Read: Acts 9:1-30; Luke 7:36-50
“... once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy!"
Whose words are these, and do I pray as if I believe they could be on anyone's tombstone? If I may, let me answer the second part of the question first and deal with the author of the quote later. The easy thing to say is that I know that it is true because God says that it is. There is no sinner whose offenses are so vile that Jesus' death didn't make atonement for him. We know that if "anyone" belongs to Jesus, He is a new creation. Old things have passed away and all things have become new for her, 2 Corinthians 5:17. So this quote could begin with anyone's name, but do I live every day in the light of this truth?
On the positive side, I do love to read about Saul's conversion, Acts 9 and ponder the sweet grace that stopped that rampaging sinner in his tracks. I rejoice at the miraculous transformation that only the power of God could accomplish. Surely each time I am reminded of Saul's new birth, John 3:3 my heart should be stirred with the knowledge that absolutely no one is beyond the amazing grace of God.
Yet, what about a few weeks ago? That was when I heard about a sting that revealed the fact that there was sex trafficking occurring in Jupiter, Florida. Sadly, I was not surprised. Truthfully, when I hear about this kind of slavery, my heart goes out to the ones who have been tricked, coerced, or even forced into this lifestyle. If my heart hasn't become numb by hearing about yet another sad story, I will pray for the women, that Jesus will make Himself known to them, letting each one know that He died to make her His daughter, having taken upon Himself all of her sins, just as He has taken upon Himself all of my own, 2 Corinthians 5:21. In addition, He came to heal those whose hearts are broken, Luke 4:18 KJV. He knows every wound these women have suffered because of those who have sinned against them. I love the biblical account where Jesus very publicly affirmed the fact that the sinful woman's faith in Him had provided her with His forgiveness and peace, Luke 7:36-50. He pointed out her love for Him, and He viewed her in a very different way than Simon the Pharisee did. It isn't hard for me to imagine Jesus making these women new.
What about the men? A few times, I might have prayed for those who paid for the services the women provided, but admittedly, I have been less likely to pray for them than the women. Is anyone too hard for God? Since I believe that, I should back it up with prayer. After all, their need of a Savior and His love for them is as great as the women with whom they have been involved. Their need for grace is the same as my own.
There is, in this scenario, one additional group of people I don't think I have ever lifted up to the Lord in prayer. That is those who actually do the trafficking. Is anyone beyond the grace of God? With this question, let's return to the author of the quote. Did you guess it? Did you ask Alexa? I wouldn't have known it if I hadn't looked up quotes given by John Newton, and there it was. This is the quote written on his tombstone.
Understanding what God did for this man should be an antidote for my lack of prayer for traffickers. There is no one too hard for God and no excuse for not praying for His grace in their lives. After all, look what the Savior did in the life of the notorious slave trader, John Newton. This man was a profane cruel trafficker of slaves, and yet he was wondrously converted. Newton was transformed and became an advocate against the very trade he once espoused. He worked with William Wilberforce to end this horror, and he lived to see that very thing accomplished. The slave trafficker miraculously became the one who helped stop slave trafficking. He also preached that God's grace is what sets us free from the slavery of sin, Romans 6:20-23.
What a reminder of God's amazing grace, poured out upon this man. Is it any wonder that he wrote the hymn with that same title. How beautifully the lyrics paint the picture of what God graciously did for Newton. His grace has also been poured into our lives, and when we pray, we are asking the Lord to do the same for those who might seem unlikely to receive it. Is anyone too hard for God? The answer is of course "no". May He be honored because His arms remain open, and when we pray even for those who seem so hardened toward His love, we are in tune with His heart, Romans 10:20-21.