So much of our world is made up of opposites. For dark there is light. For evil there is good. For sadness there is happiness. For male there is female. For red there is blue. For one end of the spectrum there is always another end of the spectrum. Grace and Mercy are very much opposite ends of the same spectrum. They are two extremes yet we often get them confused because they are more alike than different.
When we think about the character of God grace and mercy are two of his characteristics that many name. Similarly when you look at Jesus’s life on earth he displayed grace and mercy abundantly. But what do these words really mean? Just like defining love in a practical sense is sometimes hard, defining grace and mercy is also sometimes hard. For grace and mercy are both actions. God’s action toward humanity displayed for all to see his grace and mercy. As Christians we to through the power of the Holy Spirit should be displaying grace and mercy to others. So what is it?
The standard definition of mercy is the withholding of punishment that is deserved. For instance if a child hits his younger sibling and the parent says you deserve a spanking as punishment but in my mercy I am going to withhold the spanking, the parent is showing mercy for their child. All humanity has sinned against God thus all humanity deserves punishment. God withholding that punishment from us his children is the ultimate display of mercy. Why does God give us mercy? It is not because we deserve mercy. No we very much deserve punishment but God in his love for all humanity wishes to spare us the punishment we deserve.
Mercy is kind of like saying to a murder who deserves life in prison as punishment that you are letting them walk free because of your love for them. This is essentially what God does for all humanity. He made this possible by Jesus taking the punishment upon himself at the cross.
So if mercy is the withholding of punishment, what is grace? Grace is the act of giving a gift that is undeserved. For instance, let’s say a child hates their parents, they speak negatively about their parents, they want nothing to do with their parents. Sounds like many kids out there right. But the parent gives the child an amazing gift even though they have said all these horrible things about them. The parent in the grace gives the child a gift that they have not earned. They choose to bless the child even though they have not earned the blessing. This is grace.
God giving us the opportunity to have a reconciled relationship and eventually meet him in heaven through Jesus’s sacrifice is the ultimate display of grace. All humanity has rebelled against God. Yet God in his love wants his children to be blessed regardless so he gave humanity an opportunity of having a restored relationship with him.
God is perfect grace and perfect mercy. As a response to receiving his grace and mercy we should be bestowing grace and mercy on others. If you do not know how to show others grace and mercy think about how God has first bestowed it on you. Ask God in prayer to give you a heart of grace and mercy. Amen.