Maybe you’ve never had this problem. But hypothetically, let’s say, there’s a day when we don’t feel so good about ourselves. Perhaps, in order to feel better, we’re tempted to look around and find someone whose life seems to be more of a mess than ours is. We think to ourselves, “Well, at least I’m not that bad off. I’m doing better than they are.”
We find something in their lives to judge, a way to put them down and lift ourselves up. But nowhere in the Bible do we find room for self-congratulations, for an “I’m better than she is” approach.
This saying often attributed to John Bradford puts the correct spin on it.
“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
For example, I can’t take credit for being born into a Christian family. Being raised in an environment where we went to church every time the doors were open gave me repeated opportunities to hear the gospel. Making good decisions as a teenager was easier because I had a family and a church community supporting me.
Obviously I still got to choose. I got to choose my friends at school and whether or not I followed the rules (which I didn’t always). The older and more independent I became, the more choices I got to make. But it was easier, at least for me, to choose right because I came to know Christ as my Savior at an early age, and was consistently taught and had lived out before me Bible principles.
On the other hand, I’ve known people from very difficult backgrounds who chose the opposite of what they’d seen, and are some of the strongest Christians I know. And that was how God’s grace played out in their lives.
When I see someone around me who’s struggling with sin – and reaping the consequences – I need to remind myself that I could be right where they are. When I see their children make mistakes, mine could have – and may still – make those some ones. So could I.
“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” [I Corinthians 10:12] Whatever brought that person to where they are, the same sins and wickedness can be found in my heart. What does Jeremiah say? “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” [Jeremiah 17:9]
That’s what’s so amazing about grace. It’s undeserved, unmerited favor. And it’s available to all of us, no matter how many times we’ve messed up.
And grace means there’s no grounds for me to put myself above anyone else, to think I’m better. Because I did nothing to earn it.
That’s how it all starts with salvation. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” [Ephesians 2:8,9]
Didn’t God know us well? He understood what we would do. If our salvation had been through works, it would have been ALL ABOUT one-upmanship. “Look at my works. I’m so good. I’m sure to get to heaven.” If morality and good works could save me, I wouldn’t need God.
And our Christian walk is just the same. It’s the grace of God if, when I read my Bible tomorrow morning, the Holy Spirit gives me a truth I need for the day. If I have boldness to share my faith – it’s His grace.
Which means I treat others with compassion. I’m humble because it’s all of God. His grace is every bit as much for them as it is for me.
My own goodness, which is for sure unbelievably small, is not getting me anywhere. Not to heaven, not to rewards, not to a closer walk with God. It’s all of God, all of His grace, nothing of me.
Do I remember this always? No. I’ve admitted before that I struggle with pride often. But I want God to work on this in me, that I continually see myself as I am, totally reliant on His grace. And then I can offer that same grace to others.
Were it not for grace
I can tell you where I’d be,
Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere
With my salvation up to me.
I know how that would go,
The battles I would face,
Forever running but losing the race,
Were it not for grace.
~”Were It Not for Grace” by Larnelle Harris