Cash Got Grace

4 03 2008


     On November 2, 1967 I was two years old and my grandfather owned a Texaco station in Lafayette Georgia, right down the road from the Walker County jail where Sheriff Ralph Jones had arrested and incarcerated one of America’s most famous musicians, Johnny Cash.  It was huge news in the small North Georgia town, and a story I heard repeated numerous times as I grew up.  I can still hear my Uncle Kenneth today, “You know, I know people who have stayed in the same cell that they put Johnny Cash in.”

     The remainder of his life Cash would point to that jail cell as the place where he accepted his inability to control his behavior and began to understand the gracious nature of God.  Before coming to Lafayette, Cash constantly switched his trust from drugs to his own inner strength.  However, sitting in a jail cell created by his own sin, he was reminded to trust in God’s grace working through him.  Two days after his release Cash walked down the isle of a church in Hendersonville, Tennessee and dedicated his life to Christ. 

     Can I tell you something which has always bothered me and I have never quite understood?  A lot of Christians I grew up around didn’t like Johnny Cash; in fact, a good many insisted that he was never a Christian at all.  He spoke, wrote, and sang about salvation found in Christ for almost forty years.  One of his closest friends was Billy Graham the most famous preacher of his lifetime.  But still, he drove many fellow believers crazy.  Why?  Well, although Cash was a Christian he was never religious.  While he and Billy Graham were indeed close, he had other friends also; friends such as Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Kris Kristofferson.  Although he sang about Christ, he also sang about sin, pain, and loneliness.  Cash ‘got’ grace and, to be perfectly honest, grace can drive the religious crazy sometimes.  For this reason, I believe, allot of ‘Christians’ didn’t like Cash very much.  His authenticity and honesty made the religious look, for lack of a better word, hypocritical, and religious hypocrites tend to not like it when they are revealed for who they really are.

     Denis Haack writes that “Cash never hid the myriad struggles in his life – addiction, divorce, failure – but faced them with disarming honesty.”  He “believed in grace, because he had experienced it, in his marriage to June Carter, in agonizing recovery from addiction, and supremely in Christ, whom he worshiped as Lord and Savior.”


     On the cover of one of his last recordings Johnny Cash stands with one dog at his right and another at his left.  One is black with a white stripe and the other is white with a black stripe.  Cash named them after the two dynamic forces of each of our lives:  Sin and Redemption.  He told Rolling Stone, “When I was really bad, I was not all bad.  When I was trying to be good, I could never be all good.  There would be a black stripe going through.”  Sounds a lot like Romans chapter seven to me.  Sounds like a man who ‘got’ grace, a man who understood that each of us are sinners saved only because of the gracious gift of a merciful God.  I wish more of us understood the gospel as well as this frail, fallen, sinful man did.  Johnny Cash ‘got’ grace, have you?

*Resources used for this post were:  The Man Called Cashby Steve Turner.  “Johnny Cash Clouded by Pain, Colored by Grace.”  by Denis Haack in By Faith July/August, 2005. “Cash Talks Love, God and Murder” Rolling Stone, June 30, 2000.  For more about Johnny Cash you can go to my “Great Lives” page.



47 responses

5 03 2008
Brian T. Murphy

I love johnny cash. and I’m with you 100%.

5 03 2008

I never knew this about Johnny Cash or his arrest in Lafayette. Very interesting story and powerful message – bravo

5 03 2008
Luke Bobo

Johnny reminds me of what Paul said in 1 Timothy, “I am the worst of sinners.”


6 03 2008
Barry Cooper


Congratulations on the blog!

A non-Christian friend of mine got me into Cash a few years’ back. He played me “The Man Comes Around” (still one of my favourite Cash tracks) and asked me to explain some of the biblical references. Gospel opportunity…. Thanks Johnny.

6 03 2008

Anyone who appreciates the uncommon grace depicted in the life of Johnny Cash would enjoy reading or listening to Steve Brown. His preaching and teaching on God’s grace has led some of the “religious” to call him antinomian.

6 03 2008
Pat Pittas

Someone asked me recently what was so special to me about the Lord. Grace, God’s grace, His unmerrited favor. A chorus I learned as a young girl says, “Grace, grace, God’s grace coming down from the Father above. Wash over my spirit forever I pray in fathomless billows of love.” That says it all for me. Thanks Darian.

6 03 2008

Stan is right about Steve Brown. I attended a pastor’s conference he hosted at Bonclarken two years ago and have since read most of his stuff. You may notice in my “Great Books” section I list steve’s book “A Scandelous Freedom” by Steve. The church I pastor will also be hosting a Men’s Conference by Steve’s minsitry the 2nd weekend in Septemebr.

6 03 2008
Mark S. Zinn

Hey Darian.
What is grace you see it in Rachel and Lisa, Thanks for all you DO FOR OUR CHURCH.

Mark S. Zinn

6 03 2008

Cash Got Grace « An Uncommon Grace

This is a post from a new blog.

6 03 2008
Jeff Rickett

For EP guy, good stuff!!! Thanks for the reminder that we need grace all the time and that all of us have a story that God is redeeming!! I sure need the grace of Jesus daily as I navigate through my sins and brokenness of life.

7 03 2008
Marlene Wawrzyniak

I knew Johnny Cash was saved but I guess I never truly understood the depth of his love for the Savior. Thanks for sharing the story Darien, it was enlightening. Nice site!!!


I think that says it all

People all through out the earth wander aimlessly
Searching where they should not go, ignoring HIStory
Looking for a way to fill the void within their souls
but nothing ever seems to help them fill the empty holes.
Headed down life’s road alone, no purpose or direction
Hoping that around the bend awaits for them perfection
The perfect mate, the perfect house, the perfect job and more
not knowing that perfection has been knocking on their door
Material possessions will not fill their emptiness
Nor will the load of things they own bring them peace or rest.
Destruction, shame and misery await them on their course
For there is nothing they can do until they feel remorse.
It is then when they repent of all the sin they bear
That Jesus Christ will come to them and lift their load of care
No longer plagued by emptiness their searching days will end
When hearts that once were empty on Christ learn to depend
We are saved by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ.
There is no way to redeem ourselves, His blood has paid the price.
How great the grace God offers us unworthy though we are
Grace abundant, offered free through his own shining STAR.

9 03 2008

Why is it so hard for Christians to be authentic? Cash not only “got” grace but he understood tht to be a Christian meant be real about yourself and your sin. Maybe that is getting grace. Thank you. The net needs more blogs like yours and the church needs more people like Cash. I love his music and miss his example.

9 03 2008
Bram in London

We all must strive to be real and honest. Leglaism forces us to wear a mask of dishonesty which the world sees through so clearly. Cash was honest adn real not because he was a better man but because he understood that grace enabled him to be real before God and the world. You have hit on something pastor. Bravo!

9 03 2008
Emily Marsden

My favorite Johny Cash song is “Hurt”. The video is so haunting. Talk about honesty and authenticity. Thank you for your point about Johnny Cash being friends with Billy Graham AND rock stars. Didn’t Jesus have friends like that?

9 03 2008

Do you think that he got grace more than many because he knew how bad his sin was because he fell so far? Most relgious people seem a little sheltered and maybe they don’t get it cause they don’t realise how bad they really are.

9 03 2008

Ryan, I think understanding the depth of our sin is always a sign of how healthy our enderstanding of God’s grace is. The true evil of “works righteousness” is that it convices us of jsut the opposite of what we need to know – that there is nothing we can do to in ourselves to please God becasue we are so totally sinful. Emily hits on that with the song “Hurt” and the video. It strikes a cord because it uses music, art and film to show us jsut how useless it all is without Christ, the cross and His grace. Thanks for the post everyone. They are ALWAYS an encouragement.

10 03 2008
Kevin Davis

Hey Darian,

Thanks for the visit to my blog. I do appreciate this post of yours. A lot of the criticisms hurled at Cash were hurled at Graham — and this is to be expected since Jesus warned that the world will hate you if you follow Him, just as they hated Him. And, yes, those who hated and crucified our Lord included many observant Jews who were blinded by an impiety unable to see the grace of God at work in the sacrifice of the Son. In truth, we have all taken the side of those who crucified our Lord, so we stand by grace and grace alone.

10 03 2008

You are right on the money. I think we could be friends. Stay in touch brother. Thank you for the encourement!

12 03 2008

Absolutely powerful!

12 03 2008

Thanks for checking out the blog ( Small world. Have you been to Ashland for Presbytery? Like your blog. We have Cash’s biography. Both my husband and father are big fans. Understanding depravity pain helps us to fully inderstand grace.

12 03 2008

Yes. Twice in fact. ALso, our youth have done somethings together. Your last sentence is extremely wise and insightful. Thanks!

14 03 2008

this Rocks thanks for coming by my site. I am a HUGE Johnny Cash fan. you have no idea!

14 03 2008

Thanks for the comment, brother! As for Mr Cash, you are right that a lot of Christians were judgemental towards him, just as the Pharisees were towards the woman at the well…

Blessings mate


PS I shall add this site to the blogroll…

14 03 2008

Thanks for the encouragement Dave and, as I am jsut getting started with this bloggin thing, I so appreciate your adding me to your blogroll.

In Christ ALone,

14 03 2008
Nick Geisen

Great post! I never knew much about Johnny Cash but I definitely have more respect for him and his music now. I’m glad you enjoyed my blog.

Pursuing God’s Fame,

14 03 2008

Thank you for the post. It is great!

17 03 2008


I really think this post is amazing. This captures the Christian journey of both being in the world and not of the world and it clearly lays out that the Christian life is a journey. There was no one perfect except for Jesus Christ. It is in our weakness that God’s strength is strong and we have the blessed opportunity to experience His divine grace, mercy, and love. Great post!

17 03 2008


Thank you. Your comment reminds me of what I was told by a mentor when I was ordained. “Never forget that your members are all just sinners; but, more importantly, never forget that so are you.” Bill Flannagan, who is on my “Great Lives” page told me that. Michael, my prayer is that the Lord will enable me to have other post which speak to you so feel free to check back. Blessings!

22 03 2008

Great thoughts. You put into words what a lot of people wish they could articulate.

I’d love to hear what is going on in Dundalk. Email me if you would.

22 03 2008

Thank you Joel your comments are very encouraging. I will try to send you an email after Easter and let you know what God is doing here.

23 03 2008

Great post, brother. Thanks for sending me the link on my post to check it out. I don’t know much about his life, but am encouraged to read this. I have always been given an image of him that was very impure. It seems he got it better than most.

FYI, I posted on the next of the beatitudes, meek, recently and thought you might want to check it out.

23 03 2008

How sad that so many don’t “get grace” and live a life of falsehood beleiving they can achieve through their own deeds what has already been given. Blessings! Happy Easter my brother, Christ is RISEN!

27 03 2008

Darian, You are an incredibly talented writer, a gifted pastor and preacher, an amazing husband and father, and a true man of God who lives each day as a testimony of God’s grace. How fortunate I am that God blessed my life with you and the boys. I am constantly amazed at all the ways that God uses you to spread His message. Keep writing! Continue to share the gifts that God has given you. He is using you to change lives and hearts for His Kingdom. My love for Always, Edith

27 03 2008

Edith, Your love, encouragemet, prayers and support mean more than you will ever know. By God’s grace I am only able to accomplish what little I do because of the gift of you. Your support allows me to be used in the way God sees fit. You are a precious gift and I love you. Your Husband who loves you deeply, Darian

3 04 2008

You had commented on my site a few weeks ago and complimented the painting that I have under my blog title. I am a crazy mother of 3 very young children (4, 3 and 1) so I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. First of all, thanks for taking a moment to browse my blog… unfortunately I am having trouble finding the time to post as often as I would like these days. Second, I do have some other paintings. The one that I have on the site is actually a photo that I had taken of a banner that I made for a group that I belong to before I added the logo and lettering over the top. I recently finished two paintings for a contest that I entered with two friends to build a media center and library in Kenya. If we were to be chosen I would get to recreate them as murals on the outside of the building. As I said thanks for visiting my site… I have always been a Johnny Cash fan and enjoyed your post a great deal… loving others for who they are even if they are not a part of the Christian bubble, or should I say loving them even more because they are not a part of the christian bubble is something that is very important to me and I enjoyed how you touched on that in this post… I will be stopping by often!

Grace and Peace,

4 04 2008

so true. thanks for posting.

7 04 2008
Joy Amisha Keshyap

Hey Darian! Well first of all I want to congragulate you on the blog! A job well done, I’d say.

Second, I would like to thank you for reading my blog. Appreciate it. Do continue to visit that space :p

And lastly, I wanna tell you that this post has been very insightful. Thank you.

God Bless,
Joy 🙂

20 04 2008

I’ve always related to Johnny Cash because he talked about how hard it was to be Christian. He wasn’t a put-on or a faker. He was a real man, a regular man, who happened to be blessed with extraordinary talent.

20 04 2008

I agree. Thanks for your comment Ricky!

16 05 2008

I agree with your comment regarding the fact that the movie missed the latter part of Johnny Cash’s life, but the scope of the film was meant to convey only the beginning and not anything after he and June got together. In fact, if you recall, the movie ends pretty much with their marriage. With this in mind, I feel the movie did a great job portraying Cash’s early life as factually as possible (without any of that gross Hollywood crap).

Great blog, very beautiful

31 05 2008

Great post. I’d be willing to bet that Cash’s music has reached more for Christ than anything on Christian radio today. I don’t know any non-Christians who listen to Christian radio.

17 06 2008

Good message. We can’t live without grace.

9 07 2008

Great post. I’ve only recently discovered Johnny but his songs really hit home. Thanks for the interesting story!

4 08 2008

Interesting article. You make some very good points. Thanks for commenting on my blog site. Best wishes…

9 08 2008
music maven

Pastor, that was wonderful. Many “religious” forget that Christ very rarely, if ever, ministered to the perfect and pious. He sought out those in need of God’s grace and yes, Johnny “got” grace. Just as I pray to receive, myself. Perhaps that’s why Johnny found bliss with June. Once he “got” grace, he seemed to receive his heart’s desire.

20 09 2008

Very well written article on Johnny. I have always liked him. He had a passion about the things he sung.

20 03 2009

Thanks for your comment on

Cool how we came to the same conclusions! (You even took some of the quotes I intend on using for “The Man Called Cash” Part 2!!)

I loved your post and will continue to check up on your blog from time to time!
Blessings in the name of Christ!

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