“There but for the grace of God go I” is an expression that you hear from time to time. Some think it is in the Bible but it is not. When you investigate the expression, you will soon discover it is a quote from an extremely devout Church of England priest who lived from 1510 to 1555—John Bradford. The original expression that Bradford coined was “But for the grace of God there goes John Bradford.”
Bradford meant it to express the idea that God’s grace was necessary for him to live a Christian life because he could not achieve salvation based on his own morality.
I heard it just the other day in reference to someone serving time in prison. A friend said “But for the grace of God, there go I” and I took it to mean that he could be in prison but God’s grace has kept him from becoming an inmate.
Of course, the idea is there is not much difference between ourselves and the prisoner, the homeless person, the drunk, the drug addict etc.
We could very easily find ourselves “hard up” if circumstances were different in our lives.
The problem with most of us relating to “hard up” people is we have never been in dire conditions and we don’t understand people who are. We “distance” ourselves from them because they are dirty, they stink, their hair is a mess and they have ragged clothes.
Yet, these are the very people Christ says we are supposed to serve.
Pastor Chan spends a lot of Chapter 7 talking about God expecting “us to treat the poor and the desperate as if they were Christ himself.”
Matthew 25:37-39 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
Jesus replies to the question: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”
Again, as in yesterday’s post, I reference that Pastor Chan says that Christians like to “play it safe.” We like to say we are Christian but what are we doing to prove that we are?
1 John 3:18 says “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” We are the children that verse is addressed to.
I know it is hard to make ourselves do what we should do. It is so comfortable not being poor and maybe you would find it hard to share what you have with someone less fortunate.
But there is that expression by John Bradford: “But for the grace of God, there go I.”
What if the tables were turned and you were the one in need?
Since 2000, the National Coalition for the Homeless has been running “The Homeless Project, which encourages people to go to the streets for 48 hours. Why do people do this? So they can experience a little of the reality of homeless life. So they can have some knowledge of the crisis situation in this country as more and more people are going homeless. So they can develop an awareness of attitudes their community has toward homelessness and have first-hand experience dealing with social service networks.
Most of us will never know what it is like to be homeless.
Most of us will never know what it is like to not know where the next meal is coming from.
Most of us will never know what having no money is like.
But our Christian religion makes helping the people who are struggling a high priority. Jesus felt the pain of the poor, the lame and the blind and encouraged all of us to help them.
Pastor Chan says “How would my life change if I actually thought of each person I came into contact with as Christ.”
Even dirty people.
Even stinking people.
Even people with mess up hair.
Even people with ragged clothes.
We don’t think of Christ as being dirty, stinking, having messed up hair and ragged clothes, but does the “down and out person” you meet have the Holy Spirit?
If they are a believer, they do.
What should we think when we see a person who is poor?
Remember, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”
We should think that.