Grace Will Lead Me Home

"We re not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." (Abraham Lincoln)

Grace is such a buzz word in our faith, but I'm not sure aI've considered what it means. Merriam-Webster defines "Grace" as "unmerited divine assistance." We don't deserve it or earn it, but it comes into our lives as moments and ways we least expect it. 

Over the past year, I've found myself thinking about the lyrics of "Amazing Grace" a lot, specifically the third verse.

"Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home."

"Toils and snares" seem to be everywhere these days. Natural disasters, violence, political tensions, economic fears, strained international relations. It's a mad world we live in, and it seems to be getting madder every day.

Except for the fact that it actually isn't.

In Steven Pinker's best seller, Better Angels of our Nature, Pinker gives countless examples of how this is the least violent era of human existence.

To share just a few of these examples:
  • International trade is at an all time high, making us appreciate and cooperate with people around the globe on daily basis
  • Education and literacy rates are higher now than at any point in history, with more schools being built everyday, especially in developing nations
  • Faster communication and easier distribution of stories and messages has increased awareness and empathy in ways no previous generation has experienced
  • Rational and logical approaches to problems far outweigh superstitions and rituals around the globe (we don't burn witches anymore when the weather gets bad)
  • Settled societies don't have to kill neighboring tribes for food or resources
  • Economic and political alliances make it more difficult for powerful nations to go to war with each other than it was 100 years ago
And it's not just violence that's on decline. The quality of life is also increasing around the globe. Other examples I found googling that aren't in Pinker's book include:
  • 40% of the plastics in the ocean have been cleaned up in the past year 
  • Homelessness among US veterans declined 47% over the past 8 years
  • A genetic cause for ALS has been discovered --and the research was funded entirely by charitable donations
  • The Colombian Government signed peace treaties with rebels groups in the country
  • Measles was eradicated in the US in 2016
  • Costa Rica's power grid has moved to sustainable energy
  • HIV rates have dropped by 67% in developing parts of the world 
  • China has banned poaching and the ivory trade
  • The new Ebola vaccine has 100% success rate in clinical trials 
  • World hunger is at at 25 year low
This is literally the best time in history to be alive. Our human species has never been more innovative, healthier, and less violent.

The paradox (which Pinker dissects in his book) is that we don't realize how good we have it. Our perception is that life is getting worse, when statistically it's getting better.

I have a theory. It's our human nature to cling to disasters. We focus on our darkest hours. We relive the pain over and over and over and over again. And as we eat this forbidden fruit of self pity, we begin to believe there is no hope. 

But that's what Amazing Grace reminds us of: hope. Look at all the dangers, toils, and snares we've already survived! "Unmerited divine assistance" has brought us safe this far! Natural disasters, violence, political tensions, economic fears, strained international relations can't stop us now! 

In Psalm 147, the psalmist recounts all God does to protect his people. May the words of the psalm, and the lyrics of Amazing Grace remind you that God has intervened to bring you safe this far, and His Grace will lead you home!

Zach Herzog

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