Sunday, February 20, 2011
People Who Inspire Me: William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce was a member of the British Parliament in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Early in his political career, he experienced "the great change" in his life due to a friend who shared the message of Jesus Christ with him as they vacationed together over the summer. He placed his faith in Christ and made a genuine commitment to follow him as Lord.
At first, he seriously considered leaving his position as a member of Parliament. Prior to following Jesus, Wilberforce had not done anything of true significance as a politician. He had been concerned merely with his own position in society, his own fame, wealth, and power. However, a former slave ship captain changed his way of thinking on the subject. John Newton, the author of the song Amazing Grace, urged him to live out his Christian convictions while serving the nation as a politician. Newton encouraged Wilberforce with these words: "It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of His church and for the good of the nation." As an evangelical Christian committed to doing good for his nation in political circles, William Wilberforce became best known for leading the effort to abolish the trans-Atlantic slave trade and eventually slavery in the British empire.
Why does William Wilberforce inspire me?
1. He had a strong commitment to sound doctrine. This led to faithfully living out the implications of those doctrines. He pursued mercy and justice because he saw the God of mercy and justice through the pages of the Bible. His understanding of sin, grace, and Christ led him to oppose sin, extend grace, and honor Christ in every aspect of his life.
2. He was evangelistic. In his personal relationships, he sought every opportunity to share his faith. In the Parliament, he worked with many unbelievers. Some opposed him in every way. Others were his friends and allies. In both cases, he tried to persuade them of their need for Jesus. He even wrote A Practical View of Christianity, a popular book in which he shared his faith with the population at large.
3. He had a strong commitment to doing good. In addition to fighting the slave trade, he was heavily involved in the British Foreign Bible Society, the Church Missionary Society, and the Society for the Manufacturing Poor. He worked to alleviate harsh child labor conditions and to improve prison conditions. He was a founder of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He did not limit himself to seeking good in one area. He sought every opportunity available to him to improve his world and to honor his Savior.
4. He persevered. Wilberforce endured years of poor health and problems with his children. He faced entrenched political forces that opposed everything he supported. He was slandered in public and humiliated in many ways. But he never gave up. He continued to seek the best for his family, his friends, and his society.
William Wilberforce was a man worthy of honor, because he was a man who consistently honored the name of God.