Where did the theme of A Beautiful Exchange come from? What does it mean to the church and why is it important for the church to engage in a beautiful exchange?
'Beautiful Exchange' was a song that felt truly inspired…...Initially I started writing the song Easter 2009. I wanted to write a new song for Good Friday and at the time I had been speaking to Pastor Robert Fergusson about the concept of exchange. The thought so summarises the gospel, and how we in response are called to live a life of worship.
While some of the thoughts were on paper at Easter, it wasn't until September, whilst in Indonesia, that the song really came together. On the back of working for so long on the I-HEART film, I took two weeks out to surf and get away from everything off Sumatra in Indonesia. It was only once I got back to relative civilisation in Bali, that I couldn't do anything but write... I wrote eight songs in four days and 'Beautiful Exchange' was the first one that came out...
The emphasis is on what Christ achieved on the cross... The Great Exchange: ‘Trading His life for our offenses, for our redemption He carried all the blame, breaking the curse of our condition, perfection took our place.’
Initially I thought the song would work as a series of stanzas…and there was another verse that carried the thought of exchange. I knew that the song needed a 'B' section and the chorus came to me while surfing…’When only Love could make a way / You gave Your life in a beautiful exchange.’
But was it really a "beautiful" exchange? Is the cross an object of beauty? The cross is a paradoxical symbol - What was a symbol of shame, failure and death is now a symbol of hope, freedom and life. It was messy and ugly in every way - but so were our lives. I love that the title is a paradox of thought.
It seemed necessary to make it clear that what Jesus did on the cross was demonstrate His love and that in response to that demonstration, His desire is for us is to love Him and others in the same way....
I knew the melody was in a strange place for the chorus and though I thought it would work to sing it low (for a boy) it made sense to do it with a girl vocal.
The verses and chorus were now all set and felt like they communicated clearly the "beautiful exchange" that Jesus achieved on the cross; A holy and righteous God stepped down into our shoes to die our death and give us life. The song, however, would not be complete without clearly declaring 'our' response. I tried a few different tags, but none seem to really feel right. It wasn't til’ I was home in Australia and I was driving to sound check that the tag dropped. I wasn't planning on doing the song, but the entire drive to the church I was singing "Holy are You God, holy is Your Name, with everything I've got, my heart will sing "how I love You".
That is our response and our exchange. To lay down our lives to bring Him glory. Whatever it takes, whatever the cost.
I arrived at sound check and wrote the lyrics down. The band jumped on it and we lead it that very night. The church just kind of soaked it in, but as soon as we got to the bridge, it took off. I feel like the journey of the song serves to remind us of what it's all about and creates such a platform of passion and authenticity when people get to sing about our collective response to His sacrifice...
The prayer is that it brings us back to who Jesus is. A personal God. The ultimate demonstration of humility and Love. That we are drawn into a deeper understanding of grace and that while our response is sacrificial…God desires mercy on our behalf. To love Him and to do that through showing mercy and love to others.
It might get messy and ugly…But it's living for that exchange that will make the story of our lives and the greater Church truly beautiful.
- Joel Houston via Hillsong Live