And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay, never, no more
And I’ll play the wild rover
No never, no more
- Refrain of the Traditional Irish Drinking Song, Wild Rover (authorship contested)
My wife and I were on the road a few days ago. She insisted that she play three Irish music CDs while she was driving. We were both getting bored.
I now have the refrain from Wild Rover as an ear worm. Over and over and over. Don’t you just love ear worms?
This Irish song is one of the top Irish songs, being recorded by a multitude of artists. It talks about an Irishman that found his fortune and came home, his pockets full of gold. The refrain ties to the last verse where he wants his parents to accept his declaration of repentance – in a way. But is it?
I once saw a video of the Clancy Brothers singing the song. Liam Clancy introduced it with an interesting thought. He said that whoever composed it had a twisted sense of humor. He gave a brief English grammar lesson about a double negative (or even numbered multiple) being a positive. (I won’t never do that. = I will do that.) He then suggested that the audience count the negatives in the refrain for added enjoyment of the song. (now, crossing over into a math lesson).
At the end of the first time singing the refrain, the audience bursts out laughing (in the video). If this was the composer’s intent, there are ten negatives. Thus, the ‘repentant’ wild rover is saying that forevermore he will continue being a wild rover.
It now has dawned on me that there is more than a grammar lesson and a math lesson in this refrain. Let’s look at philosophy or theology. Do we ever ‘repent’ of our sins using multiple negatives in our confession and declaration of repentance? Do we think that God can’t count? We might fool our loved ones. We might even fool our English teacher. But we aren’t giving ourselves leeway to return to our sin by making our declaration of repentance muddy with multiple negatives or any other method of obfuscation.
As I mentioned in the post of “Studying the Commandments,” sin is relational just as salvation by Grace establishes a new relationship with God. Anything that harms that new relationship is sin. What is needed to move from the sin relationship to the other relationship is repentance, turning around and heading in the opposite direction.
In 1 Kings 8, King Solomon prays to dedicate the Temple. In verse 47, he suggests that when someone has been cast out due to wrongdoing, they can and should be restored after they repent. In 2 Chronicles 32:36, Hezekiah repented of his pride, and God postponed the collapse of the nation of Judah until after the reign of Hezekiah. Job is admonished by his friends to repent (Job 34:33 and others). Isaiah states that salvation is found in repentance (Is. 30:15). Jeremiah states that restoration can occur after repentance (Jer. 15:19).
In the New Testament, John the Baptist calls for repentance (Matthew 3:2). Jesus continues this trend in Matthew 4:17 and denounces towns that were unrepentant (Matthew 11:20). Repentance is still required. Peter calls for all to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38).
Martin Luther’s first thesis states, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
Repentance is not an option.
Oswald Chambers suggests this:
“The proper perspective of a servant of God must not simply be as near to the highest as he can get, but it must be the highest. Be careful that you vigorously maintain God’s perspective, and remember that it must be done every day, little by little. Don’t think on a finite level. No outside power can touch the proper perspective.”
Now we know what was meant by the title of Chambers’ book, My Utmost for His Highest. Note that no outside power can touch God’s highest. It is only through God working within us that we have the power to take the first step.
Repent. Be baptized, and enter into a new relationship with God with no confusing declarations and no multiple negatives.