Friday, July 24, 2009

Amazing Grace

I have been thinking a lot about the story of William Wilberforce (1759-1833). He was largely responsible for the end of England's slave trade in 1807. While this accomplishment has earned him enduring admiration from people around the world, the story of his life is even more inspiring.

When he became a Christian in 1785, this led to an extensive overhaul of his life and values. Two years later, he met a group of abolitionists who revealed to him the horrors of the slave trade and challenged him to consider taking up their cause. He was deeply convicted.

He became a passionate advocate for this group of people who had no voice, for whom society had no regard. For 26 years, long after most of us would have left the fight, he led a campaign in the British Parliament that ended with the passage of the Slave Trade Act.

That's not all. For a quick overview of the many efforts he made on behalf of others, you can go

Some historians argue that his life leveraged a profound influence on Great Britain, that his faithfulness, courage, eloquence, and diplomacy made morality and the Christian life appealing, compelling, and popular -- even to the point of ushering in the Victorian period with its return to traditional values and and reverence for faith. In truth, it's hard to measure the effects of his life -- the difference he has made for so many people. All because he was willing to stand up, alone if necessary, and do the right thing.

Wilberforce inspires me. He reminds me that living honestly, with integrity and courage, according to my true convictions, will make an impact -- quite possibly a larger one than I ever imagined. The lessons of his life easily transfer to homeschooling. We are about freedom, after all -- the freedom of parents and children to choose the education that is best suited to them. This matters, and probably more than most of us realize. It matters not just for us, but for the future as well. The world will be different because we homeschooled our children. That's something to think about.

If you haven't watched the recent movie about the life and accomplishment of William Wilberforce, you should.
Amazing Grace (2007), named after the hymn written by his longtime friend, John Newton, is a faithful rendering of his life. It's well done and tastefully executed. I would advise, however, that you watch it before showing it to your children. Some of the information about the treatment of slaves is more appropriate for mature viewers. When you have seen the movie, you will understand better why this small man with his odd views, so out of step with those around him, changed the world.

Like me, you will be inspired to be faithful to your own mission, and to be an example of grace to those around you.

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