On Saturday morning I spoke at a funeral service attended mostly by very religious people. I shared with them the relationship between Ephesians 2:8-9 (“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”) and the well known hymn Amazing Grace (“Amazing grace, How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I was once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see”).
I told them about my amazement at the popularity of the song. Why amazement? Because the lyrics contradict the way the most people think of approaching God. The religious mind is obsessed with the necessity to earn God’s favor. Grace that saves, rescues the lost, and opens blinds eyes is a grace foreign to religious thinking. The religious mind looks at salvation, not as a present possession, but only as a possibility.
Why then is the hymn “Amazing Grace” so universally loved? Is it merely sensationalism or romanticism or does this attraction to “Amazing Grace” reveal a deeper longing of the soul? The implication of the Bible is that the human soul was created with a longing for grace. Adam, even in his original, pre-fall condition was created in dependence upon his Creator and existed for the glory of his Creator. All that Adam possessed as a created being, he possessed as a gift of God’s grace. Nothing about Adam’s original state was due to personal merit. Adam knew God as the God of grace.
Even though human sin has effaced that created longing for grace in the soul, it has not erased the longing. The longing for grace is diminished, but not destroyed. The vestiges of having being created in the image of God remain in all human beings. The human soul’s cry for grace, though faint, exists universally and perhaps this is why the themes of “Amazing Grace’ resonate with so many people, who though they may think and live in a contrary way, yet cannot deny the deepest longing of their soul for Grace.
This longing for grace is fulfilled not in religion but in Jesus who brings grace and truth and who displays grace both by living for us the life we have failed to live, and in suffering for us the death that we deserve.
John 1:16 “And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”