Do you know the words of the hymn that Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran sang before gunfire quieted their voices? It was Amazing Grace, penned by John Newton in 1748.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
Grace is a characteristic of such exquisite beauty. When you know people who clothe themselves in grace, you want some for yourself. These people seem to live on a different plane. The blows don’t bruise, the hooks don’t snag. They are quick to forgive, they refuse to take offence, they love first (not only in response) and they can quickly navigate to the core of a person – the reason for their behaviour and attitudes.
They are like a long exposure image of water running over rocks and branches: all soft and fluid lines, the sharp edges blunted.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
How often our flaws confront us, as clear as the reflection in the mirror when we brush our teeth of a morning. Liar! Cheat! Hypocrite! Gossip! Adulterer! Maybe even, drug smuggler!
Guilt and shame build their walls.
But the tune keeps playing, the words are sung, this song of Amazing Grace – it must have some weight of substance for men to fill their mouths with it in the minutes before their death.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
Grace is being extended a kindness we don’t deserve. The dictionaries give watered-down definitions that refer to good will, manners and honour. But the Bible brings its significance into sharp clarity – a meaning that many have grasped in their final moments.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Nothing they could do could change the mind of President Joko Widodo in enforcing the death sentence for the crimes they committed 10 years ago. Chan and Sukumaran, along with their families and legal experts, worked tirelessly to prove they were worthy of mercy. They failed.
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
Grace may not have been extended them on earth, but it seems Chan and Sukumaran received grace all the same.
“And God raised (them) up with Christ and seated (them) with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to (them) in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6-7)
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday May 4, 2015.