Grace and Mercy

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. 

Forgiveness

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Matthew 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

2Corinthians 2:7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Forgiveness is a concept that is often misunderstood and has therefore not brought the peace and relief that was intended.  We hear phrases like “Forgive and Forget” or “God will forgive us because He loves us”.  Though these type of phrases are well intended, they do not properly represent the truth about forgiveness.  You do not have the power to just forget.  You will still remember long after forgiveness has been given.  Forgiveness does not wipe the memory, but it justifies the memory.  Further, God’s forgiveness is not based on his pity or compassion for us but it is based on the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.  If we reject His Son and His work on the cross, we also reject His forgiveness and we remain condemned.

Forgiveness is not excusing the trespass but accepting the cost of the trespass for yourself.  Forgiveness is not discounting the trespass as though it doesn’t matter for it does matter.  Forgiveness is not overlooking the trespass for the barrier it has brought will continue to grow until it is addressed with forgiveness.  Forgiveness is understood as ‘giving forth’ or giving to the extent of the need.  Forgiving will cost you something.  It not only hurts but also requires something from you that is beyond your human ability.  To forgive requires that you go to God to receive the grace and mercy that is required by the offence.  It is not a natural thing but is a supernatural response of the Holy Spirit to reach the heart of the offender and to reconcile man to God and man with man.

When we shut up our forgiveness several things happen.  First there is a conflict between you and God.   To refuse to forgive is a slap in God’s face for what He has done for you.  Second, your concern for the offender should be cause enough for you to forgive him.  To withhold forgiveness reveals a lack of love for your fellow man as well as a lack of faith in God.  Third, when we withhold forgiveness it causes a barrier for us in our growth and we become bitter and the longer it goes on, the more bitter we become.  Further, it hinders our spiritual life is every way and we open ourselves up to the tricks of the Devil.  There is every reason for us to forgive as it exposes God who lives in us, to the world, it improves our relationships and people skills and equally importantly, it not only improves our disposition and attitude but also settles the war inside of us, restores our joy and peace and builds us in multiple ways.  We are all on a journey to our eternal home so lets enjoy the trip.