William Wilberforce will be remembered in history as the social reformer who pioneered 45 years toward the end of slavery in England. At a mere 5’3” tall with a chest that measured just 33 inches, Wilberforce would not make anyone’s list of physically impressive world changers. It was his reliance on God that warrants him worthy of consideration and emulation. And it was his conversion that set in motion his reliance on God and his subsequent ministry.
In Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, Eric Metaxus writes, “Suddenly, he saw what he was blind to before: that God was a God of justice and Righteousness who would judge us for the way we treated others; that every single human being was made in God’s image and therefore worthy of profound respect and kindness; that God was ‘no respecter of persons’ and looked upon the rich and poor equally.”
For the first time in his life, Wilberforce saw the world through God’s eyes.* Wilberforce referred to his conversion experience at age 25 as “the great change.”
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.
Wilberforce believed that true heart change only comes through Christ. People who don’t know Jesus can do the work of offering justice to others—to recognize that every single person was made in God’s image and worthy of respect and kindness. However, without Christ at the center of life, the motivation will be self-centered or self-sustaining. Some may even use justice as a mark on their list of achievements hoping to earn right standing with God and a ticket to eternity. In that measure, justice as an effort becomes nothing more than an idol fueling a works-based theology. Conversion, instead, credits God’s great gift of salvation offered through Christ.
The change in you, wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit, isn’t an effort to achieve salvation but a product of a salvation already achieved on your behalf.
With Christ at the helm of your life, your ministry of justice will be humbly centered on Jesus. God-centered humility isn’t about the power you have to change the world but about the power of Christ in you to change the world.
Excerpted from Ordinary. © 2014 Tony Merida. Published by Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.
1. Eric Metaxus, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery (New York: HarperOne, 2007).