Have you ever thought about the distinct difference between mercy and grace? We often use these words interchangeably in the church, yet they are two different qualities.
Mercy: Not getting what we deserve.
Grace: Getting what we don’t deserve.
Mercy is being pardoned for a crime, forgiven for a wrong, granted clemency.
Grace is doing something good for someone regardless of their behavior.
Mercy focuses on the act needing to be forgiven.
Grace focuses on the blessing given.
Most of us don’t expect grace, we don’t expect someone to pay for our meal, give us a large gift, or meet our need.
Mercy on the other-hand, is often expected. When we hurt someone, forget something, or act out in selfishness, we expect the one’s we wronged to overlook the offense and forgive us. We assume they will.
A Lesson in Mercy
Last week I used an opportunity with my girls to teach them (& myself) about mercy.
It started out of sheer exhaustion. Filipe had back-to-back meetings two nights in a row and by about five o’clock on night #2, I was done. Done. So when bedtime rolled around, I asked the girls to clean up their toys and get in the shower. About five minutes into it, they began fighting over who was going to clean what.
While they were arguing and yelling at each other, I was upstairs giving Efraim a bath and getting him ready for bed. Listening to the girls argue was making me crazy. After about the fifth time of them coming up to “tattle” on the other, I told them to sit in the hallway and wait for me.
I just needed a minute to figure out what I was going to do, and honestly, I was tired and just wanted to delay doing anything at all. As I thought for a minute I realized what upset me most was how they were treating each other, of course not following directions followed closely behind. So when I was finished with Efraim, I brought them over to me and told them they had 2 choices:
1. Punishment & consequences for disobeying and arguing.
2. They could help one another in taking a shower and getting ready for bed. They weren’t allowed to ask me for any help, only the other. And they had to receive it.
They chose the latter, of course, and within five minutes their attitudes were back to normal. They were helping each other, and getting along again. When they finished, I talked to each of them individually about what they had done wrong that night, what they deserved, and what mercy was.
I wasn’t sure how they would respond or if they would understand, but as soon as I explained it, their faces lit up with excitement. Lily hugged me, gave me a big kiss, and told me she loved me. Cailyn got a big grin on her face and started giggling. It was pretty cute.
They understood, and went to bed at peace with one another (and me) and happy.
After they were in bed, I reflected on all that happened. In those moments I realized how hard it is to extend mercy. I would have been justified in punishing the girls, they had done something wrong.
Then I realized extending mercy to my two girls was a lesson for me. I didn’t do it because they asked for it, but because I simply chose to. It wasn’t easy; it was really hard. Humbling in fact.
I had a new understanding of what it means when the Bible speaks of mercy. I have a new understanding of what it means to not give someone what they deserve.
Who is someone you need to extend mercy to today?
Maybe a spouse, parent, or child?
Maybe a friend or neighbor?
Maybe a boss or coworker?
Maybe a pastor or politician?
Maybe a complete stranger?
“God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matt. 5:7