Right before we headed to Costa Rica I went with some friends to see a great movie, Amazing Grace: The Life of William Wilberforce. All in all, great movie. William Wilberforce led a (sometimes) one-man movement to stop the slave trade in Britain.
It reminded me of how many social implications the Gospel has. Wilberforce literally stood against a nation because of what he believed about Jesus: he believed all races of men were created in the image of God and that Jesus had died for them all. This moved him to an unflinching fight against racial oppression.
You simply cannot be a follower of Jesus and not also be a revolutionary of sorts. What you believe about the Gospel compels you to radical dissent in the world–standing up for the marginalized and oppressed, even when wildly unpopular. You recognize all men have worth–the poor, the guilty, the oppressed–all of them. In the Gospel, we see that God loves them all.
Secondly, the movie reminded me how central the Gospel has been in the lives of some the world’s greatest reformers. The movie highlighted pastor John Newton’s influence on Wilberforce–Newton the former captain of a slave trading ship turned pastor; author of the now famous “Amazing Grace.” The man who was once a harsh, brutal slave trader had become so overwhelmed by the grace and love of Christ that he became one of England’s most loving and fierce advocates of compassion.
Young Wilberforce was in Newton’s congregation. He was so moved by Newton’s grasp of the grace of God that it inflamed his soul to fight for the freedom of those who did not have a voice.
The story excites me as a Christian eduator because I wonder if some “Wilberforce” might be growing up in our school right now… Might someone now in our Christian school be so beginning to grasp the grace and love of Christ that they will finally bring a nation that kills its own young to its senses? Or against a government that exploits its poor through the promotion of the lottery? Or against a judicial system that is racially biased in its administration of capital punishment? Or maybe become an advocate for the freedom of religion in countries where free thought and expression is illegal? Or maybe lead American churches to put an end to world hunger, the AIDS crisis, and the remnants of the slave trade in African countries or sex trafficking in Asian ones? Or lead churches to at last take the commandment of Christ to preach the Gospel to all nations seriously? I pray that a dozen or so young men and women are beginning to be gripped so by the gospel of Christ in our school. Perhaps they are children, middle school, or high school students just passing through.
Newton gets the best line of the movie: “Two things I am sure of, William: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” The second best line goes to England’s prime minister, “Wilberforce, are you going to use what you believe to make you feel close to God, or are you going to use it to change the world?” When you really, really believe the Gospel, down deeply in your soul, that you are an undeserving sinner, and that Christ died for people who are are in the same predicament as you, you will change your world.
CHANGE THE WORLD!