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Changing Society

In his excellent book, Character Counts, Os Guinness shares the following seven principles from the life of William Wilberforce that illuminate what it means to live a life of significance today. The following is an excerpt from Guinness’s book. I would highly recommend this literature to anyone seeking to make a right and real difference in the world.

As I read through these, against the backdrop of Wilberforce’s incredible impact as a Christian reformist, I am deeply inspired to make my life count. I hope you will be as well.
How are you doing in leaning into and living these principles?

Wilberforce’s whole life was animated by a deeply-held, personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Rather than ascribe to lifeless dogma or dull, conventional religious thinking, Wilberforce and his colleagues were motivated by a robust and personal belief in a living God concerned with individual human lives, justice, and societies' transformation. He viewed himself on a mission for mercy, never defining his identity or purposes by the flawed values of this
age. This transcendent perspective made him the freest of men and, therefore, the
most threatening force against the status quo.

Wilberforce had a deep sense of calling that grew into the conviction that he was to exercise his spiritual purpose in the realm of his secular responsibility. Too often, people of faith draw a dichotomy between the spiritual and the secular. Such thinking is flawed at its core and frequently results in a two-tiered religious cast system. Those with spiritual sensitivities should face the severe, complex struggle inherent in the swirl of business and politics.
Wilberforce was committed to the strategic importance of a band of like-minded friends devoted to working together.

Wilberforce’s approach enabled a small group to achieve extraordinary results. His particular band of associates was tagged “the Saints”. Their esprit de corps was so evident and contagious that they operated like “a meeting which never adjourned whether geographically together or not.” Together they harnessed their diverse skill while submitting their egos for the
greater public good.

Wilberforce believed sincerely in the power of ideas and moral beliefs to change culture through a campaign of sustained public persuasion. Wilberforce had a group of relationally aware and connected people called “Launchers” who launched the most serious discussions concerning the issues of their times.

Wilberforce was willing to pay a steep cost for his courageous public stands and was remarkably persistent in pursuing his life task. He was concerned beyond swift results and attuned to long term consequences.

Wilberforce’s labor and faith were grounded in a genuine humility rather than a blind fanaticism. He evidenced a disarming wit and unassuming modesty possessing a contagious joy even in the midst of the most serious of personal and professional crises throughout his life. It was characteristic of him that he worked comfortably with friends and those who opposed his
views on faith and society. He lived in light of eternity.

Wilberforce forged strategic partnerships for common good irrespective of differences over methods, ideology, or religious belief. What mattered to him was a real change, not rhetorical
posturing. He was a powerful example of the old Anglican principle: “In things essential, unity. In things nonessential, diversity. And in all things, charity.”

It is exciting to see many of these same principles rising to the surface in this day to fight many of the foes and challenges that our society is facing. My heart beats faster as I read these statements; I want them to be right, and I long for them to be true for all those who earnestly seek to follow Jesus Christ.

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