|Posted on September 20, 2020 at 12:05 AM|
What’s the difference between mercy, grace and forgiveness? We have those concepts all knotted together in our minds as we think about our salvation. We pretty much understand that we’re not deserving of any of the three – after all, no one knows our hearts, minds and actions better than us, but we can’t help but wonder if we deserve all the pain of this world either.
I think part of our inability to grasp the greatness of grace, mercy or forgiveness is the fact that we’re incapable of granting it as unfailingly as God does. We are wonderful “excuse makers.” We have the unique ability to find someone (or something) else to blame for every problem in our lives. When all else fails, we can always point the finger at Adam and Eve. After all, this whole mess started with them, right?
So back to the difference between the three life-changing words? Grace is really defined as “goodwill or credit,” but the Latin origin of the word is gratia – meaning pleasing, thankful or grateful. So grace is God giving us an unlimited line of credit against all the mess we are going to create in our lives (yes – He knew that we’d mess up again, even after sending His only Son to be the sacrifice for our past transgressions).
Mercy is from the Latin merces, which means pity or favor. Those two things may seem very different but they are really closely related. God took mercy on us, understanding our frailty and faults, and with great love, taking pity on us, made provision for them.
Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” That scripture is giving us the promise that we can come to our Father without reservation or timidness, despite all that we know about ourselves. We are approaching the One who sits on a THRONE OF GRACE – not judgment or criticism. We can obtain mercy for the past, and grace for the present and for the future.
And forgiveness? Forgiveness is the bridge between the two. The great theologian, John Calvin, said “while sin is overflowing, grace pours itself forth so exuberantly, that it not only overcomes the flood of sin, but wholly absorbs it.” That emphasizes the fact that once God has forgiven our sins they are completely wiped out of His remembrance.
We know that because Psalm 103:8-12 reminds us that God is “merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; He is slow to get angry and full of kindness and love. He never bears a grudge, nor remains angry forever. He has not punished us as we deserve for all our sins, for His mercy toward those who fear and honor Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. That is forgiveness.
And that sums up the greatness of grace. It covers what is behind us, what we are facing today, and what is before us in the future. All with the same steady, loving kindness of God. There will never be any residual resentment over the sacrifice He’s made on our behalf, or our continued failures. And in fact, He gives us a clean slate day by day and moment by moment.
Like the ripples from stones skipping across the water, God continues to forgive – loving us with limitless mercy and grace.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!