I recently re-watched “Amazing Grace,” a 2006 film and moving account of William Wilberforce and his colleagues who maneuver their way through the British Parliament, endeavoring to end the British transatlantic slave trade in the 19th century.
The title is a reference to the hymn, “Amazing Grace.” The film highlights the experiences of John Newton on a slave ship and his subsequent conversion to become a follower of Jesus, which inspired his writing of the poem later used in the hymn. Newton is portrayed as a major influence on Wilberforce and the abolition movement. I took notes as I watched because I was inspired by the events portrayed.
First, nothing is as relevant as the eternal. Seeing Wilberforce become aware of the One, True, Eternal God in nature, Scripture, and even people was riveting.
Second, the poorest of all are those who do not recognize the greatness and goodness of God. Seeing Wilberforce thank God for sunshine, animals, and friends is a powerful reminder that those who don’t know God (or even acknowledge Him) are poor indeed.
Read Ephesians 2:8-9.
Third, we are saved by God’s mercy, not our accomplishments, social standing, professional status, or merits. John Newton wrote that it is because of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, not our doing; by our trusting and not our trying.
Fourth, what God thinks of us is more critical than what others think of us. Wilberforce initially worried more about what family and government leaders thought about himself (and the eventual cause he took up), rather than the Sovereign Creator and Lord of all. William learned to take the opinions of others with a grain of salt, especially those who did not recognize or yield to the authority and majesty of God Himself.
Fifth, to change, one must want something else more than what we have now. William contemplates leaving politics to study theology, but is persuaded by his friends William Pitt, Thomas Clarkson, Hannah More, and Olaudah Equiano that he will be more effective doing the work of God by taking on the unpopular and dangerous issue of the abolition of the British slave trade. His conviction in the cause deepens following a meeting with his former mentor John Newton (introduced sweeping a church floor dressed in sackcloth) who is said to live “in the company of 20,000 ghosts… slaves.” As a former slave ship captain turned Christian, he deeply regrets his past life and the effects on his fellow man. Newton urges William to take up the cause.
Sixth, we should use things and love people, rather than use people and love things. The story of Wilberforce’s conversion, entrance into politics, and eventual influence with the aid of many Christ-honoring colleagues is a lesson from history. This is how the gospel actually works in personal and corporate life. It is why it is called amazing grace.
Live communally. Work with others to practice and pass on God’s ideas. It leads us to the One who offers us the forgiveness, patience, grace, and wisdom we need.
Love is a verb,
©2017 by Mike Olejarz