The other day I heard a Christian teacher talking about a church that attempted to modify the classic Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” by changing the words, “that saved a wretch like me” to the words “that saved a man like me”. The teacher used this as an example of apostasy in the modern church the idea being that any church that wanted to change the words of the classic hymn in this way must not be teaching real Christianity. This struck me as ironic since I had recently been convicted of a sin that made me think such a change might actually be spiritually mature, important and beneficial. I thought this thought process might be worth sharing.
The sin that I was convicted of was the sin of not focusing on the Lord when I came in to worship Him on Sunday morning but instead on me and my own inadequacy. While the example of the Lord’s prayer teaches us that we are to consider our own sinfulness on a daily basis, nothing in the Bible teaches us that the correct occasion for this kind of reflection is when we gather together to worship and thank God. And yet this is what I have done many times as I have come before the Lord in worship. Thoughts about my own inadequacy, sins and unworthiness have habitually nagged at me while singing on Sunday morning over the years. We can see why this is a sin if we change the words of Amazing Grace in an extreme way that illustrates the point:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretched, lustful, evil, lying, proud, dishonest, mean-spirited, ungrateful, vicious, vindictive, unforgiving, petty, self-centred man like me.
Aside from being terrible musically, these lyrics are also, I see now, a tremendous sin. The reason why is clear if we look at the focus of the song. Is the focus the goodness of the Lord? Or is the focus on me and my own inadequacy? Am I not sullying the worship of the Lord by mentioning my own inadequacy at a time and in a place where it is inappropriate? Is this not rather like giving a toilet bowl brush as a wedding present? Sunday worship should be about God and His goodness and only incidentally about me and my sinfulness. “That saved a man like me” implies sinfulness without taking the focus off of God where it belongs.
Now, of course, the teacher who thought this change represented a sign of apostasy would probably agree the change was good if presented in this light. His concern is, clearly, that the reason the change was suggested was not to please the Lord more by being more thankful and focusing more on Him, but to avoid having the congregation brought face to face with the fact of their own sinfulness and dependence on the mercy and love of God. Obviously in this case, such a change would represent a sign of apostasy. Let us hope that the change was suggested as a way of focusing on the goodness of God.