E. Stanley Jones lived in India at the time of Mahatma Gandhi who, among many other things, showed the power of self-denial in a nation. He would from time to time go on a hunger fast until his people acquiesced to his will. His seeming coming death by starvation was enough to bring sobriety to those drunk on having their selfish way.
So Jones told the story of a young Indian lady who went to the West to get an education and also got something else – an addiction to alcohol. She seemed beyond all effort to reform her. And so her father began to fast to the death until she changed. She did. And her testimony was this: “Someone had to suffer to redeem me.”
Someone said that the father’s method sounded terribly coercive. The response? “The same kind of coercion that Christ applies to you from the cross.” If the denier of self has earned the right to be heard there is potent power in the coercion. (E. Stanley Jones, Gandhi: Portrayal of a Friend, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1948)
John Newton wrote many hymns, among them, Amazing Grace. His tombstone best told his story in brief, however: “John Newton, Clerk. Once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ preserved, restored, pardoned and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy…”
One of his hymns talked about the coercive power of the cross:
In evil long I took delight
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight
And stopped my wild career.
I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood,
Who fixed his languid eyes on me
As near his cross I stood.
Dr. Matt Friedeman