Though often used interchangeably, “grace” and “mercy” differ in many ways.
In a nutshell, they are two sides of the same coin. Grace is a gift we don’t deserve, while mercy is not getting the punishment we deserve.
Sounds confusing? Let’s break it down bit by bit.
In the dictionary, grace is defined as courteous goodwill. Meaning, it’s not asked for nor deserved, but is freely given. Mercy, on the other hand, is the compassion and kindness shown to someone whom it is in one’s power to punish or harm. It is an act meant to relieve someone of their suffering.
Let’s put it this way: suppose someone attempted to rob your house. You learned that the robber was just in a desperate situation and didn’t intend to do any harm at all. Instead of calling the police, you chose to pardon the thief and let the matter go – that’s mercy. Then you gave him some food and a few dollars to get him through this trying time – that’s grace.
In a world where mistakes are swiftly punished, and goodwill is only for the worthy, grace and mercy are an absolute necessity.
Grace vs. Mercy in Christianity
One of the most prominent stories in the bible is that of King David. Despite being a great ruler, he was a fornicator and an adulterer. But he is not alone. Plenty of other bible characters have done something terrible at some point in their lives. Saul was a disbeliever, Moses was a doubter, and Jacob was a cheater.
Despite this, God made them his witness and used them to accomplish His purpose. Not only did He forgive them, but He also endowed them with unmerited favor.
Like these bible characters, we are all recipients of God’s mercy and grace as well. Despite having sinned over and over again, He has shown us kindness and compassion. He even sent his only son so all of us can be saved – an act of grace that we do not deserve.
In Christian theology, grace is often classified into two types: common and saving grace. The former is universal. It’s God’s grace to all of humanity regardless of their faith in Him. Examples of common grace are the beauty of creation, the life we enjoy, and the resources we are provided.
A saving grace, meanwhile, is that which provides salvation to a person. This type of grace is manifested in Jesus Christ himself, whom He sent to save us all. (Related: 5 Times Jesus Taught Us About Kindness)
Responding to Grace and Mercy
Grace and mercy are undoubtedly God’s ultimate expression of love for us. But how should we respond to this undeserved kindness? The bible teaches us of three ways: recognize, accept, and grow.
To be able to respond to his grace and mercy fully, we must first recognize our need for such. We must humbly accept that we are all sinners and imperfect, and everything we have is thanks to Him. Let us shed our pride and shift our focus away from ourselves. Only by doing so can we acknowledge His presence in our lives and all the blessings we’ve received from Him.
He has given His grace and mercy for free, never asking anything in return. Thus, it’s only right to accept these acts of love with all our hearts. Wholehearted acceptance is the best way of showing our gratefulness for everything we’ve received.
When we accept his grace, we begin to grow in his love. In time, these seeds of love that He has planted in our hearts will take root and bear fruits. Through acts of kindness and compassion, we can then spread to the world the grace and mercy that He generously bestowed upon us.