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“Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5).

It’s one of my least favorite things. No matter what I do, I always seem to fail at this effort. “Metal,” I think to myself. “Anything metal.”  So I take off any jewelry, empty the change from my pockets, and place my car keys into the provided container. But anytime I go through a metal detector at an airport or other location, I always miss something. Sometimes it’s my belt. At other times, it’s my glasses. Inevitably, I set the darn thing off, am asked to step back, and think about what I might have overlooked. There is no forgiveness with those devices, and I usually end up feeling frustrated if not just downright stupid. I am so thankful that when it comes to grace, God is much more merciful.

For many years, I have heard the expression, “There but for the grace of God go I.”  I have used it myself, and I would suppose that many times I have quoted it improperly. On one such occasion, I was standing in line at a bargain store waiting, perhaps impatiently, for the lady ahead of me to pay for her purchases. She pulled out a few folded dollar bills and began to count out coinage, mostly pennies. I began to feel a degree of compassion for this individual, thinking that if she didn’t have enough – I would make up the difference. But I remained hesitant to jump in, not wanting to create any embarrassment and granting her the dignity to pay her way. I remember thinking to myself, “that could be me.”  Then the phrase came to mind – “There by the grace of God go I.” But I am not sure I used it in the context for which it was intended.

Often when we hear this expression, it is stated as an acknowledgement that another’s’ misfortune could be one’s own if it wasn’t for the blessing of the Almighty. While I believe it is true that God does bless us in different ways, I also feel it is incorrect to conclude that some are eligible for His grace while others are not. Grace is not some kind of dumb luck we receive, like the guy who gets through the metal detector easier than me. Grace is a gift we don’t deserve. Even so, it is available to all and our good works cannot earn it. The Apostle Paul stated it this way: “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul fully understood that grace was related to sin and that out of our sinful nature, God does for us what we are incapable of doing for ourselves. That is, He sets us free from condemnation.

If we look around our world, it is easy to see that we have become much more inclined to be accusing than forgiving. Our government officials are a great example of being quick to point a finger at each other. More times than not, the issues raised by one side are the same that the opposition has already committed. “It’s just politics,” they say. Jesus called it something else – hypocrisy. Yet even on a personal level, we look at what someone else has done and often label their sin far worse than our own. I’m not convinced it’s either wise or helpful to get into the business of starting to compare whose sin is greater. “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” (Romans 2:1). I sometimes listen to a radio talk show personality reply to his callers as they cordially ask how he is doing with the statement, “Better than I deserve.” That should be the response from each of us who have grown to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. For when it comes right down to it, we are all sinful. Fortunately, we are also equally loved and forgiven thanks to God’s gift of grace. There you go, and gratefully – there go I as well.

REFLECTION: How might your discussion of God’s grace be different for a Christian than a non-Christian? Do you sometimes find it difficult to rationalize that God’s grace is available to all even when they seem to be undeserving? What is the difference between a Christian who is motivated by grace and someone who performs good works to gain a right standing with God?


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