Wednesday, May 25, 2011

There, But For the Grace of God, Go I?

John Bradford (1510–1555) an English Reformer and martyr best remembered for his utterance "'There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford". The words were uttered by Bradford while imprisoned in the Tower of London, when he saw a criminal on his way to execution. This phrase even though I get it still makes me think a bit. I am quite confident that if, John Bradford said it in this situation that he was truly a humbled man and honestly meant it recognizing him and this other person had their own dealings to continue working through. I wonder if this phrase is used in a more (even though unintentional) rude way these days.

In the Christian bubble people see others that may be less fortunate than themselves or paying a debt back to society for something they have done. More times than not when I am with someone in the car and we see someone carrying a sign on a corner that says, “Will work for food” or something along those lines someone will say, “Well, there, but for the grace of God, go I” and just leaves it at that. Really? That’s it? When we see someone hurting or reaping what they sowed we just say that phrase and move on? Is this a way to say “I am so glad I am not that person" and by somehow repeating that phrase we are exempt from helping?

You see, I understand people may say this phrase in a truly humble way…I get that. What I am wondering about is how many more people are actually saying that phrase in a pious sort of way. They use the phrase to write-off anything that may be foreign to them. This is the Christian cliché they use to excuse them from helping that person at all. I just feel and sense from some that I hear use this phrase that they throw whatever person or situation they see under this phrase and then don’t do anything about it.

The next time we see someone truly working through a difficult time in life financially, socially, etc. How about we go ahead and say that phrase and then truly help that person. The reason? Because what they may be dealing with on one level may be the same thing we are dealing with on a different level. We all need help from each other in life.


  1. I find I use this phrase but like to believe I say it with a heart of "that could just as easily be me" and may be me one day. I like the idea of putting our words into action. Convicting blog, Bob! Thanks.

  2. We have a lot of homeless in our city and in the last 19 years I have come to recognize the regulars. There are some that are insistent and ungrateful. They know the many resources available to get their life back on track and they refuse to participate. They'll show up at the soup kitchen and gripe and complain, thinking they deserve to be treated like royalty while mistreating the very people who are feeding them. Then there are those that we know had some difficult circumstances, they struggle with holding a sign and even hold back on going to the soup kitchen because they are ashamed. These are people who seem to want to keep their dignity, they are thankful, and never ask for more than what is given. These are the ones who participate in the programs and they DO get their lives back. Then there are the traveling homeless. I call them gypsies, they have a lifestyle of being off the grid, they play music, sell jewelry crafted with their hands, and are so peaceful. They're usually on their way to some other place. They travel with a group for safety and they usually have dogs to protect them at night while they sleep. I try to always have a couple dollar bills with me and freely give to them as I see them. If they are near a mini mart I try to run in and buy some dog food for their companions. With as many homeless who are here, I can't help all of them. I know our community has a lot to offer them if they want help, so I tend to reach out more to the ones passing through. :)

  3. Economically, that is never more true. It's the fear of God that is designed to keep us grateful, and focused on him, in my opinion. In this very rough job market, most of us are one disaster away from losing it all. A lost job could quickly escalate to a lost house, and homelessness. As I consider how quickly my situation could turn bad, it makes the small victories seem more miraculous. One personal exercise that helps me is to view each opportunity for work as a gift from God, which has been engineered, and designed to maintain His blessing on my life. As I focus on Him, and stay in an attitude of prayer, and thankfulness, I focus less on my possessions, or the shortcomings of those trying to help me. As I stay faithful to each opportunity, he will continue to bless me, and grow my influence. Each person that hires me, that speaks kindly to me, the ones that feed me, and comfort me: they are all God's ministers, doing His work. I realize that those people also have shortcomings, and are doing their material best, and giving from what they've decided to give. Jesus said that we would have the poor with us always. we are called to give, as we have purposed in our hearts. God loves a cheerful giver, just as I love someone who joyfully helps me, not nearly as much as someone who grudgingly gives. We are called to be single-minded, and focused on His work. I think God wants us to be wise with what He gives us, e.g: by investing, and growing our spiritual(personal salvation, and helping the right living of those around us), monetary(supporting the orphans, and widows, the injured ,and disabled), and physical gifts(caring for our body, feeding it, clothing it, and doing so for those around us. He also seeks justice. We can practice justice, by not suing one another. He loves mercy. If we forgive a wrong, or a debt, God loves it when we do so! If we are disadvanted, it is in our weakness that he is able to show his strength best! He is, after all, the advocate of the poor, and downtrodden. He will support the weak, whether we intervene, or not. However, if we choose to be a part of God's work, then we will receive a share of His blessing. Know today that God is a good God, he is a just God, and he surely rewards good work.
    TLDR: We don't have to forsake wealth, and positions of influence, and power to help the poor. God wants us to act justly, mercifully, generously, and creatively with every resource at our disposal. When we bless the poor, and support the cause of the weak, we receive a share of God's blessing for them.