WHERE CROSS THE CROWDED WAYS OF LIFE
Franklin Mason North, 1850–1935
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalm 82:3, 4)
Henry David Thoreau, noted American writer, philosopher, and naturalist of the past 19th century, once described the large city as “a place where people are lonely together.” This loneliness is not the result of an absence of people; rather, it is due to a lack of genuine caring relationships.
If Thoreau’s observation was true in the past, it has become increasingly true in the present, and the prediction is that it will become alarmingly more so in the near future. In 1950 there were only seven cities in the world with more than five million people. Only two of these were in the Third World. Today there are 34 cities with more than five million people, 22 of which are in the Third World. And by the middle of the 21st century, there will be nearly 100 cities with at least five million people, with 80 of these in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Twenty percent of the world’s population will be living in the slums and squatter settlements of Third World countries.
The author of this text, Franklin North, was a Methodist minister in New York City. He wrote this hymn in response to a request from the Methodist hymnal committee for a hymn about big city life, which Pastor North knew well and to which he was most sympathetic. The hymn first appeared in 1903 in the publication The Christian City, of which North was the editor. God help us to be people with sensitivity and compassion.
Where cross the crowded ways of life, where sound the cries of race and clan, above the noise of selfish strife, we hear Thy voice, O Son of man!
The cup of water giv’n for Thee still holds the freshness of Thy grace; yet long these multitudes to see the sweet compassion of Thy face.
O Master, from the mountain side, make haste to heal these hearts of pain; among these restless throngs abide; O tread the city streets again:
Till sons of men shall learn Thy love and follow where Thy feet have trod; till glorious, from Thy heav’n above, shall come the city of our God.
For Today: Zechariah 7:8–10; Matthew 10:42; 22:9; Luke 4:18; 1 Peter 2:21
Determine to become better acquainted with a person from another culture or race. Perhaps invite him or her to your home for dinner. Ask God to help you think globally, to understand and accept a multicultural world. Reflect on these musical thoughts as you go—