Robert Timpson's hymn was written in response to war in Syria © 2017 iStockphoto LP

1. We turn to you in our despair,
Why all the hunger, fear, and blood?
All-loving God, we know you care:
You made the world, you call it good.
And in our pain, we see you here;
Incarnate God, forever near.
You suffer with us on the cross:
Love, peace, forgiveness, are the Way.

2. Pursued to death, your words were plain:
“Father, forgive”, they heard you cry;
Rejecting wrath, enduring pain,
You broke the strength of evil’s way.
We turn to violence and to war;
We bless the rich, exploit the poor.
The empty tomb makes all things new:
Love, peace, forgiveness, are the Way.

3. So we respond – the call is clear:
We love because you first loved us!
Pour out your Spirit: let us hear;
Help us to act as Jesus does.
We look with hope towards the day
When you will wipe all tears away,
But know our task begins today:
Love, peace, forgiveness, are the Way.

Words: © Robert Timpson

Metre: 88.88.D

Tune: In Christ alone (StF 351)

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As one member of the StF hymn submissions group commented: “These words address questions people ask.” Questions about God and suffering are perhaps the most pointed and difficult challenges with which Christians are asked to engage when expressing their faith. “If God exists, how can that happen?” “Surely such actions are proof that there is no God – or if he IS there, he doesn’t care.” And Christian people, like anyone else, have also had “questions without answers”, “known sorrow”, “known pain”, as Tim Hughes puts it (StF 632).

Martin Luther - another writer who confronted a world with "all devils o'er" (StF 623)

Robert Timpson follows in a long line of hymn writers who, like the psalmists, balance joyful worship of God with the painful feelings we often have about the world around us. Many such hymns may be found in the substantial Conflict, Suffering and Doubt section of Singing the Faith – from Martin Luther’s “The ancient prince of hell / hath risen with purpose fell” (i.e. “cruel”) (StF 623) and Jan Berry’s voices crying in the dark (StF 625) to Martin Leckebusch’s “circumstances” that “make my life / too hard to understand” (StF 641).

Robert notes that this particular hymn was written “partly in response to recent events in Syria – thinking especially of the question of where God is in such suffering. I've tried to capture a range of perspectives on how the incarnation, cross and resurrection help us not only to cope with suffering, but also to make a practical response to bringing about God's kingdom.”

As he observes in verse 3, the key Christian response is to “love because you first loved us!” (v.3). It is this response to injustice and pain that he draws from the example of Jesus – a life and death in which forgiveness is all (v.2). In ways we may not fully understand, “Love, peace, forgiveness” descend along with Jesus’ bloody corpse from the cross, and emerge with his risen body from the tomb. If that is possible, then it is possible also for us to neuter violence, depart from war, and upturn injustice. Not easy – but possible:

“our task begins today:
Love, peace, forgiveness, are the Way.”