Ten Days in June. Ten days, starting with the tragic news of the attack on the Bible Study group at the Mother Emmanuel AME Church, South Carolina and ending with nine funerals. Beyond this terrible tragedy, what touched me was the forgiveness and the grace shown by the families of the victims toward the young gunman.
That grace was reflected the following Friday at the funeral for pastor Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Aside from the fine and appropriate words of the eulogy by President Obama, I was struck, as I am sure many of you were, by the spontaneous singing of Amazing Grace, and how the words of that hymn were sung throughout the church, the community and the nation.
That hymn is a call to God for grace and mercy in our lives, a recognition that too often we are blind to those times when we act contrary to God’s will. The author, John Newton, had been the captain of a slave ship traveling between Africa and America. At some point his heart and his life were changed and he was inspired to write the hymn.
One stanza puzzled me: T’was grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved, how precious did that grace appear the moment I first believed. I have stumbled over that word “fear”. Why was grace teaching my heart to fear? It was in the context of the verse that seemed a bit confusing.
So I turned to the website “gotquestions.org” for clarity. They responded thus: “For the unbeliever, the fear of God is the fear of the judgment of God and eternal death, which is eternal separation from God (Luke 12:5;Hebrews 10:31). For the believer, the fear of God is something much different. The believer’s fear is reverence of God.” I believe it would be just as accurate if that phrase were to read: “T’was grace that taught my heart to love…” I am convinced that it was that love that changed John Newton.
It was that love that touched the hearts of those grieving families. The forgiveness and grace expressed by the families clearly translates into love. Love for one of God’s children, even in the face of that child doing unspeakable harm.
Those 10 days were amazing. It encompassed scenes that will stay with me, both tragic and uplifting. May we all show the compassion and grace that comes to us from God, freely, without conditions and without end.
You are privileged to have that grace, not to hold it, not to own it, but to pass it on. When we do that we are a blessing to others, and we are blessed by God.
For What its worth.