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Behind the Song: The Face of Jesus

NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis recently interviewed Elissa and Becca about “The Face of Jesus”…

Elissa and Becca, as a band you have been in partnership with Compassion International since 2008. You were also Compassion sponsors before then. Please tell me how you became sponsors and what effect your partnership with Compassion has had with regard to your ministry as a band.

Becca: For as long as I can remember our parents have sponsored a child through Compassion International–for as long or longer than I have been alive. I remember sitting around our kitchen table, talking about our sponsored child and praying for her. Our parents’ commitment to that sponsorship was really inspiring. Even when there were hard times financially they were faithful, which really was an example for us. It was so natural once we began to pursue a music ministry full time to partner with Compassion. It felt like we had always been in partnership with Compassion.

Please tell me the personal story behind writing your song “The Face of Jesus” based on your missions trip to El Salvador.

Elissa: Our trip to El Salvador is something I will never forget. I remember different things about the trip–specific things like how hot it was and my first impression of walking into the homes of children. The depth of the poverty and the reality of just how uncomfortable the living conditions were remain vivid for me. The trip changed my perspective of sponsorship. As Becca was saying, from the time we were children our family has sponsored a child, so my understanding of Compassion was through the lens of a sponsor. We got to meet our sponsored child on this trip and meeting her face to face was life-changing and beautiful. Our sponsored child is five years old. Her face was beaming just seeing us. It was really special, and we felt like we had finally met our little sister. That’s what it feels like to be part of the body of Christ, we are all family as brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world.

I began trying to write the song “The Face of Jesus” from the moment we returned from El Salvador. There were so many experiences that I found it really hard to write. It took me awhile to sort out all of the various encounters and things we had seen we had our trip. What began to stand out in my mind out was a young girl, Lisa, whom I had met, and the effect Compassion was having in her life, which went far beyond sponsorship. I met her at a center where Compassion has a Child Survival Program.

Lisa was young, only 15, and she was pregnant. It was impossible for me to imagine how I would have felt in that situation, but as I looked at Lisa surrounded by staff from the center her face radiated peace. She knew that she, and the baby she was carrying, would be cared for. In that moment I knew the hands and feet of Jesus were reaching out to her through the center staff. I began writing the song with Lisa in mind and the first verse is about that experience. I approached her and asked if we could pray for her. Her face made such an impact on me. She was just beaming with hope which just blew me away. She had been touched by the hands and feet of Jesus, and she was shining. I realized I could also be the hands and feet of Jesus, to touch others in need around the world. The song, then, became a labor of love. There was so much I could have said. And I had to wade through a lot of thoughts and memories and work to come to the focus of what I wanted to say.

Please tell me about any Bible verses that you used to write the song.

Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” and Matthew 25:40: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.’”

What do you consider to be the takeaway message for listeners?

Elissa: Our trip to El Salvador, Compassion took on a whole new level; it became more than reaching my specific sponsored child, but reaching her entire community. As we visited local churches and the child development centers we had the opportunity to meet pastors and center staff and see their passion and heart for their communities. It was incredible! I really feel the song says everything I wanted to convey; it conveys a sense of urgency, that we can’t simply sit on our hands and wait for other people. Jesus has called us to be active in our faith and have compassion for other people. The love of God needs to be our motivation. It’s easy to be inspired by the amount of work that needs to be done. A lot of people care about social justice, but if we aren’t motivated by the love of God, we are just doing works of kindness. In the song, I really want people to focus on how to be the face of Jesus, not their own efforts, in serving others.

Becca: I agree with Elissa. Here in America we try to imagine what living in poverty is like. We have a picture on a child packet, of a little boy or little girl, but we don’t see the depth of impact this one sponsorship has. We don’t have a chance to see all the other people Compassion is helping through sponsorship. When you go into your child’s world you have the chance to see the impact. It is like all of a sudden you are seeing things in 3D. From that trip, I have felt God laying it on my heart to think of others more and to put the needs of others ahead of my own. That’s a big challenge to us as believers. People matter so much to God. When we capture His heart, we understand God better and can be His hands and feet. A big part is our motivation. If we are motivated by love, and we’ve felt the love of God and know He loves us and loves the world. From that motivation we reach out and help people in need. That’s where we will see real change. That changes hearts. This song came out of our hearts after seeing real poverty and asks God what can I do? We each have a different part to play in God’s story.

Lyrics:

In El Salvador’s streets I met a young girl half my age

With a baby inside her I feared for her future

But her eyes caught mine

Much to my surprise, the greatest hope was written on her face

It was Jesus, Jesus, a shelter from every raging storm

Jesus, Jesus, his grace will heal the pain of any thorn

We are His hands of mercy

 To reach out in His Name

Your life could be the way

They finally see the face

Of Jesus

There’s a young boy nearby, who just lost his mother this year

He’s an orphan who’s hoping that the world will get brighter

When his eyes caught mine,

his joy began to rise, the greatest love was written on my face

See how the arms of Jesus are open wide, they’re open wide

So to be like Him we will give our lives, we’ll give our lives

To show them Christ, to show them

IVP Bible commentary: “Matthew’s final discourse approximately balances the first discourse in length and concludes with the same summary statement as the other discourses: “When Jesus had finished saying all these things” (26:1). But whereas Jesus’ first sermon in Matthew opens with blessings for the meek (5:3-12), his last opens with woes against the religious elite. Jesus here condemns much of the religious leadership of His and Matthew’s day. Judgment against both the religious teachers (scribes and Pharisees) and the temple blend together with the final judgment in this final sermon of the Gospel. Matthew’s audience, probably facing increasing pressure from the religious elite of their own day, would have heard in these warnings cause for hope. At the same time, scribes and Pharisees are hardly the address’s main audience; these words function instead to warn Christians. The explicit audience, as in the first discourse section, consists of both disciples and crowds. Sometimes Christian preachers have caricatured Pharisaic piety to avoid the demands that Jesus’ condemnations otherwise would make on Christians today. Just as judgment separated true from false religion at Jesus’ first coming, it would do the same at his second, laying bare the hearts of church leaders.”

Each song on By Faith clearly and prayerfully reflects a worshipful response to God, with catchy music and lyrics. All of the songs include encouraging takeaway messages. Elissa and Becca are truly anointed singer-songwriters and I love singing this song along with these talented sisters at the top of my lungs.

If you like songs that are filled with biblical truth and enjoy bands like Point of Grace and BarlowGirl with female harmonies, then look no further than The Sonflowerz. This album is filled with great harmonies, vertical worship lyrics and every song is an offering of praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus. I greatly enjoy the story-song “The Face of Jesus,” which starts with a description of an expectant mother and a young boy who lost his mother each finding the greatest love written on their faces in a “pay it forward” style message declaring: “Jesus, Jesus, a shelter from every raging storm, Jesus, Jesus, His grace will heal the pain of any thorn, we are His hands and mercy, to reach out in His name, your life can be the way to finally see the face of Jesus.” Great song and great message.

I think we forget those words quite often as followers of Jesus by keeping Him to ourselves. That is probably due to our shame over our own sinful natures and concern that others will consider our actions hypocrisy if they really know us. The Good News of the Gospel is that we don’t have to pretend we’ve got it all together. That is certainly an area of sin in my life. I find myself wondering how I can “do” more to earn love from God and people. Only in the Name of Jesus and putting our faith in His sacrifice on our behalf can we be free from sin, shame and hypocrisy. In identifying with our sin, Christ paved the way for us to become identified with the righteousness of God. It is not merely that we acquire a right standing or do good works; we actually become righteous–although the latter may well presume the former.

For in Christ we truly assume His righteousness, just as Christ assumed our sin. It is commanded by Jesus in Matthew 5:16 to “let your light shine” so that others may praise God based on seeing the power of His life in us. Sometimes we forget to give Jesus credit for our freedom and accomplishments. We need to celebrate that freedom with our hands reaching out to others in Christ and show His light in us and let Him shine in us.

In closing, be encouraged by the light of Jesus shining in all of us based on our faith in Him. Personally I am very moved knowing that Jesus is shining in me for all to see and believe. While listening to this song I am challenged to practice “letting our light shine so that others may praise our Father in Heaven.” That’s how we can show God in us to others. Also, look for God in the “least of these” as Jesus tells us, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”

Posted March 20, 2012 | NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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