2 John 1:3 - Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love.
Mercy and grace appear together in most pastors' sermons; it's easy to think they are one and the same.
I hope you won't mind if I try to explain the difference between the words "mercy" and "grace." Just for a moment, imagine that you've fallen six months behind in your car payments, in your house payments, in your credit card bills. You know what's going to happen. Those to whom you owe money are going to expect to be paid. That's understandable. At first they ask nicely for their money, then they get a little more forceful, and eventually they take you to court.
There's no question that you owe them. You have an unpaid debt.
Now here's where mercy and grace come in. Mercy is when you -- guilty beyond any shadow of a doubt -- turn to the judge and ask him not to pronounce the punishment your sin deserves. You ask the judge to set aside the law and forget about justice. That's not something a good judge should do. Still that is what happens if you ask for mercy.
Grace, as I said, is different.
In the same scenario, grace would be given if the judge said, "You don't deserve it, but I'm going to have somebody else make all of your payments." Grace is when the judge says, "I'm going to have somebody else pay the price for what you have done."
Do you see the difference?
Let me make it simple: mercy is not getting what you deserve, and grace is getting what you don't deserve.
On occasion you may see a judge who has seen some kind of extenuating circumstance offer mercy to someone who is guilty, but seldom will you see a judge give grace. You will never see a judge sentence his son for the sin of someone else. It would be unthinkable. It wouldn't make sense. It wouldn't be fair. But that is what must happen if grace is to be given.
Grace and mercy are God's gifts to us.
We have sinned; we have committed crimes against our Lord, which we can never make right. There is no question of our guilt or that we deserve to be punished. In spite of what we have done, God, our divine Judge, decides to extend His mercy and His grace. He doesn't give us the punishment we deserve, and He extends forgiveness which we haven't earned: mercy and grace.
Of course, the Lord couldn't set aside His laws. He couldn't do that.
The price for our sin had to be paid. And it was. So that we might have His mercy and grace, God sent His sinless Son to take our place. God sent His Son to live the perfect life we could not; He sent His Son to fulfill the laws that we have not; He sent His Son to die the death that we deserved. My friend, your sins may be great, but God has shown that He is greater.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, may I give thanks for Your many gifts, which are undeserved. Through Jesus' sacrifice I have been given forgiveness, a home in heaven, and the promise of being with my Redeemer forever. May I share my joy with others who still do not know of Your grace and still are unacquainted with Your mercy. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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