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what I don’t like about amazing grace

I shouldn’t let a song that was first published in 1779 bother me so much.

You probably know the first verse.

“Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.”

Did it bother you, too?

Many of us love to sing Amazing Grace. It’s a catchy tune and is perhaps the most translated hymn of all time. But more than just catchy, it captures the heart of the gospel itself. God’s grace is indeed amazing.

But do we have to call ourselves names? A wretch? Me?

None of us like to think about how wretched we are. Compared to others, I’m doing pretty good. I’ll pay good money to look and feel good. That’s why we exercise or put on makeup in the morning (OK, I may not do either one of those but you probably do).

Entire denominations don’t like to be called wretches either.

In some modern hymnals, the first line has been rewritten to say, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved and strengthened me” or “that saved a soul like me.” Both are true. God’s grace has saved and strengthened me.

But I needed saving and strengthening because I was a wretch who couldn’t save myself.

My spiritual biography was recorded by the apostle Paul:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” – Ephesians 2:1-3

As ugly as it sounds, acknowledging the truth is the first step towards restoration. Any recovering alcoholic knows that. To do any less is to remain in denial.

For those of us willing to admit our wretchedness and seek God’s help, our spiritual biography needs one more verse:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5