Friday, December 15, 2000

"and recovery of sight to the blind" Luke 4:18

Blindness to what is around us keeps us from seeing. Blindness that hoodwinks our judgment causes us to become numb to the needs of others. It occurred when we "at home" saw and heard the "body counts in country" during the war in Vietnam. We were blinded to the pain and fear of soldiers patrolling the jungles of South East Asia. We were blind to how our insensitivity affected soldiers returning "state side" by both our push for more weapons and our push to get out of Vietnam. Soldiers returned maimed, beaten, and broken.

This blindness, unfortunately, is not limited to our culture, our time, or ourselves. John Newton was blind to his own slave trading. A captain of a slave ship, he had brought slaves to the early colonies and to England. On one trip, having left the Gold Coast of Africa, he "came to his senses" - perhaps his blindness was removed - and turned his ship around, landed, and set the slaves free.

John Newton, transformed in faith under the influence of George Whitefield and John & Charles Wesley, was ordained and became an influential leader in the Church of England. Author of Amazing Grace, John wrote of his own life - being "lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see."

His tombstone epitaph reads, "John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slavers of Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy." Having struggled through many difficult times, God's grace would still lead him home.

It is significant to us, even today, to understand that our blindness does not have to be permanent. Though there were atrocious deeds that John Newton had committed in "his blindness", the power of God's forgiveness and mercy is greater still. He experienced the release of his own fetters in the release of his spirit. God has the power to remove the blinders not only from our eyes, but from our hearts and souls as well. God can take a simple, wayward, slave-trader, and turn him completely around. What more can God do with you and me?

The last verse penned by John Newton holds the key of God's unlimited grace and love:
          Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
          and mortal life shall cease,
          I shall possess, within the veil,
          a life of joy and peace.

A man set free, able to see what God really intended, became God's servant. Be very clear - God can even turn us around, bring us to see the rainbow of the covenant, and the great variety of human beings. May God do for us as much if not more! --DH

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