Tuesday, December 30, 2014

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” — John Newton

When I was in seminary, some of the students wanted to change the words of “Amazing Grace.”  They didn’t like the word “wretch” and wanted to change it to “soul” primarily because they didn’t believe they were wretches nor were most others.  This would make the hymn more politically correct—but very, very wrong.  If you don’t understand your own wretchedness, you will never understand grace.  John Newton had transported slaves and was remorseful for the rest of his life.  He was a prosperous merchant and hardly considered as wretched as we think of it today.  Today, if you look up that word in almost any dictionary you will find one or all of the following definitions:
     1. A miserable, unfortunate, or unhappy person.
     2. A person regarded as base, mean, or despicable: "a              stony adversary, an inhuman wretch" 
     3. a despicable person
     4. a person pitied for his misfortune
Most of us don’t think of ourselves in those ways, yet if we dig deep enough and compare ourselves to what Christ would have us be . . . well, if the shoe fits.   We are human and therefore imperfect.  If you were handed a legal pad and asked to list the things you would like to change about yourself—would there be anything to write down?  I would be able to fill several pages.  What we have to remember is that Christ knows all about us, the good, the bad, and the ugly, but He loves us anyway.  There is no one who hasn’t hurt another by word, deed, or inaction when action was needed.  We also know how good it feels to reconcile, to ask forgiveness and get it.  We also know that there are things we have said and done that no one around us knows, and we don’t share these things because to do so would hurt people we love and would change the way people feel about us—or at least that’s our fear.  We cannot love others the way we love ourselves if we do not love ourselves.  Society and media makes us think that if we don’t look and act like the 2% of perfect bodies, with perfect teeth, no body fat, and are adored by millions, then we are just failures.  This is wrong.  You are beautiful, you just have trouble seeing it.  The picture at the right is a good example.  If we just look at the rusted wreck and think that it is us, we cannot love ourselves.  Jesus, though, looks at that rusted wreck like a master car restorer and knows what it will look like after spending time in the master’s hands.  Christ sees the restoration on the right not the rust on the left.  He knows what we can become if we but invite him into our hearts and confess our wretchedness and give it to Him.  In His hands, we can be saved, transformed, and become beautiful to ourselves and others.  We are not what we think we are—we are what we can be if we invite Christ into our hearts.  Then it will be true that we were blind, but now we see. 
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