Wednesday, August 31, 2011

B19. I cringe when someone says "There but for the grace of God"

How many times have we heard Christian sisters and brothers quote, almost as if straight from the Bible, “There but for the grace of God go I”!  The sentiment is a kind one.  We see someone less fortunate, and we repeat this much recited response in well-meaning sympathy, acknowledging that this person is a valuable human being and that we could have just as easily been the ones in that person’s situation.
So far so good, but have we ever stopped to think what that simple sentence really means?  To believe that it is only by God’s grace that we have been spared such misfortune, is to also say something perhaps we do not really mean:  that the person to whom our sympathy is directed is outside the grace the God.  Think about it:  I have God’s grace; therefore I am not in that situation.  That other person is in that situation, so s/he is lacking God’s grace.  We could then go so far as to say that God’s grace is withheld from every person whose life has met challenges, and that when we go through challenges we are outside of God’s grace too . . .
Of course this philosophy is flawed.  It misrepresents the God of love and mercy, and it cheapens the real meaning and depth of God's amazing grace, which I doubt has anything to do with this life's circumstances.  Misfortune and hardship are a certainty in this life, but God's grace, mercy and love extend to every human being no matter what life circumstances s/he might encounter.  Can we replace "but for the grace of God go I" with words that better represent God's grace, or perhaps just replace it with a loving smile and a silent prayer for the other person?

3 comments:

Deborah said...

I have never thought of it that way. I will think next time I say or hear that. I haven't said it often but I know I have said it at least once. Very insightful.

kellbell said...

I used to cringe too for the same reason. I've come back around to appreciating it, but only because I see it differently now. I believe God's grace has transformed me(and continues to do so)and that God's grace will eventually transform all. So when I say it now,it means "I am no different than that person, except I have experienced God's grace ahead of them." They are only outside of God's love and grace because they are not aware of it, and so I have the great privilege of exampling it to them. If they 'reject' it, and die on the street (or whatever horrible situation they are in)I mourn the loss of life, but I no longer worry that God's love and grace toward them has come to an end. You can read my blog if you wonder how I have come to this belief.(I have been paranoid about double spacing this whole time ;)...love your blog)

Kathy said...

Thanks, Kell, for reading my blog and for sharing your perspective. I'm still double spacing! Just joined your blog.