Yesterday I saw Whitney Houston on TV and was reminded of the power of her voice, its clarity and soulfulness. She’s the most successful female recording artist in history, and what she did to the Dolly Parton penned song, ‘ I Will Always Love You’, turning a great song into an even greater one, is a sign of genius. She died at the age of 48, a victim of excessive drug abuse. The song I heard her sing yesterday has the lines, ‘No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity’. Sadly, that wasn’t true. Photos of her towards the end of her life show a woman whose beauty and dignity had most definitely gone, a solemn warning of the damage that drugs can do. The last song Whitney Houston ever sang in public was ‘Jesus Loves Me’. Shortly afterwards she was found drowned in a hotel bath. What an amazing song to sing at your last ever public performance. Her life was ravaged by drugs, and so many mistakes were made, but the simple faith of childhood never left her. She died knowing she was loved by her Saviour and I hope with the understanding that she would be with him when she died.

We Christians can often make the mistake of presenting ourselves as goody two shoes, tut-tutting at the world around us and acting as if we are so much better. It’s not true, we’re just like everyone else and some of us, like Whitney Houston, lose our way both before and after we come to know Jesus as our Saviour. John Newton who wrote the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ was a slave trader. Charles Colson, a close ally of President Richard Nixon went to prison during the Watergate Scandal. Jonathan Aitken, a well known British politician and now chaplain, went to prison for perjury and perverting the course of justice. Michael Franzese was a New York mobster and head of the Colombo crime family. Johnny Lee Clary was a Ku Klux Clan leader. The list goes on and on and on. The Christian church is filled with men and women who have made big mistakes and lived terrible lives. The only difference between Christians and non-Christians is Jesus. Christians understand that no matter how bad we are Jesus loves us and he died for us. All the terrible things we have done wrong he chose to pay the penalty which resulted in his crucifixion. Through believing in him we are forgiven, given a new life and enabled to live for Jesus instead of for ourselves.

One man I have yet to mention had this to say. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst.” (1) What a claim to make about yourself and not one I would choose to make. I wouldn’t want to be known as the worst of all sinners. I am a sinner, I can’t deny that, but please don’t call me the worst, there must be someone who has sinned more than me. This man says yes there is, it’s me. He was a Jewish Pharisee, a religious man with a brilliant mind. Within his religion, he was a fanatic who couldn’t be faulted for his devotion and adherence to strict rules and regulations. He said of himself that he was faultless. Imagine the most devoted member of the Taliban and you get the picture. You don’t cross this man, you don’t argue with him and you keep your distance. He hated this new ‘religion’ that had sprung up and was threatening Judaism. His whole way of life was being challenged and he set out to destroy Christianity as a vicious prosecutor. Then one day, while travelling to Damascus in Syria, Jesus spoke to him and asked, “Why do you persecute me?” (2) The man asked, “Who are you, Lord?” (3) and received the reply, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (4) That was how the vicious persecutor became an early leader of the Christian church. He travelled extensively establishing churches and wrote letters that form a significant part of the New Testament. His name was Saul but because he spent so much time in the non-Jewish world he came to be known as Paul, a fearless evangelist, church builder, teacher and the worst of sinners.

Paul never forgot his background and the sins he had committed but rather than let them define him he let them spur him on. He realised how much he owed to Jesus and lived for him even though it finally led to his martyrdom in Rome. We Christians are not perfect. We’re just like everyone except that Jesus is our Saviour and our passion. We make mistakes and some of us lose our way but we keep moving forward sharing our love for Jesus with whoever we can and however we can. That’s why this blog is written.

 

Bible References:

  • 1 Timothy 1:15
  • Acts 9:4
  • Acts 9:5
  • Acts 9:5,6