What I've Done--Let Mercy Come
A Quick Music Discussion Guide for Parents
The Song: “What I’ve Done” by Linkin Park
Main Point of Discussion: How do we start over and begin with a clean slate?
Vital Info Before You Get Started: (The following should help you contextualize this very popular song so you can have a great discussion about it with your kids.)
- The Music Video: “Let mercy come and wash away what I’ve done.” (You can view the video with your family members online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sgycukafqQ)
- Linkin Park has been at the top of the charts since the turn of the century. Their blend of rock and rhythmic lyrics—almost like rap—has captured audiences in both genres and always secured spots on the top 100. They have been the talk of music and radio news, appeared on SNL, and sold millions of albums.
- The song for this discussion, “What I’ve Done,” debuted at #7 of the US Hot 100 chart, and only the third song to do so by an artist not from American Idol. The song was partly fueled by digital sales, debuting at #4 on the digital chart. It had sold over 3,000,000 downloads by early 2011 since its release, making it Linkin Park’s most successful digital song in the U.S.
- In addition “What I’ve Done” became only the third song ever to open at #1 on the Modern Rock chart, also becoming the band's seventh number one on the chart. It held the #1 spot on Alternative Songs for 15 consecutive weeks and #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart for eight consecutive weeks.
- At THE SOURCE FOR YOUTH MINISTRY we like to use pop culture references to start biblical conversation (just like the Apostle Paul used culture to start conversations about Jesus in Acts 17). This music video might be a good discussion starter in some circles. Use your discernment. Although this song, like most Linkin Park songs, is clean, the album this single is from (Minutes to Midnight) actually carries an “explicit lyrics” warning.
- But don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. You can use the video as a discussion starter without endorsing the album.
- You can print out the lyrics (below) and give each family member a copy to refer to. iTunes offers the video as a download for $1.99.
- IMPORANT NOTE TO PARENTS: This discussion is NOT meant to turn into a discussion about our environment. We are simply going to use the issues and questions that Linkin Park raises to talk about mercy and forgiveness.
- Above all, don’t appear as if you have a “canned” discussion in your head and rattle off questions like a teacher giving a pop quiz—your kids get enough of that in school. This is a guide, primarily—not a verbatim script. Just familiarize yourself with the content here and start a conversation in the most natural, unforced way you know how.
Introducing the Music Video:
Many of you might have seen the music video from Linkin Park, “What I’ve Done.” I’m going to show you this video really quick, and then we’ll talk about it.
In this farewell
There’s no blood
There’s no alibi
‘Cause I’ve drawn regret
For the truth
Of a thousand lies
So let mercy come
And wash away
What I’ve done
I’ve faced myself
To cross out what I’ve become
And let go of what I’ve done
Put to rest
What you thought of me
Well I cleaned this slate
With the hands of uncertainty
For what I’ve done
I’ll start again
And whatever pain may come
Today this ends
I’m forgiving what I’ve done
What I’ve done
Forgiving what I’ve done
Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):
Q: What’s the message of this song?
A: Human beings have caused many problems all over our planet (race riots, war, pollution, gas consumption, engorging ourselves while others starve, looting, terrorism, oppressive governments, hate groups like the KKK, nuclear bombs, global warming, drug abuse, oil spills…you name it). While we as individuals may not be directly responsible for these problems, we’re collectively guilty of them as part of the human race. But this song is also expressing the need for forgiveness.
Q: How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this song?
A: We still stand guilty as members of the human race. We should not have the attitude of “look at all the bad stuff they have done!” But the song’s plea for forgiveness should remind us of how greatly God has forgiven us.
Q: How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this song to actually living out those opinions?
A: We should accept responsibility and repent, not only for what we’ve done—but for what we haven’t done! Then we should work to change the way we behave. In addition, as Christians, we should be working toward solutions to the problems expressed in this video, as well as telling others about the forgiveness that Christ offers.
Where to Take It from Here:
Wherever it feels natural. If these questions lead to a longer discussion on the topic, wonderful! (There’s a guide just after this paragraph that helps you do just that.) If your kids are barely uttering grunts, don’t get discouraged—the next time it feels right, try out another song. Keep engaging them.
For Deeper Discussion: (If your kids seem into diving in deeper, the following discussion guide can help take you there.)
CLICK HERE if you want to look at a quick training article on small groups and drawing questions out of young people—you may find much of the information applicable as you go through this subject with your family members.
There’s a lot going on in this video—a lot of bad situations: Wars and other crises that humans have caused. In the lyrics to the song, Linkin Park not only seems to accept responsibility for some of these crimes against other humans and our planet…but the band also seems to be seeking forgiveness and mercy for “What I’ve Done.”
More Discussion Questions:
- HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS DO THIS: Pass out one piece of paper to each family member, then say something like:
Linkin Park brings up the issue of our “sins”…the things we’ve done wrong. The fact is, all of us have done wrong things in our lives. Little lies, cheating, out of control anger, bad thoughts, things we’ve said, things we’ve allowed ourselves to hear or watch, etc. Right now let’s all take a moment and write something that NO ONE ELSE will see—our sins. ALL OF THEM! So take a few minutes and write down every sin that you can remember that you’ve ever committed, from the time you were little until now. Don’t worry…no one will see this piece of paper but you…so you can be honest. You have just 5 minutes to work on your list.
Give your family members a few minutes and have them write every sin they have committed in their lives. The idea is to make them realize how long the list is…how impossible it is to complete a list in just 5 minutes!
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: How many of you ran out of time before you ran out of sins?
Say, It’s not surprising that we all had lots of sins to write down. The Bible says “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23 (NLT) Not many of us would argue about the fact that all of us have messed up.
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: In the Linkin Park song they talk about “regret” for what they’ve done. Is there anything on your paper you regret?
Say, But the song doesn’t stop at regret. They also say “So let mercy come and wash away what I’ve done…” They are seeking forgiveness. Then they say, “I’ve faced myself to cross out what I’ve become.” Really the gist of the song is this: When they look at their list of sins, really the sins that we all are committing, they don’t like what they’ve done, and what they’ve become. So they are seeking forgiveness… something to “cross out” what they’ve become.
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What about you…would you like some of the things on your list “crossed out”…to have a clean slate?
Read the following passage from the Bible:
Psalm 103:12 (NIV)
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
ASK ONE FAMILY MEMBER: If you were to get in a plane and fly north…how far could you go until you were flying south? (Parent—answer you’re looking for: The North Pole—if you are at the North Pole, every direction you would go will be south.) If you were to get in that same plane and this time fly west…how far could you go until you were flying east? (Parent—answer you’re looking for: You will never be flying east. The east is ENDLESSLY far from the west. God has removed our sins so far away from us that they can never be brought back to us!)
Say, Some of us might be wondering how these sins are removed…
Read the following passage from the Bible:
Romans 5:8-9 (NLT)
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.
ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: In the words to the Linkin Park song, they seem to be looking for a clean slate. In this passage we find out that God will give us a clean slate through Jesus. And he’s giving us this “fresh start” even though we are sinners. How does this make you feel?
Say, God has given us an incredible gift: a fresh start, forgiveness, mercy from our list of sins, a clean slate. Some of us have ignored this gift. Some of us have never accepted this free gift.
Read the following passage from the Bible:
Romans 10:10-11 (NLT)
For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”
HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: Even though we’re sinners, Jesus is offering us the free gift of forgiveness—a clean slate. Would you like a clean slate?
(NOTE TO PARENT: Sometimes young people will recognize that there is something in their lives that they NEED to let go of…but in all honesty they admit that they would like to keep doing it. In other words, they DON’T want to give that up. If this happens, I always compliment them for their honesty and then try to keep the door open for later conversations. I might say something like this: Thanks for your honesty. God doesn’t want us to just say, “I believe…and fake it. A relationship with God takes faith in him, a faith that means letting go. So I appreciate you trusting me with that. Maybe we can talk more about that later.)
Say, Maybe some of us need to take a step of faith tonight and believe…and by that I mean truly believe, not just say, “I believe” and resume your way down the wrong path.
We’ve been talking about the concept of needing mercy to wash away “What I’ve Done.” It’s no secret that we all have stuff in our lives that doesn’t belong there—and a fresh start would be a great thing.
Now is the time. You can have a fresh start right now. Even though we are sinners, Christ died for us and is willing to “make us right.” This free gift can be ours if we simply trust in Him. This doesn’t mean saying, “Sure… I believe in God” and then reverting back to the way we were. This is a belief that says, “Today this ends. Jesus, forgive me for what I’ve done!
And this applies even if you’re a believer and sense that you haven’t been exactly right with God, for a little bit or for a long while. God still offers you a fresh start.
Wherever you’re standing, Jesus is going to meet you right where you are. Trust him. He won’t let you down.
Close in Prayer (give your family members a chance to pray and ask God to forgive them of their sins, no matter if they’re all Christians or none of them are…and make sure they all rip up that sheet of paper on which they wrote their sins as a way of acknowledging what God will do if they ask him!)
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