Where can we who walk in darkness find brighter light? I suggest we look no further than to the preacher/poet, John Newton. He was a former slave trader who saw the light. Today he is best known as the composer of the hymn, Amazing Grace!
Again and again in the Bible, we read the invocation, “Let me find grace in thy sight, O Lord.” Find grace? Perhaps most of us wait for grace to find us. And often it does. When grace finds us, we come to see God’s sight is not the problem, but our insight: I was blind but now I see. But far better that we heed the words of the Bible and not wait for grace to find us. Far better to find grace, to seek the light.
During the years of my active ministry, the choir would mesmerize worship with an original choral masterpiece, “If it wasn’t for the grace of God.” I was not alone in being unable to resist the tears and to join the cheers in praise of the God of our weary years. Nor was William Wilberforce who in 1811, deeply influenced by John Newton, succeeded in getting the English Parliament to ban the slave trade. The choir is preaching of the disgrace of not accepting God’s grace.
‘Twas grace that drove Newton to tell his story, the unfolding saga of how suffering drove him to his Savior, how thirst drove him to living waters, how he found grace and sought the light.
All of us light–seekers join hands and hearts with John Newton in saying–
I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I wish to be.
But thanks to the grace of God, I am not what I used to be.
Rev. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray, is the John R. Tansey Chair in Christian Ethics and Professor of Religion at the University of Southern California. crcc.usc.edu