Forty-five years ago to this day—Aug. 18, 1969—the Woodstock music festival concluded. Its half-million attendees signified a changing America. Joni Mitchell wasn’t there but later wrote the most famous song about the event. Some key lyrics:
I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me …
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free.
Christians could agree with that: We are children of God. We are pilgrims walking along a road. We want our souls to be freed from Satan’s power. But here’s the key refrain:
We are stardust
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.”
Yes, we are caught in the devil’s bargain. But we can’t skip by the sour note: “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
A less-known songwriter, Robert Lowry, had a better fix on our only hope in 1876 when he wrote a great hymn, “Nothing But the Blood.” Here is its first verse:
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Lowry wrote that our pardon and cleansing from sin depend on Christ’s blood. Our atonement for sin, and our hope and peace, depend on Christ’s blood. Our overcoming and our ability to reach home depend on Christ’s blood.
The contrast between the two songs could not be clearer. We cannot in our own power get our souls free. We cannot get ourselves back to the Garden. The drugs of Woodstock 45 years ago, instead of breaking the devil’s chains, often added to them. The songs of Woodstock 45 years ago did not break that devil’s bargain; they increased our illusions. We can give erring Woodstock credit for trying. We should give Jesus honor for dying.