Amazing Grace is the story of a young man who squanders numerous opportunities and experiences misery and poverty, only to unexpectedly rise to a level of respectability and undeserved honor. This dramatic retelling of his life story, which reads like fiction, is a tale of romance, in which young love sparks wild and impulsive actions, only to be followed by years of seemingly hopeless longing, before eventually being crowned by a long and happy marriage. Ultimately, it is a story of grace upon a youth who rejects God repeatedly and loses himself in a downward spiral of unbelief and immoral behavior, only to be rescued by divine mercy that reaches deeper than he could ever have imagined.
Newton's story is shocking, and Amazing Grace does not try to airbrush or excuse his faults. There are glaring contradictions in the life of a ship's Captain who retreats to his cabin to study his Bible and write tender love letters to his wife while hundreds of slaves lie in chains in the hold below. But the profound lessons from his life are applicable to us today, helping us to:
Struggle well when life doesn't match up to expectations.
Be honest and open about our stories that are shameful or just too hard to resolve.
Understand that God's work in our lives is ongoing.
Seek a deeper, more personal faith, awakening to the gospel message and the Holy Spirit's guidance.
Since John Newton's death, every generation has found a way of connecting with his story. Today is no different, for in these days of extreme polarization when beliefs about race, church, and politics have all become deeply divisive in society, we need grace more than ever. We need stories that talk about the human condition, stories that are soaked in the relentless love of God and his forgiveness of sins.