My Problem with Grace

Justice is getting what you deserve.

Mercy is not getting what you deserve.

Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.


I only want what I earn and deserve. The British work ethic – a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s time, effort and hard work.

Grace is free, undeserved, unearned.

I want to control – people, situations, my life: active, organising time and creating image. I make the moves, I live with the consequences.

With grace I passively step back; I accept that I am not in control.

I want to give money, time, service, love, support, concern to anyone in need.

With grace I receive. I accept that I am the charity-case that needs to receive. And that’s humbling.

I like to stand back, be objective and consider the options. I don’t want to get personally or emotionally involved.

With grace I get personally involved – because grace looks at what I really need:

  • I need relationship: I want to remain independent.
  • I need face up to my mess and deficiencies: I would rather ignore them.
  • I need forgiveness: I find it hard to forgive myself.


The reformed slave trader John Newton put personal, moral and spiritual transformation down to ‘Amazing Grace’ – given by God and gratefully and humbly received by Newton.

He wrote his own epitaph:

“John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy.”

Receiving grace accepts that I am not as I should be and requires a willingness to enter a process of change.

I need humility, honesty, courage and integrity to receive such grace. But as I receive grace I discover that humility, honesty, courage and integrity are part of the gift.

Donald Miller: ‘Blue Like Jazz’… again the starting point for today’s musing

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