I have definitely uttered this phrase many times in my life – there but for the grace of God go I. I was thinking about that when I read Jeremiah 4:19-21 — “Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent. For I have heard the sound of the trumpet; I have heard the battle cry. Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins. In an instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment.How long must I see the battle standard and hear the sound of the trumpet?”
The context of these verses is that Jeremiah sees the enemy coming to defeat Judah – and not on enemy turf, but on Judah’s turf. He sees the destruction of the lives of his countrymen, and he weeps.
He is not relieved, at all, that his life will be spared – not in that moment, at least. He knew his life would be spared for God’s purposes, and he knew of the sins of his fellow Jews. But he felt, as a human being, a deep compassion for them.
We all say, “There but for the grace of God go I,” but do we really mean it? How much compassion would we have on strangers, our fellow Americans? Our fellow world? Or would we confine our protection, our hope, our love – for only our family and friends? If you knew of the destruction of an entire race of people, would you shake your head and mutter about how lucky you are because of God’s grace, that you live in a different country? Or would you weep? Many of the Old Testament prophets wept for their fellow citizens, despite their multiple, horrible sins.
We cannot, on the other hand, tolerate and condone sin. We have to speak out against it, in the right way at the right time. I dare say there are not many instances where we should pause and consider the situation before calling out sin.
We should stand for God. For Christ. For the Bible. Period. That is God’s way. But we should also stand for love. For compassion. For sympathy of people we don’t understand, who are poor or lost or hurting. Thanking God for His grace is wonderful, but I think if we spend more time on our knees for the blessings of others we will find that our world will turn a bit smoother – a blessing in itself from God!