Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Recently, my wife asked me the difference between grace and mercy. She said that she has gone over this before but still has trouble distinguishing between them. I know that they can be confused as they are so similar. As in the verse above they are used in the same sentence and the difference is not readily understood. At one time I heard this explanation and it stuck and I have been using it ever since, as it made it clear to me. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what you do deserve.
I remember when I was growing up that there were times that I messed up and came under the judgement of my parents. I was confronted with my fault and there was a time of discussion followed by some punishment which was then followed by my dad taking me in his arms and telling me how he loved me and that it was harder on him than it was on me. I never understood what was so hard on him because I was the one facing the music. This came clear to me as a parent and on the other end of the situation. The purpose of the discussion was to make sure that my understanding was clear so that I would be able to make a good decision next time. The punishment was never for the purpose of me paying for my transgression, but to turn me from such actions. Had it been for punishment it would have been much more severe. That was mercy – not getting what I deserved. Then when it was all over and he would take me in his arms and tell me how much he loved me – that was grace- getting what I did not deserve.
So often, people do not want to come to God to be confronted with their transgressions out of fear, not knowing the heart of God. Perhaps no one does, but I have found that it is necessary if we are to our relationship with Him. This is also true between individuals as well. No matter how good the relationship was before, when a breach of that relationship happens, it is never the same again. That does not mean that it cannot be repaired and even become greater than it ever had been, but in order for that to happen, there must be a confrontation between the offended and the offender. If it is only dismissed or ignored then the relationship cannot continue until it is repaired.
When the confrontation happens, then the offended must cancel the debt in some manner. It will include both grace and mercy. There will be a forgiveness of the debt (grace) and the holding of the person in greater value than the offence (mercy). Whenever the offended is not big enough to extend both grace and mercy then the offender is unable to get past the breach and will carry it from then on and it will stunt his growth in future relationships. It will either cost you something or you will forfeit something. So the end result is that the offender and the offended have an opportunity to grow or both become handicapped because of the offence. It is really up to those involved as to which path they will travel.