One of the most beloved hymns of all time is John Newton’s Amazing Grace, not only among Christians, but also among many non-Christians. Its widespread acclaim crosses all boundaries of the belief spectrum, it seems. Most notably, Judy Collins’ version of the hymn was released as a single for the Christmas season of 1970, peaking at number 15 on the U.S. Billboard 100, and became an even bigger bestseller in the U.K., staying on the British chart for a remarkable 67 weeks. Her version is considered “one of the most notable recordings of the song for its spontaneous popularity.”
The Christian’s interest is clearly understandable, but why do unbelievers find it so compelling? Some suggest it is the familiar and beautiful melody that draws the ear, regardless of faith; but surely the distinct biblical expressions of doctrinal truth cannot be ignored. In fact, some singers, who find the term, “wretch” (Romans 7:24), to be objectionable for its quality of self-loathing, will purposefully change the words to “That saved and strengthened me,” “Saved a soul like me,” or “That saved and set me free.” Despite the occasional offense, however, the overall theme of divine favor can still stir the most hardened heart during those low times of life.