“There But for the grace of God, go I” is a saying attributed to the English evangelical preacher and martyr, John Bradford (circa 1510–1555). He is said to have uttered the variant of the expression – “There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford”, when seeing criminals being led to the scaffold. It basically means “I too, like someone seen to have suffered misfortune, might have suffered a similar fate, but for God’s mercy.” I had to look it up on the internet to find the original source. I have used the phrase many times. Tonight was one of those times.
I met a homeless guy tonight. His name is Omar. I have seen him before, but he did not remember me. I was in the park, in Jinotepe, with a few guys passing out tracts several months back. Omar was there was swearing at me from his drunken stupor. Tonight, just before it was dark, Omar was finding a place to lie down for the night. Our eyes met and I saw a little sparkle. Truth is, I thought about picking up the pace and just avoiding him. Then I thought of the verse in Acts where Peter and John saw the man at the temple gate.
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Acts 3:1-6
Omar certainly thought he was about to “receive” something from me. He was all scuffed up, had a busted lip and scabs on his elbows. He had obviously been having a few rough days in a row. Immediately, he asked me if I could help him out. I told him that he had fallen in a well and that he was out of my reach. I explained to him that he was living a life at war with God and that he was never going to win. I also explained to him that could only be rescued by Jesus. He wept bitterly and put his head on my chest. I prayed for him and he cried and cried. I pray that Omar cries out to Jesus. He is a step ahead of most people; he knows that he is lost.
The truth is that everyone is at war with God until he reconciles us. We can all say, “There but for the grace of God, go I” when we see someone like Omar. What is keeping us from being homeless and swearing at those who represent the Gospel? It is only the grace of God. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That is what I told Omar tonight. Even though he was committing treason and claiming that he was king of his life, the king of Kings died a horrible death on the cross, because without the sheading of blood, there is no remission of sin.
I was in a well. There was no way I could get out. I fought, I scratched, I cursed. It was not in my power to get out. I was trapped in the life of Sin. Jesus came and set me free. There but for the grace of God, I would still be. Call out to Jesus!