“Amazing Grace” is possibly the most popular hymn around the world. You often find it on non-religious CDs and sung in surprising contexts. It was written in the 18th century by a man who had been a slave owner, which is why he refers to himself as “a wretch” in the first verse of the hymn.
We, who are members of a Christian church, might well reflect on the significance of this hymn for so many people. Could it be that they often regret that they have acted in some bad ways in their lives and fear that they are facing into a God who will judge and punish them?
This could simply be a common human reality, but we may need to ask ourselves whether our churches bear clear witness to a God who is filled with amazing grace and who embraces us in love and forgiveness when we face up to our failures.
Of course, we may indeed have faith in this God as we live together within the life of our churches. But is this obvious to the community around us – to people who are not members of a church, or who left a judgemental part of the church some years ago?
Are we conveying our true love for the community outside our church in clear ways and also owning the fact that those of us who are members of the church are not perfect – that we often need the forgiveness of a God who has amazing grace?
We are truly human and our God, in Jesus Christ, deeply understands what it means to be human because the God of the Holy Trinity is not only the Creator and the Holy Spirit but also the Human One who has walked through life like we do.
Given these realities, we might well celebrate the gift of the hymn “Amazing Grace” for many people who long for that grace and a God who offers it to us when we ask for forgiveness.