I’ve told you this story before, but it’s one that bears repeating.
Amazing Grace is perhaps the most beloved hymn of all time. It appears in every denomination’s hymnal. Amazing Grace has been recorded more than any other song in history.
Many of us believe that Amazing Grace originated as an African-American hymn. Perhaps because it has always been so well beloved by African-American people. But it is neither African nor American. It was actually written by a white man from Great Britain. And this particular white man was not a very nice guy. In fact, he was deeply involved in one of the cruelest occupations in history. He forcefully captured and transported by ship natives from West Africa to be sold into slavery.
But God works in mysterious ways. One day, while going about his regular duties, John Newton’s ship got caught in a terrible storm. Fierce lightning, mighty winds, and crashing waves were tearing his ship apart. John Newton feared for his life. Hidden away in a remote section of the ship, he was struck by some books that fell off a nearby bookshelf. One was The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. John Newton began reading the book. He learned about God and about Jesus Christ. Perhaps for the first time in his life, John Newton prayed. He had realized his great sins and he cried out to God for forgiveness. He vowed to change his life.
John Newton survived what should have been a fatal shipwreck. He decided then and there to dramatically turn his life around. He eventually became an ordained minister of the Anglican Church. He set out to preach against slavery, and became one of the greatest orators in England’s history. It was then that he penned these now famous words:
Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
By what sins are we blinded? Have we allowed ourselves to get caught up in racial prejudice basing our own worth on the color of our skin or forming opinions about others because of the color of their skin? Black or white, how do we react when we encounter someone from the Middle East? Do we prejudge them because of terrorism? What about those of other faiths? Or of the opposite sex?
Before we can turn our lives around, we must first acknowledge our own sinfulness, and then ask God for forgiveness. Do it now, before your ship wrecks.
Jesus will cure your blindness too! You’ll see!
Gene M. Ostenkamp, Music Director