I recently watched the movie “Amazing Grace”, and it made me think about the upcoming Presidential elections in Korea and the U.S. Religion has become a political issue in both countries. In Korea, the leading Presidential candidate is a church elder, and camps have formed for and against him based on his religion. In the U.S, one of the Republican candidates is a member of a Christian cult, which has led to a division of opinion among mainline Christians about whether to vote for him.
The movie is about William Wilberforce, an English statesman in the 18th century. He was born in 1759, at the dawn of the British Empire, to a well-to-do merchant family. While still attending Cambridge University, he became a Member of Parliament at the tender age of 21. He became an Abolitionist and campaigned tirelessly against the British slave trade for 40 years. Almost every year, he introduced a bill to abolish the slave trade and saw his bill defeated. But he never gave up and kept trying to educate the public and persuade his fellow Congressmen. Eventually, he helped pass the bill that made slave trade illegal anywhere within the British Empire in 1883.
He was a close friend of William Pitt Jr., who became the youngest Prime Minister in British history at the age of 23. He worked closely with the Prime Minister on various social reforms. He introduced bills to protect workers’ rights, to help French refugees who fled the French Revolution, and to improve the conditions of hospitals, public health clinics, orphanages and prisons.
Wilberforce was motivated to do these things by his Christian convictions. He had been a Christian in name only, but he experienced a true conversion at the age of 25 while traveling in Europe with a devout Christian friend. He committed his life to God and started to read the Bible and pray regularly. John Newton, who wrote the famous hymn “Amazing Grace”, was his mentor. He was a slave trader who met God during a heavy storm at sea and became a pastor and a leader who campaigned against the slave trade.
William Wilberforce believed that it’s a Christian duty to achieve social justice. He did all this work not for his own glory but for the glory of God.
If we had a Presidential candidate like Wilberforce, Christians would have no concerns about voting for him. Unfortunately, no one is even remotely like him, either in Korea or in the U.S. Still, it’s a Christian duty to choose someone who is most likely to work for social justice. The President must guarantee equal freedom and justice for all people. He must not favor or discriminate against a particular religious group. We Christians must not vote for or against someone solely on the basis of his religion. We must choose someone who will most likely protect the rights of the weak and help the poor.
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