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"There, but for the grace of God, go I"

As most of you know, last Saturday night we held a service at Green Hills School. I think because it’s called a school, I wasn’t aware of the fact that it’s actually a maximum-security detention center for individuals 17 to 21 years of age. I asked the serving chaplain what could land the young men there and he said, “Anything and everything. Murder, rape, you name it.”

When the young men entered the auditorium (we’d been waiting about ten minutes for them), I’m not sure what exactly I anticipated, but based on what the chaplain said, I wasn’t expecting them to be the kind of audience they were: attentive, respectful, appreciative, etc. From the bottom corner seat I was in a position to have all the young men on my left and our choir on the stage in front of me.

I couldn’t help looking back and forth between them. Our youth looked nicely dressed, wholesome, modest, conservative, while the young men from the center obviously had a rougher look to them. I wondered what their lives would be like if they’d grown up in the homes of our youth? How many of them would be standing on the stage instead of sitting in the chairs? What if they’d had the Christian influence that’s been afforded to so many of us? What if they’d been hearing the Bible since they were young? What if they’d grown up in church surrounded by Christian friends?

Similarly, what if some of our youth grew up in their homes? Would any of our youth be sitting in their seats instead of standing on the stage? Whether young or old, I think all of us that have grown up in the church should be thankful for those heritages, appreciating many others haven’t received the same. We should recognize the great accountability and responsibility we have before God to live up to that kind of blessing. I have no doubt there are plenty of people who’d give almost anything to have experienced the childhoods many of us have been afforded.

Our pride encourages us to imagine such differences between others and ourselves; we think we’re so much better and different. We commonly think, “I can’t believe he did that…” or “I would never do what she did…” but John Bradford famously said, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” I think we could all say that.

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