We have been studying the teachings of Jesus in our weekly Bible Study group at the university, and we just covered Matthew chapter 5, verses 13 – 16, in which Jesus said His disciples should be the salt of the earth and light of the world.
My wife and I went to see the movie “Amazing Grace” this afternoon and it was a great illustration of what determined Christians can do to exert positive influence in this world. The movie was about William Wilberforce, the English politician who felt God asked him to push to abolish the slave trade. He became the head of the parliamentary movement against the British slave trade. He was helped by many people, including John Newton, a former slave ship captain who repented to become a clergyman, and wrote the song “Amazing Grace”, which became a favourite of Blacks and evangelical Christians.
Looking back, it seems it should not be too difficult to persuade reasonable people that such an inhumane act as the slave trade, which resulted in so much unspeakable suffering, should not be allowed to continue. But ignorance, greed, prejudice, inertia and politics created tremendous obstacles. “The African people do not oppose the slave trade.” “Many slaves own land, living better than our own people.” Ïf we give up the slaves, our businesses will collapse and the empire cannot retain its power.” “The French is not going to stop having slaves even if we stop. So we cannot stop.” “The people demand it (abolition of the slave trade)? Are you on the side of the mob, or are you on the side of the King?” “The Americans support it? They are revolutionaries. You must be revolutionaries too. We cannot allow revolutions in this country.” …
Eventually it took many years of tremendous effort to finally persuade parliament to pass the Slave Trade Act in 1807. Today Wilberforce remains a greatly respected figure.