During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a children’s choir performed an 18th century Christian hymn in Chinese. Professional snake charmers in India play it on their wind instruments. While on the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee sang it as they suffered. And Civil Rights marchers in the 20th century sang it for protection from danger.
A famous musician from the Buddhist country of Myanmar — who also happens to be one of our partners in that country — improvised the tune on his electric guitar. In the Hindu nation of India, the police, air force, and navy bands played it on national television in front of the Hindu president’s palace on Republic Day.
The lyrics to this hymn make no reference to Jesus Christ. There is no mention of hell, the devil, or controversial social issues. For more than two centuries, it has offered reassurance, protection and fulfillment to people worldwide. According to AllMusic, it has been recorded more than 6,600 times. Biographer Jonathan Aitken estimates that it is performed around 10 million times every year and has been translated into at least 60 languages.
Have you guessed it yet?
Good news for everyone?
The amazing grace of God truly is amazing! The famous author C.S. Lewis said, “It is what makes Christianity different from all other religions.” We don’t work for it. It is a free gift from God.
The angel announced, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” (Luke 2:10) What good news could affect all people equally, regardless of culture, gender, income level, or location?
In our fallen human nature, we know we need grace and forgiveness. However, we instinctively believe we have to earn any form of goodness. We are wired to think that we have to do something to be accepted and saved. What makes grace so amazing is that we don’t have to do a thing.
The author of the hymn, John Newton, experienced God’s loving favor in March of 1748. He was a merciless slave trader whose ship encountered a violent storm. He and a mate tied themselves to the ship’s pump to keep from being washed overboard and said, “If this will not do, then Lord have mercy on us!”
The battered ship finally landed in Ireland two weeks later. Newton remembered his words, but thought he was too “wretched” to be loved and forgiven by a God he had opposed, mocked, and denounced. God thought differently, and He saved Newton by His amazing grace.
Grace — not just the song — is spreading throughout the world
This one hymn has influenced millions of people since its inception. It communicates deep emotion and rich theology, comes out of life’s experience, and helps all who sing it to overcome and look upon the Lord. Cliff Barrows, the longtime music and program director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association once said, “‘Amazing Grace’ will be around as long as there is sin in the world, the need for forgiveness, and the need for the daily presence of a living, loving, giving savior to be our guide each day.”
At ANM, we see the gospel breaking through all over the world in places it never has before, because it is the only message of amazing grace. Grace — a universal need and universally good news.
ANM’s regional director for South Asia, Kishor Pandagade, has heard “Amazing Grace” sung in many states and languages in India and Nepal. Kishor comes from the Indian state of Maharashtra, and his native language is Marathi. Every year Marathi Christians from the U.S., India, Canada, and the Middle East gather somewhere in the U.S. to worship, fellowship, and celebrate God’s goodness.
It’s much like a church’s homecoming, where they speak their own language and bring their culture together. This year the conference was held in Maryland, and Kishor was asked to give the message. To hear Kishor singing “Amazing Grace” in Marathi, click here.
Verses from “Amazing Grace”:
Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come,
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
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.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.