We often use grace and mercy interchangeably, but they are two different things. We need them both. Thankfully, Jesus extends both to us, freely.
The Difference Between Grace and Mercy
I attended a Lifeway women’s conference this past weekend where I heard eight powerhouse women speak in eight hours. Let me tell you, it was a day!
The theme was Grace. Since God is always right on time, that’s exactly the topic I needed to hear about.
Jen Wilkin was up first and she introduced the topic with an illustration about the difference between justice, mercy, and grace.
Simply put, justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve, and grace is getting what you do not deserve.
Here’s how that plays out. Imagine you steal some money from the cash drawer at work and you get caught. You go to court and get sentenced for the crime. That’s justice. But the store owner is there and she asks the judge to let you go free. That’s mercy. Then when you are walking out the door of the courthouse, she comes up to you and hands you several hundred dollars. That’s grace.
Our Sins Are Numbered
According to the Oxford dictionary, grace is “the free and unmerited favor of God.”
We deserve death for our sins. Instead when we believe in Him, in his mercy Jesus cancels our debt and forgives us. If that weren’t enough, Jesus lavishes us with grace; gifts, like love, joy, freedom from bondage to sin, and a personal relationship with Him through the Holy Spirit. Now that’s amazing grace!
Jen used an illustration about grace from John chapter 21. After Jesus’ death, He reveals himself to Peter and the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. It’s a beautiful scene. Jen pointed out the parallels between the night Peter betrays Jesus three times and the morning Jesus offers Peter three opportunities to tell Jesus he loves Him.
What stayed with me was this. She said that at the last supper, Jesus numbered Peter’s sins before Peter ever committed them. Later, by allowing Peter an opportunity for redemption, Jesus matches Peter’s three denials with His grace, also three times.
He’s the same with us. He has numbered how many times we will sin and He is ready to meet us with grace, every time.
God’s Grace is Infinite
In 2 Timothy 1:9, Paul says that by grace we were given a holy calling in Christ Jesus that He prepared for us even before the world began! Surely, a God who knew us and chose us before the world began isn’t going to be surprised when it comes to our shortcomings. God already knows how many times we will mess up. He has plans for us anyway. Every time we repent, God will lavish us with His love and grace. Again, again, again.
Jen Wilkin said, “Grace abounds because it knows no bounds.” She also shared with us that God’s grace is infinite, because it originates in the infinite heart of God.
We Are in Training
In Titus 2:11-12, Paul says that God’s grace is training us how to live holy lives like our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we walk and sometimes stumble forward, God gives us grace upon grace upon grace.
2 Peter 3:18a says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Practically, growing looks like repentance. Jen said that sanctification is being “quicker to repent, slower to repeat.” Each time we repent from our sin, we are maturing and learning more about God’s character and limitless grace.
So, the next time you are beating yourself up for speaking unkindly to your coworker, getting impatient with the kids, or judging someone before extending grace, remember Jesus’ grace.
The more we learn to accept God’s free gift of grace to us, the more we will want to share it with others. God’s grace won’t run out. We can both receive and give it freely.
Abba Father, help us to be people who extend one another grace upon grace upon grace.