February 19, 2007

Amazing Grace - The Movie

2007 marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade between Great Britain and many African nations. Those of us who have never encountered real slavery cannot imagine the horrors of whole families be violently captured, drug from their homes, beaten into submission, thrown on board ships, and trafficked across the western world as slaves. It was a horrible thing—a plague over which many Christians cringed, but against which few had the courage to speak out. But one did—William Wilberforce!

William Wilberforce was a Bible-believing, Christ-proclaiming, church-loving Christian. It is said that he could recite the whole 119th Psalm by heart on his daily walk home from his office in British Parliament (look up Psalm 119 if you think that is a ho-hum accomplishment!). William Wilberforce was also a dynamic force for change in 18th and 19th century British government.

As a young man, and fairly new member of Parliament, he boldly brought forward a bill proposing the abolition of the slave trade. He was voted down…twenty consecutive years! He was dragged through the mud by those who opposed him. His principles were questioned and his name slandered. But with faith in Jesus Christ; with the truth of the Bible in his hands; and with the encouragement of such notable Christian leaders as John Newton and John Wesley…Wilberforce pressed on until finally, in his old age, he finally won the day and Great Britain forever banned the practice of trading slaves! And, largely because of Britain’s example, so (eventually) did the other European slave nations, as well as the United States.

Wilberforce is, perhaps, one of the two or three greatest truly Christian politicians the English-speaking world has known. And on this two-hundredth anniversary of his greatest political triumph, you might be interested in learning more about this amazing man.

I would encourage you to take the time to read or order John Piper’s 80-page biography of Wilberforce. I would also encourage you to go see the film Amazing Grace which appears in theatres this weekend. It is reportedly an accurate and well-made portrayal of Wilberforce’s life and political career.

What do I think you may learn from the 2-3 hours it would take to watch or read about Wilberforce? Several things…

1. A healthy appreciation for the importance of Christian history. There are many other inspiring characters out there whom we all need to discover…and this could start forming in us good habits.

2. A reminder of the Christian’s responsibility for and joy in working for social justice—for the oppressed, the unborn, the enslaved, etc.

3. A portrait of how Christians may be helpfully involved in politics.

4. More proof that the world’s portrayal of Christians as closed-minded bigots is a bald-faced lie—or at least it ought to be!

5. A reminder that Jesus Christ loves and died for people from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation—and an urgency to get busy at reaching them.

So, take an afternoon or evening (that’s all it would take) and immerse yourself in Wilberforce…and see if you don’t find him pointing you to Jesus and his world-wide cause!

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