I have all my life heard and have been taught about these two, what they mean and how much they are relevant in the Christian faith. You can ask me what is grace anywhere and at anytime at all (even in the middle of my sleep) and I can automatically fire back as fast and as natural as breathing, "Getting something undeserved." Any christian (believer) knows that and probably even any small kid who attends Sunday school, too. And if you've been born into a christian home and have been raised up in a christian environment like I have been, then you will know what I mean when I say that grace and mercy are sisters in the faith and that they fly around as often as the sun comes up every blessed morning.
The problem with familiarity though is that we often take these important things for granted. I have been reading the bible ever since I started learning how to read and yet, it's only lately that I have come to really think and consider how much grace and mercy really means to us.
Can you tell the difference between grace and mercy? Can you tell them apart? I knew they are different but that's all my understanding can afford me then. I just could not wrap my mind around the distinct difference between the two. These two absolutely go hand in hand but there is a defining line between them that explicitly tells them apart.
According to the dictionary, grace is the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God whereas mercy is defined as the compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender or an enemy. There is a difference after all. But wait. They both are somehow similar in a way that they both are favors freely given, right? Right. So they are actually the same, yes? No.
So how do you put them in a situation where one can be able to tell apart their differences? Our pastor simply puts it this way: grace IS getting something undeserved while mercy is NOT getting something [we] deserve.
Huh? Okay, let's put them in context where they both extremely matter. SALVATION.
Salvation is only through grace alone [the Bible says so]. What is this grace? Grace is the unmerited love of GOD that willed Him to send His only Son to die in our stead. Grace is the abounding love Christ have for the wretched humanity that made Him step down from glory to bear our guilt and shame. Grace is the overwhelming love of God that it broke through the barriers of time so it could reach you and me. Grace is the unconditional love GOD bestows upon us that is neither comprehensible by the mere human mind nor fathomable. We all deserve eternal damnation but because of GOD's grace, we are given freedom from the bondage of the price of sin at the expense of the life of GOD's own son. Can you imagine the proportion of GOD's love toward us?
The Bible tells us that GOD in His absolute holiness and righteousness cannot stand the very presence of sin. To give us a clearer picture at how much GOD loathes sin, the Bible describes us to be as filthy rags. The rags meant here aren't just your ordinary wiping-the-table kind of rugs. These rugs in illustration here are actually the kind that women in those days used when they have their monthly menstrual flow. Yes, disgusting. That filthy of a rug. If that rug were to be burned, would you allow your child (or any member of your family or even just a friend) give his life just to save that filthy rug? Of course not! GOD didn't have to have His only Son die for us but beyond any reason at all, He did.
We certainly don't deserve that love but God gave it to us nonetheless. There is absolutely nothing we could ever do to merit or earn that love. Now, THAT is Amazing Grace!
But what is mercy? We often say in our prayers, "Your [GOD's] abounding grace and mercy.." but do we really understand the word? Mercy is not getting something bad/negative that we deserve. Wait. What? Let me give a very simple example. If I caught a person breaking into my house to steal and I don't press charges or have the man arrested (even though law dictates that he deserves
to be), that is mercy. I remember when I was a kid, I was very prone to breaking into crazy fits of tantrums every time my afternoon naps get interrupted (ie. rough
housing between my siblings or very loud noises from the gossiping house maids). During times when my brattyness gets the best of me and I cannot be appeased by my Dad, I'd either get spanked/reprimanded or be dealt with very patiently and lovingly by my dad, sometimes coaxing me with ice cream or rides around the village. For every bratty tantrums I do that gets the patience and doting of my father instead of the spanking and scolding, those times are mercy.
So when you look at it, in a way, the very act of mercy is grace in itself. Oh, but I could ramble on for endless days about mercy and grace and still somehow will not fully grasp the greatness of GOD's love.
If only people see the tender mercies that King David so often exalted GOD about, then perhaps we may just yet be astounded and humbled enough to constantly and faithfully revere GOD for the magnitude of His grace.