Two words have been playing on my mind these past months: “grace” and “mercy.” And all the questions I have asked about them come down to one main question: How do I live so that my life demonstrates grace and mercy?
I have heard many an eloquent sermon preached on these two words, and many times I’ve told myself that there was no way I could show that kind of grace and mercy to others in my life. I still can’t claim to have mastered these godly traits, but I’m getting there with God’s help.
When my son, Jerard, was about 11 years old, he did something wrong. I can’t recall now what it was, but it was one of those times when mothers say to children: “Wait until your father comes home. He’ll deal with this one.” And so we waited.
What My Husband Taught Me
When my husband, Joe, arrived home, I told him of his son’s bad behavior and said, “This one’s all yours. I’ve had enough for one day.” But in saying that I did not quite relinquish my hold on the problem, for I also wanted to know how Joe would handle it. What punishment would he use? He told me not to worry; he was handling it.
I remember he took Jerard into his bedroom while I remained in ours. I did not wait long, for after about three minutes or so he returned to the room.
I was confused. Punishment did not happen that quickly! He usually talked first, then punished after.
“Are you finished already?” I inquired incredulously.
“Yes,” he said.
“What did you do? That was very short,” I said.
“I did as you requested. I dealt with it,” he replied in his usual calm manner.
By now I was really concerned. What had he done to my baby? So I asked again. “Honey, what did you do?”
“I dealt with it,” he said again.
My anxiety level rising, I said in a raised voice, “I know, but how did you deal with it? What did you do exactly? Give me details.”
“I spoke to the boy about what he had done. He confessed his wrong. I asked him what punishment he thought he deserved. I agreed with what he said. And then I told him that even though he deserved severe punishment, I was not going to punish him.”
“What!” I said. “Not punish him! Why on earth not?”
“I decided to teach him a lesson about God’s grace and mercy. He knew he deserved to be punished. As a matter of fact the punishment he suggested was greater than what I would have done. But instead I told him that I would give him grace and mercy. The same grace and mercy that God gives us each day when we sin. I thought it was the ideal time to teach him this lesson. And now, he’s thinking about what I said. We’ll talk again later.”
I knew that what Joe had done was right. He could not have chosen a better time to teach our son this lesson. Yet as I think back on that day and what my husband did, I wonder: Do I do the same to others?
When we come to God and repent, He gives us two things: grace and mercy. There are many definitions for these two words, but here are the two that I like the best. Mercy does not give us what we deserve. Grace gives us what we do not deserve.
Mercy Beyond Words
Ephesians 2:4-9 tells us that God is rich in mercy because He loves us so much! Even when we were dead in our sins, He raised us up so that He could show us grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (verses 8, 9).
So what can we learn about mercy? First of all, Mercy is the foundation of forgiveness. The two are inseparable. In order to forgive someone we must also have mercy. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (verses 4, 5).
Then I discovered that God’s mercy is not an emotion but an action. It’s not a feeling; it’s something you do. Ephesians 2:6 says that God “raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This is not just words; this is action. When God extends mercy, He does something. And what God extends to us, He expects that we will extend to others.
Then There’s Grace
Grace, I’ve discovered, brings with it a number of other gifts. I call them “grace gifts.” Ephesians 2 tells us that some of these grace gifts are salvation, inheritance, forgiveness, and adoption.
Let me share with you one of my favorite passages of Scripture and some grace gifts I found in it. The passage is 1 Peter 1:3-5. In verse 3 God shares the gifts of mercy, hope, and salvation. Then in verse 4 He gives us the gift of an incorruptible inheritance. And finally, in verse 5, He gives us the gift of His power to keep us in spite of life’s many trials.
Two gifts—grace and mercy. Without them we’d be most miserable. How good God is to give us these gifts when we don’t deserve them, can’t earn them, but yet can’t live victoriously without them!
She Chose Joy
Remember the definitions I shared earlier? Mercy does not give us what we deserve. Grace gives us what we do not deserve.
The challenge we have is to give to others these gifts of grace and mercy that God has given to us so freely. Our colleagues at work, our neighbors, family members, the driver who cut us off on the road … not easy, is it? I know, but it’s doable with God’s help.
Paul reminds us that people should not see us, but Christ working through us. This means that our challenge is not to show God’s grace and mercy to others, but to live so close to God that He can extend His grace and mercy through us to others.
Remember the story of the little maid in 2 Kings 5? Naaman had forcibly taken her from her family. It was a violent act, one against her will. She’d left behind everything she’d known and loved and was now living in a country not her own. The food was different, the people dressed in strange ways, and the language was new to her. She’d lost her freedom but not her power of choice.
She had two choices: joy or anger. She chose joy. She chose to serve her new master with love and compassion. She chose to reflect in her life the attributes of the God she served. She chose to extend to Naaman God’s grace and mercy.
So how about you and me? Each day we have choices to make. We can choose to give grace and mercy, or we can choose to hold on to our anger and pain. There’s only one way we can show grace and mercy to those who wrong us—and that’s by allowing God to live in and through us.
I thank God for His grace and mercy, for without it I would never make it to the kingdom. What about you?
Heather-Dawn Small is the director of Women’s Ministries at the General Conference in Silver Spring, MD.
Read 803 times Last modified on Thursday, 26 March 2015 08:23