William Wilberforce led the movement to end slavery in England in the early 1800’s. The movie Amazing Grace depicts Wilberforce’s story and opens this Friday. In his short book Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce, John Piper provides a fascinating and inspiring look at Wilberforce’s driving Christian principles and his indomitable joy in the midst of great obstacles. The following quote (p. 62) is Wilberforce’s response to his cousin’s mistrust of joy. Wilberforce said:
My grand objection to the religious system still held by many who declare themselves orthodox Churchmen… is, that it tends to render Christianity so much a system of prohibitions rather than of privilege and hopes, and thus the injunction to rejoice, so strongly enforced in the New Testament, is practically neglected, and Religion is made to wear a forbidding and gloomy air and not one of peace and hope and joy.
What a reminder that our main emphasis should be joy and hope in Christ rather than a system of don’ts which produces a gloomy joylessness. Scriptural prohibitions exist and should be followed. But the overarching attitude of a Christian should be unstoppable joy in the Savior who achieved our perfect right standing with God and promises the hope of glory.