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Monday, January 7, 2008

Saving Wretches Like You and Me

Part I

About one year ago, Keith Drury an associate professor at Indiana Wesleyan University authored a compelling commentary about John Newton’s song, Amazing Grace. (See Saving Wretches Like You, January 30, 2007 at He writes, “It is hard to sing some songs the way they were written. They just go against our grain. Few folk today want to sing John Newton’s Amazing Grace the way he wrote it: God “saved a wretch like me.” Or, how about Isaac Watts’ hymn, Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed, “for such a worm as I.” It isn’t nice to call people wretches or worms. It’s not good for their self esteem.

“This is why we change the lyrics to make songs more palatable in our culture of self-esteem. We substitute “that saved and set me free” or “for such a one as I” for the outdated wretch-and-worm references. We have removed the wretches and worms from our theology. While we might agree that the whoring-raping-slaver, John Newton was a wretch, none of us will volunteer for wretchedness ourselves, and we know for sure we’re better than worms. To be quite honest we don’t believe we were ever wretches—even before getting saved. Basically we think of ourselves as fairly nice people who became Christians and added meaning to our lives. We were told “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” So we signed up for this wonderful plan. Sure, we had sinned, but we had done no sins that God didn’t “understand” or that are not done by church folk now. Our sins were mostly sins of ignorance or immaturity—nothing that deserves the label wretch or worm. [Those are terms best used to describe addicts, homeless, bums, hobos, gypsies and other types of losers]

“We Christians believe we were basically fairly good when we found God. And we’re even better now. Salvation is “all about me.” We like to say, “If I were the only person on earth, Christ would have come to die for just me.” This beefs up our self-esteem. To be quite frank, we actually think God needs us, and is actually quite lucky to have us. That’s how we see our devotions, for instance. We imagine a lonely God who is hungry for our company. When we don’t have devotions on some days, God mournfully walks away singing Larnelle Harris’ song, “I miss my time with you.” If we were totally honest we’d change the lyrics of another song [I need Him every hour, evr’y hour I need Him] to, “He needs me every hour, evr’y hour He needs me.” To be continued tomorrow…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know already that the poor will inherit the earth and that many of them, while lacking faith in men, keep their faith in God. But often times, there are also the rich who lack in spirit. Christ says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Yes, I think that may have to do with the pressures of the material world and what wealth brings to the rich person in the form of responsibility. There is a great need to minister also to the rich. Of course, my feeling is that, by minstering to the rich (spiritually), we can meet the material needs of the poor. - M.R.