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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'There but for the grace of God go I ...'

A colleague's son is arrested for drunk driving after a crash in which three teenagers die. His parents are devastated. A young man's future is complicated by his recklessness. Three other families are stricken with grief. Imagining my colleague's anguish, I say to myself, "There but for the grace of God, go I."

I, too, make poor choices, am often irresponsible and am a sinner. A theology that diminishes the temptation to judge others harshly isn't bad theology at all.

But what am I claiming about God? Does God wrap my actions in a blanket of grace, preserving me from harm and shame, while somehow abstaining from protecting my colleague? A theology that places God more often on my side than at the side of someone else in obvious trouble is pretty bad.

From here on out I'm going to practice saying, "There by the grace of God goes a neighbor" when I encounter someone in trouble. It's God who gives us the grace to see others as brothers and sisters whose burdens are also ours to bear. That's good theology.


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