Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Text: Thomas O. Chisholm (1866-1960) Tune: C. Harold Lowden (1883-1963)
1. Living for Jesus, a life that is true, Striving to please Him in all that I do; Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free, This is the pathway of blessing for me. R/O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee, For Thou, in Thy atonement, didst give Thyself for me; I own no other Master, my heart shall be Thy throne; My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for Thee alone.
2. Living for Jesus Who died in my place, Bearing on Calv’ry my sin and disgrace; Such love constrains me to answer His call, Follow His leading and give Him my all.
3. Living for Jesus, wherever I am, Doing each duty in His holy Name; Willing to suffer affliction and loss, Deeming each trial a part of my cross.
4. Living for Jesus through earth’s little while, My dearest treasure, the light of His smile; Seeking the lost ones He died to redeem, Bringing the weary to find rest in Him.
MEDITATION Just the first notes of this old chestnut bring up memories of fresh-faced youth singing their hearts out in a youth choir at Luther League conventions in the forties and fifties. We loved especially the high obligato on the refrain. My father would often be the director and would have them hold on the last line of the refrain, “Henceforth to LIVE….” It was thrilling, especially for those of us who came from small congregations with small young people’s groups to be in such a large group singing.
One year we had packed up the DeSoto coup with three teenagers and drove from Rugby down to Medicine Lake MN to a camp where the Lutheran Free Church Luther Leaguers would gather. My little sister was squeezed into the front seat—this was back before seat belts—and I sat on the laps of the three kids in the back. We won the prize for the most leaguers from our size congregation.
Those meetings under the leadership of Merton Strommen and the youth department were life changing for many a young person. To live for Jesus, that was the challenge. They were given pocket testaments and other challenges to stay close to the Lord. Many dedicated themselves to church vocations, many found life time mates—one of the unstated goals of the convention if you asked Strommen—and others turned their lives around in significant ways we did not know, but they would testify later, made all the difference.
Then came the late sixties and as someone said, we went from "Living for Jesus" to "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore." Lutherans began to stress baptism instead of commitments to live for Jesus. It was a sea change. In compiling the Lutheran Book of Worship in 1973-1976, we left out hymns like "Living for Jesus" (which was not in any previous American Lutheran
hymnal, but in the songbooks) and looked for hymns on the sacraments: baptism and communion. It was in effect a turning from Lutheran pietism to a Lutheranism that some said hatched, matched and dispatched its members with the rites of passage: birth, marriage and death without challenging the youngsters to living a life committed to living for Jesus. Merton Strommen, who died recently at 100, regretted this change very much.
It made the Lutheran churches less able to appeal to Americans who understood conversion from several great awakenings. Americans could connect with Lutheran pietists in that way. They could not with the Lutheranism of the establishment churches from the old country.
When we moved to Oregon in 1954, our little LFC church in Salem grew quickly from 250 to 600 because we were one of the Lutheran churches in the city who still preached conversion and the holy life. Most of the population in Salem at the time had southern roots, there was even a little twang in Oregonian speech that scholars said came from the Okies and Arkies who moved there during the depression, bringing their Baptist and evangelical connections with them.
When at sixteen I began working in the canneries with many of them I would ask if they knew what a Lutheran was. They would wonder, isn’t it like Catholics? They didn’t think I was saved and were surprised that I could talk their talk. If a little chilly, I could be included in their list of Christians.
As my colleagues in church history would say, when we wondered about this change, institutions can turn on a dime and become quite different from what they had been at the beginning.
Later when I began teaching at Luther Seminary, some students would be yearning for a place where they could live their faith experientially. I would tell them about "Living for Jesus" and this story. They wanted the pietism of their grandparents, I would tell them. It is ever thus. As the saying goes, What grandchildren and grandparents have in common is the same enemy. A good many of them went on to become successful leaders in lively congregations that grew and flourished because they challenged their members, especially their youth, to live for Jesus and give themselves to him. It was a pathway of blessing for many.
Lowden wrote this tune in 1915 for a text that was something of a trifle, he said. When someone suggested it should be used for a better text, he sent the tune to Chisholm who had not written a hymn text before. He rejected the request, but after Lowden continued to press him, he finally came up with this text. Chisholm had been born in Franklin, Kentucky, on a farm. He taught in local schools and began editing a paper. After a conversion experience in his mid-twenties he moved to editing a regional magazine, the Pentecostal Herald. He became a pastor in 1903. His goal was to include as much Scripture as he could in his hymn texts. One can see that in this text, but even more so in his more enduring hymn, "Great is Thy Faithfulness". Lowden continued writing hymn tunes until his death.
Andrew Remillard--with the descant
Rosemary Clooney--start at 2:51
Old Fashioned Revival Hour Singers
A Cappella hymns—sing along https://youtu.be/Jn-czHr13FE
Eden Symphony Orchestra
Cedar College of Education Choir at KwaSizabantu Mission in South Africa.
Piano version https://youtu.be/R2nt0d86RYM