Hymn: “Grace Greater Than Our Sin” – Julia H. Johnston (1849-1919)
I got into trouble with this hymn one Sunday morning when I was serving First Baptist Church in Kingston, Tennessee. It was the day after the Tennessee Volunteers lost to Alabama in nearby Knoxville. Much to my embarrassment, we stood and sang, “Look, there is flowing a crimson tide.” Yes, there was an audible response from the congregation!
Today’s hymn-line points out a truth about ourselves that we don’t necessarily want to face up to: we are sinful people by nature. We may be able to hide/cover-up that embedded nature to our fellow humans, but we cannot hide it from our all-knowing, all-seeing Maker.
I read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel The Scarlet Letter years ago and have seen a couple of movies and stage plays based on the story. It would have been a popular read during Julia Johnston’s life, so it may have played into her writing of this hymn-line. That emblazoned “A” certainly comes to my mind every time I sing this hymn.
After hearing a church-lady go on and on. complaining about a street person who had attended a worship service in a downtown city church – how he reeked of alcohol and tobacco – a very wise gentleman said to her, “I thank God my sin doesn’t smell.”
All of us have sinned and continue to miss the mark; some of us miss it less frequently than perhaps we used to! I am indeed glad that I am not forced to have my shame embroidered on my clothing; I am equally glad that my iniquity is not odorous. I am allowed to work out my sinfulness privately before God.
Amazingly, there is a grace that flows like a crimson tide, cleansing even the darkest stain left behind by our most grievous indiscretions. This marvelous, infinite, matchless grace is pouring forth freely from yonder on Calvary’s mount. We need to be reminded of this.
So, walk past the cosmetics counter; stop trying to cover up your sin blemishes. Head instead toward that Old Rugged Cross and allow yourself to be covered once again by the outpoured grace that is greater than all our sin.