Amazing Grace

"The Lord has been with me." "Praise you, Lord." "Hallelujah!" "Thank you, Jesus." Sound like a church service? A good rousing Pentecostal one at that! No, if you tuned into NBC's Dateline last week, you heard these words on television. It was a rare instance, and I mean rare, of Christians not being portrayed as hypocrites—as poor, ignorant, and easy to command. Instead, millions of Americans watched one of the most powerful stories of Christian love and sacrifice that I've ever seen. The Dateline story was about Toni Whatley of Cleveland, Ohio, a black woman who has been on dialysis for five years. To live a normal life, Whatley needed a kidney transplant. But it would take a miracle for her to get one. Dateline then introduced us to Diana Harrill, a white woman who belongs to the same church Toni belongs to—First Assembly of God of Cleveland. Diana knew Toni because both sang in the choir. About a year ago Diana took part in a 40-day church fast, which included intense prayer. To her surprise, she told Dateline, "Toni's name came very strongly into my mind." Diana questioned Toni about her condition, and began to understand how much suffering Toni had endured. As Diana subsequently told Dateline, "As I was driving one day to work, the thought just came to my mind, 'Would you be willing to be a part of the answer for Toni?' By the fourth time that the thought came to my mind, I began to think, 'Lord? Is this you speaking to me?'" Donating a kidney is no small thing. It involves undergoing great pain and putting one's life at risk. But as Diana explained to Dateline's incredulous reporters, she was willing to donate a kidney to Toni—a woman she barely knew—because "she's my sister in the Lord." Diana shared what she believed to be God's leading with Toni, who was stunned at the gift Diana was offering. Months of testing and preparation followed. Finally, more than a year after Diana began praying for Toni, the transplant operation took place. The entire congregation rallied behind the two women, praying for the success of the surgery. Dateline even showed church members in the hospital waiting room, praying and singing and praising the Lord as the surgeries proceeded. Both operations were a complete success. Toni's two children told Dateline how much they love Diana for what she did for their mother, and Dateline's reporter, Rob Stafford, ended the program by saying "It's been a lesson in just how powerful love can be." It was powerful—not just for the families involved, but for everyone who tuned in that night. It was a deeply spiritual experience watching it, and when it was over, Patty and I were both sitting teary eyed. I don't remember seeing even a Christian program that was so powerful—and this was primetime NBC. So often we're angry when cultural elites mock God and laugh at Christians. But the power of the Gospel can not be denied. When Christians like Diana and Toni act in such radical obedience, even jaded reporters are overwhelmed. And God shows us His healing power, not just for one woman who needed a kidney, and not just between blacks and whites, but for all of us; for a nation caught in the midst of political rancor. As they said on NBC's Dateline... Thank you, Jesus!


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary