As I look back on the last year, two things stand out in my mind. Those two things are mercy and grace.
Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone. Some of its synonyms are; leniency, clemency, and compassion.
Grace is defined as the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
One Christian writer says that mercy and grace are merely two sides of the same coin. Another writer says that mercy and grace are often confused and while related, they are not the same.
According to the Bible, all have sinned, and as a result of that sin, we all deserve death and eternal judgement. With that in mind, every breath I take is a result of God’s mercy. If God gave me all that I deserve I would be condemned. All of us would be condemned if we got what we deserve. But, as the psalmist put it: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 52:1) And God granted David’s request. God has also granted my request for mercy.
A good example of Mercy and Grace can be found in the book of Jonah. God commissioned Jonah to go preach to the city of Nineveh. Jonah refused and ran the opposite direction, God stopped him with a great fish, Jonah repented and was given a second chance. He preached the message of judgement from God and the people of Nineveh repented. God spared the city and Jonah got mad at God.
God had mercy on Jonah when he ran. It was an act of God’s mercy that prepared a fish to swallow Jonah, an act of mercy to give Jonah a second chance. It was God’s mercy that sent Jonah to Nineveh. It was an act of God’s grace to not destroy Nineveh when they repented.
Grace is different than mercy. Grace is broader, more extensive. The word grace comes from the Greek word "Charis" which has multiple meanings that include gift, favor, and kindness. Grace refers to the fact that we can’t ever do enough to earn God’s favor in forgiving our sins. We don’t deserve to have a relationship with our creator, and we certainly have not and cannot deserve God adopting us into His family…making us his sons and daughters!
Grace is often mentioned in the context of guilt. We have all sinned and there is a price to be paid for those sins. The penalty for those sins is one that I could never pay, but that was paid by God the Son giving His life. That is the only way pardon is possible.
In addition, grace is extended to all mankind. There have been discussions from the early years of Christianity that continue until today asking the question whether a particular group of people can experience God’s grace. It has been put in differing formats, national origin, color of the skin, etc. but the discussions have only been mankind’s questions. As far as God is concerned, there is only one group of people who have access to His grace…those who accept it!
The apostle Paul put it this way; “…to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to about toward us in all wisdom and prudence…” ~ Ephesians 1:6-7
As this year comes to a close, may you never get all that you deserve, but all that God has in store for you.