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“There But For The Grace Of God…”

There are a lot of sayings that people like to attribute to God but actually are not in the Bible.  They may have Biblical truths and some have their roots in a Biblicial text but are not actually in the Bible.  We have all heard these phrases:
“God helps those who help themselves.”
“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“God works in mysterious ways.”
“Pride comes before the fall.”
“The lion shall lay down with the lamb.”
     Most of these sound pretty good and have kernels of truth in them.  I think I may even have quoted one or two of them as Scriptural sometime in my life.   Another non-Biblicial phrase that I think about is “There but for the grace of God go I.”  This is a statement that has been attributed to a number of people including Joh Newton, Philip Neri and even Sherlock Holmes.  But most likely it can be traced back to John Bradford, a 16th century English Reformer who was deeply moved by the plight of others.  He would comment on those who were sentenced by the King and court to execution: “There but for the grace of God goes John Bradford.”  Bradford, in fact, himself was sentenced to be burned at the stake by Mary Tudor for the trumped up charge of inciting a riot.  He is recorded as saying to one of his fellow prisoners:  “Be of good comfort brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!
     Sometimes it is easy, and tempting, to bemoan the sins of the world, to look down on those who have “made their bed and now have to lie in it” and to be offended at every criminal or act of violence, selfishness or offense that we find repulsive.  It is more difficult to realize that were it not for the grace of God we could very well be the one that people are shaking their heads about or telling to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. The line between success and failure, sin and holiness, faith and doubt, security and instability is often thin and fragile.  Were it now for God’s grace and His enabling me to respond to His love and mercy who knows how different my life would be today?  I thank God that I was born into the family I was born into, was surrounded by the friends I was surrounded by and lived where I lived. I thank God for my wife, family, role models, Christian leaders, support systems and church family. I thank God that at a young age I made a decision to follow Him and although there have certainly been ups and downs and bumps along the way I continue to be His disciple.  Had I been born in a different place, grew up with different friends and had a different family only God knows where I would be today.
      Although I love the traditional Christmas stories and texts of angelic announcements, miraculous births, shepherds, wise men and gifts, I know that this verse written by Saint Paul is also part of the narrative:
 Here is a trustworthy saying  that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy  so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience  as an example for those who would believe  in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:115 – 16).
      As I think about what makes Christmas so special I never want to lose sight that the reason He came was to save us and bring salvation to the world.  God is gracious to me.  I don’t receive what I deserve and I don’t always reap what I sow. I can easily look around and see things I don’t like and people whose shoes I would never want to walk in; Whose lives I would never want to emulate.  I see people suffering from choices they have made and living with the consequences of sin and disobedience. Then God reminds me why he came and I have to stop and recall….”There but for the grace of God goes Steven Creange.”  It makes for a merrier Christmas.
What do you think?  How does it make you feel?