“… since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift. …
(Romans 3:23 NRSV)
I was going through the stacks on my desk recently and found a piece of note paper. I immediately recognized my mother’s writing, which brought tears to my eyes. She was 97 when she died, having lived longer than any of her forebears. I have always believed that God allowed my brother and me to keep her here as long as possible to make up for the very early death of our father.
However, it was the words on the paper that struck my heart: “We have not yet learned the alphabet, much less the language of grace.”
I keep pondering that message. It’s certainly an indictment of the human condition. God’s grace is so encompassing, so immense, and so available, we should accept it, embrace it, and live into it!
To be honest, I think we are suspicious of grace. We humans tend to think that we have to earn grace on some kind of point system.
It was John Newton, however, the son of a shipmaster, who taught most of us Christians the language of grace. He would not have earned any points in his early years. He went to sea with his shipmaster father at the age of 11. He was imprisoned on a man-of-war, escaped to work on a slave-trading ship, and led a rough life as master of a slave ship. Later, he was greatly influenced by the Wesley brothers and George Whitefield.
Newton was ordained in 1764, was rector of a parish in London and remained there until his 80th year.
He produced a hymnal in 1779, giving us his greatest gift: the hymn “Amazing Grace”.