Give My Love to Rose (Colossians 3:12)

This week please read chapter 7, The Ballad of Ira Hayes, and chapter 8, Give My Love to Rose of Richard Beck’s book Trains, Jesus, and Murder – The Gospel According to Johnny Cash.


“Give My Love to Rose” maybe the saddest song in our book and that you will ever hear. The song recounts the story of traveler along some railroad tracks who finds a dying man. The man tells him that he is just released from prison and that he was trying to make his way back home to his wife, named Rose, and his son. The man knows that he is about to die and tells the traveler to please tell his wife that he loves her and to tell his son that he’s proud of him. His dying words are “give my love to Rose.”

The song is based on a conversation that Johnny Cash had with a recently released prisoner in California. The man was trying to get back to Shreveport, Louisiana to see his wife, and he knew that Cash would be in Shreveport for a concert soon. He asked Cash to tell his wife that he loved her should Cash see her before he did.


The Good News in Johnny Cash’s songs is one of solidarity with the least of these and of seeing the world through their perspective. However, before all else, the Gospel is about an intimate kindness with those in need.

In Luke 10, a lawyer asks Jesus, who is my neighbor that I am commanded to love? In response, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus ends the story, not by telling the lawyer who his neighbor is, but to whom he should be a neighbor. The Samaritan was the neighbor to the man in need in front of him. That is the intimate kindness to which we are all called. In Cash’s song, it is the traveler who kneels down beside the man and who listens and who promises to convey his message that is the neighbor. In that instance and in that brief relationship the law has been fulfilled and the Gospel takes shape.

The challenge for us is in recognizing the opportunity to carry out these small acts of kindness. Beck points out that it is very easy to engage in social action and rage against oppression on social media or in the political arena, but that is not where we are are called. Rather, we are called to be neighbors to those in need in a personal, concrete, and intimate way. Our prayer should be that Christ will open our eyes to see those opportunities to be a neighbor like the traveler in the song.  


I found him by the railroad track this morning
I could see that he was nearly dead
I knelt down beside him and I listened
Just to hear the words the dying fellow said

He said, “They let me out of prison down in Frisco
For ten long years I’ve paid for what I’ve done
I was trying to get back to Louisiana
To see my Rose and get to know my son

Give my love to Rose, please, won’t you, mister
Take her all my money, tell her to buy some pretty clothes
Tell my boy his daddy’s so proud of him
And don’t forget to give my love to Rose

Won’t you tell them I said thanks for waiting for me
Tell my boy to help his mom at home
Tell my Rose to try to find another
For it ain’t right that she should live alone

Mister, here’s a bag with all my money
It won’t last them long the way it goes
God bless you for finding me this morning
And don’t forget to give my love to Rose

Give my love to Rose, please, won’t you, mister
Take her all my money, tell her to buy some pretty clothes
Tell my boy that daddy’s so proud of him
And don’t forget to give my love to Rose”

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14

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