can you imagine? In a country so divided that brother stood against brother, they could still remember and agree: Jesus loves me—this I know, For the Bible tells me so.
After this 9-week series, I hope those words have fresh meaning for you. A deeper meaning to you.
No matter where you are, no matter what you are facing, remember the truth behind Anna and Susan’s word.
Jesus loves you—this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Enjoying this series? You can purchase the study that includes discussion questions to make this all very personal and help you grow in love. It’s downloadable, so print only the pages you want. And it’s only $2!
What is love? We can give examples of love and talk about being in love, but what exactly is it? Do we have a defining moment, an ideal expression to live up to or look for? The apostle John goes deep into love in 1 John chapter 4, telling us exactly what love is.
This 14-day study includes questions to help you define what you think love is and what God may want you to do or change. Download is printable and formatted for half sheets of standard paper (5.5″ x 8.5″).