We watched the movie Amazing Grace tonight. Good movie. Well make it a great movie. I’m a sucker though for movies that make a point, and even more so those that have a spiritual point. For those who don’t know about the movie, it is the story of William Wilberforce’s effort to abolish the slave trade in Britain. It is also the story of John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, and his coming to the grips with his earlier life as captain of a slave ship. One of the most memorable quotes from the movie is when Newton says to Wilberforce as he is old, blind, and losing his memory, “Though I have lost my memory, two things I know. I am a great sinner and Christ is a great savior.” Unfortunately, we with great memories forget those two essential aspects of who we are.
We are sinners. That’s something we often don’t say too loudly, but it is true. We have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We need to realize that because of our unloving thoughts and actions at best, and our hateful thoughts and actions at worst both personally and socially, we have caused a great deal of pain in the world. That reminds me of another thing we don’t proclaim, “Look at who I have hurt. This person is scarred because of my hate, my selfishness.” John Newton, however, did say that as he proclaimed he lived with 20,000 ghosts (those slaves on his ships). So, it’s no doubting that when he said a wretch like me, he meant it.
There is one image that illustrates this idea of a recognition of our sin in the movie.
One night Wilberforce, who was on medication, looked in the mirror and saw a black women bound in chains as a slave. Obviously, no women like that was in house, but I think it was an important reminder for him, and for us that the pains of our sins have real effect on the world, and that we are most certainly in need of a savior (again by personally and socially).
But Praise be to God for He is a great savior! He comes to set us free from our bondage of pain and agony that we cause the world and provide for us true life and spirit to instead heal the world. Amazing grace indeed that he can take me and use me to bring forth his love to others. Grace is what God specializes in. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Grace upon grace. I believe grace occurs any time God breaks into the world be it in large or small ways. Especially amazing is when God uses His children to be instruments of grace to his other children who he equally and wonderfully loves.
Wilberforce never gave up being an instrument of God’s grace for people he never met, but yet people he truly loved. We too are called to see the pain in the world caused by our sin, and then to be open to God’s amazing grace. So as you read this and you are in any place of comfort, I challenge you to remember that in the time you’ve read this piece probably 40 kids around the world have died because of hunger related causes, that 33 million people are living with HIV, and that 27 million people are living as slaves. My thoughts can be summed up in the infamous words of Mike Gundy , “Makes me wanna puke.” So, we have a challenge friends,
BE GOD’S GRACE By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.” John Wesley