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The Difference Between Grace & Mercy

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

Something cool and almost wet hit my arm and was quickly traveling down it…

I was probably twelve years old, spending a few days with my grandfather in his retirement apartment like I did for several summers (yes, this is the same grandfather who ultimately led me to make a decision for Christ – no pressure, grandparents!). I had decided I was going to make us pancakes for supper. So, just like they teach you in school, I looked up a recipe in one of his cookbooks and started cooking.

Step 1: Gather all your tools and ingredients. I don’t remember what I was trying to reach as I stood on the step stool. I’m guessing it was the flour or maybe cooking oil. But to get to it, I had to hold this silver can out of the way that had a Crisco can style thin plastic lid, and I didn’t realize I was tipping it while I was reaching…

Then, the something hit my arm, which made me tip the can even more when I jumped to look. When I realized what it was, it was already way too late. By this time it was all the way to the countertop and making its way down the front of the lower cupboards. It was honey. Sticky, gooey, thick, impossible to wipe up honey!

You have to understand, honey wasn’t just “honey for your biscuits” in this apartment. My grandfather used honey daily in a vinegar health drink/concoction. This honey was from a local farmer, not a grocery store. This honey was the real deal, and I had just wasted a lot of it. And there is no easy, or even effective, way to clean up spilled honey. There was no way out; I had to own up to it and tell him what had happened.

I don’t remember telling him; I don’t remember what he said. I just remember my grandfather cleaning the kitchen carpet in the bathtub. I don’t even remember what he talked about while he was scrubbing the carpet. I was too busy being dumbfounded that

1. He wasn’t angry at me

2. He didn’t make me clean it up on my own while he supervised

3. He made it obvious he still planned on having pancakes for supper

4. He helped me finish the recipe. He fixed my mess and then he helped me finish my project.

But the snafus weren’t over. My pancake recipe turned out to be a crepe recipe (Hey! Don’t you ever pick your recipes out by the pictures?? It was an honest mistake.)...which he ate joyfully with maple syrup; not whipped cream, not fresh fruit, not yogurt, just plain old fake maple syrup on a tasteless, thin, half scorched crepe. Grandpa ate them like that was the way pancakes are supposed to be. I was so embarrassed! That night I decided crepes are a rip off. Seriously, I’ve only had crepes twice since then. They’re just a tasteless dessert wrapper that’s way too difficult to cook when what you really want is whatever you’ve stuffed the tasteless wrapper with. Blech! Which brings me to the reason for my long drawn out story...

A couple weeks ago I was sitting in the Café at Kennedy Campus with a friend, when another friend walked up with an interesting question: “What’s the difference between grace and mercy?” Wow! What a question! My mind immediately went to the above honey fiasco; I’ve always thought of my grandfather scrubbing out that honey-soaked carpet in his bathtub and eating those icky crepes as my first encounter with grace. And I’ve always thought of grace as unmerited favor. But the difference between grace and mercy? That’s a big question…

The friend I was with gave a very workable answer: Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is being given more than what we deserve. At first my mind said, “Huh??” But the more I thought about it the more that made sense; grace and mercy go hand in hand. We all deserve eternal separation from God. But through Jesus, God not only gives us eternal life (mercy), but life with Him in Heaven (grace); He freely gives us the gift of Heaven. Mercy is not being made to suffer natural consequences; grace is being treated as though the sin had never happened. My grandfather showed me mercy when he didn’t make me clean up the mess; he showed me grace when he ate my thin flavorless crepes-that-were-supposed-to-be-pancakes with joy. That night was the first time I remember feeling the restorative power of grace and the healing power of mercy.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

Two sides of the same coin. It’s just like Pastor Matt often says, we are more sinful than we will ever see but we are also more loved than we can ever comprehend. We need both mercy and grace. In Jesus we are given both beyond measure. To Him be all glory both now and forevermore.

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