We saw “Amazing Grace”, the story of Christian abolitionist William Wilberforce, on yesterday. We had just completed a brief study on him during history, so the timing of the movie release was perfect for us. Before I share what else is on my mind, let me say that I’ve decided to go the DVD route on movies from now on. $32 for the five of us to see a movie, good or bad, is outrageous, and I figure that, even if I wind up disliking the movie, no DVD will cost that much.
Previously, I’d seen mixed reviews on this movie, with the most disparity amongst Christians. There are those who thought the story of this man’s fight against the odds to end the slave trade in England was story enough. Then there were those who felt as if the movie paid far too much attention to Wilberforce’s fight for freedom of slaves, and not enough attention to his work as a Christian missionary and champion of the Gospel. I sat watching the movie with both these perspectives in mind.
I’ll tell you what I saw: the movie didn’t give equal billing to the number of souls that Wilberforce may have brought into the kingdom. What it did, however, was portray this man as a “real” Christian. Let me explain. In a rare spare moment, I love to surf through the blogosphere. I’ve learned so much from the encouraging words, the profound Biblical wisdom, and the many resources that you are so generous in sharing, and I’m thankful. But the blogs that are dearest to my heart are those where I see transparency. Phrases like “I’m hurting,” “I’m depressed/ scared/ anxious”, and “I screwed that one up, or I was wrong” say as much about our Christian development as the many scriptures we toss around, at times with more arrogance than compassion. The Bible tells us that we overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony; why then do we feel the need to have it all together? Just my thoughts.
So having said that, I saw Wilberforce question his calling, seek advice from friends who didn’t have his vision or his anointing, and get weary when it looked like he’d never succeed. Does that sound like anyone you know? I could raise my hand without hesitation, or maybe with hesitation if I’m consumed with the perfection that I spoke of earlier. I saw a man who stepped gingerly as he dared to tackle demons of greed, arrogance, and apathy, a partial list of the legion that manifests in the face of racism. He was clever, and he had enough discernment to know when to lead the cause and when to step back and let someone else capture the spotlight, exercising the humility that comes with wisdom. He had moments of great triumph, but also moments of grave failure, but he walked through them all with the amazing grace that he sang about and was continuously inspired by. If that isn’t a Christian testimony, what is?
Wilberforce’s inspiration (at least in the movie) was an old teacher of his who also happened to be a former captain of slave ships who had since repented of his sin. It was the captain who wrote the words to “Amazing Grace.” As I listened to the song “Amazing Grace”, it touched me in a very different way while viewing the movie. I had always focused on the writer’s current state—now I’m found, now I see. Praise God for my current state, but thank Him also for the deliverance from where I was, and for the humility to know that I once was lost and was blind. It wasn’t anything that my own intelligence and education brought me out of; His grace is truly amazing. May I always speak through written or spoken words knowing that I am nothing, but He is everything.