The This I Know People

August 4, 2017
by Judith Welch

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (RSV)

Last month, my friend, Anne, and I chose Jesus Loves Me as the topic for our children's sermon. It has been said that Jesus Loves Me is one of the best-loved Christian children's hymns around the world.

So many interesting stories surround the history of Jesus Loves Me. One such story is that the famous Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth, was asked in 1962 if he could explain Christianity in a few words. He replied, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

However, the story behind this hymn is really a tale of two sisters. Anna and Susan Warner lived in New York in the 1800s. When their father, a well-known lawyer, lost most of his holdings in the depression of 1837, the family moved to what had been their summer home on Constitution Island in the Hudson River across from West Point, the US Military Academy. Their summer home became the family's permanent residence.

At that time, The Reverend Thomas Warner, Anna and Susan's uncle, was the chaplain at West Point. Both girls then began teaching Sunday school classes to the cadets, and they continued teaching for 50 years. Neither Anna nor Susan ever married.

In order to supplement their family's income, the sisters used their writing talents. Anna wrote poetry, and Susan wrote novels. While Susan was writing a novel entitled Say and Seal, she asked Anna to write a poem that the father in her story could read to his young son, who was terminally ill, to allay his fear of dying. The poem Anna wrote, Jesus Loves Me, contained three verses, just twelve lines. She based her poem on John 3:16.

During America's civil war, the poem, Jesus Loves Me, was prayed in homes, in churches, and on battlefields. In 1861, William Bradbury, a music publisher and choir director, added music to the poem. He also added a four-line chorus to be sung between the verses. Since that time, many have changed the verses or added new verses, but Anna's original version can be found on Wikipedia.

Missionaries of many denominations have used the simple but beautiful song to teach the gospel to new Christians all around the world. Another story tells that when Christians in China were being persecuted during the rise of communism in 1949, a group of Christians wanted to tell other Christians outside China's borders that they were all right. They were able to do so by writing a letter using the words, "The this I know people are well." The censors allowed the letters to go through because the communist officials thought the phrase nonsensical and meaningless.

The next time that you hear or sing Jesus Loves Me, just think of how this children's hymn has helped to teach the gospel of God's love. Do you consider yourself to be one of "the this I know people"?

Prayer: Father, we praise and thank You for the talents of poetry writing and music that You have given to people to spread in simple but beautiful ways the good news that, indeed, Your Son, Jesus Christ, loves us. Help each of us to use whatever talent that You have given to us to spread Your love. It is in Jesus' holy name that we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Judith Welch <judithwelch12@gmail.com>
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.


    Beautiful piece, Judith, and a great reminder.


    Thanks for sharing. I found this really interesting.


    Thanks Judith,
    This devotion really spoke to me.


    Thank you, Judith, for your Devotional today.
    I have been greatly blessed by the supporting information.


    Thank you so much for sharing that. I was once at a gathering where a biker gave his testimony and that was his favourite hymn! Blessings.


    Thank you, Judith, for sharing this interesting and informative devotional with us. I had no idea there was so much history behind the first hymn I learned. Blessings.


    Thank you so much for your devotional and the wonderful story behind “Jesus Loves Me” and how the author wrote it and how it was used. It is wonderful to know and think of how we need to be “This I Know People.”


    Thanks for a great devotional history lesson Judith. I can never sing this favourite hymn without crying. Truly it is amazing how God can use the truth in words to touch our lives.
    Blessings.


    Re: Jesus Loves Me.
    Will try to have our congregation sing original version at beginning of our service, and the 2nd version later.
    At 77, really do prefer the old hymns, this one especially.
    Thanks for your contribution to the Presbyterian Devotional.


    Good evening Judith,
    Just a quick note to express to you my delight in reading your devotional today. I never knew the story behind this wonderful little hymn. God has certainly blessed you with the ability to share His love through your devotionals.
    Blessings.


    Greetings Judith,
    Loved your devotional this morning. Brought back memories of early childhood Sunday school days when we used to belt out that song. When we do Church service at a Senior’s care facility they often request “Jesus Loves Me” and they all remember the words so well. Knowing the love of Jesus is so comforting.
    Lord’s blessings to you,
    (B.C.)


    Thank you for sharing this info about the hymn Jesus loves me.


    Beautiful, Judith.
    I wondered what weird error had crept into the title when first I saw it.
    Now I’m glad to be one WITH the “THIS I KNOW PEOPLE”
    Keep writing, Judith, for Jesus’ sake — to spread his love.
    Thanks.


    Judith,
    Thank you so much for this story about the song Jesus Loves Me. I sang this song many times during my 70+ years on earth. It reaches the soul of each of us. And often reminds me of my childhood in church.
    Thanks for your contributions to this prayer line.


    What a beautiful devotional with wonderful information concerning the life of the Warner sisters and the lovely old hymn, ” Jesus Love Me”… How blessed we are He does love and cares for us.
    It’s amazing how the Lord often uses, what we consider, a tragedy in our lives, to be a blessing to we who endure the hurt and those we come in contact with as we journey through life after the incident.
    Like my dad would say, “you often have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to know the hurt one feels” and be ready to console them during their trying times in life. I am sure the hymn penned by Ms. Warner did bring comfort and assurance to many, young and old alike.
    Thank you for the lovely devotional.


    Thank you Judith for the devotional and story. I am going through some health issues and it is comforting to know that Jesus loves me. God bless you.


    As soon as I read this I had an “ahah” moment and tucked it away. I lead a worship service twice a year at the hospital for the floor where those waiting for a nursing home reside. Jesus Loves me is a favorite hymn that they request and was the impetus for my message on God’s love and our praise. Thank you so much for sharing. I had heard the first story before but not the one about the two sisters. Thank you.

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