We’ve looked at Grace as part of our relationship with God, and each other, now let’s discuss the concept of “Mercy”.
“But what’s the difference between Grace and Mercy?” I hear you ask. “Aren’t they the same thing?”
They’re certainty related that’s for sure, but there’s a fine difference.
One of the many things that set us humans apart from other species is this powerful sense of Justice.
Where (or Who) did we get that from?
Justice is (ideally) getting what we deserve, or think we deserve. But that varies from government to government, and from situation to situation.
Injustice is one of the biggest problems in this world.
The struggle for perfect justice seems never ending. So we demand, and fight for our "Rights".
“Rights” are getting what we legally “deserve”, or what we’re legally entitled to at least.
It’s become a highly political thing to demand our rights: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Expression, Human Rights etc, and mostly this is based on high ideals and moral rectitude.
The only trouble is, sometimes one person’s “rights” override another person’s rights. So who’s right? The irony is, we say “That’s wrong!”
In Shakespeare’s Play “The Merchant of Venice”, Shylock, the money lender demanded his literal pound of flesh when the debtor couldn’t pay up. The judge agreed that this was Shylock’s legal entitlement, but when the creditor drew his knife, the wise judge added that he was forbidden to shed one drop of the debtor’s blood (human rights), on pain of death. Shylock, obviously alarmed, withdrew his demand. The judge then said: “Down, therefore, and beg mercy of the Duke.”
Something sounds familiar here.
When we start demanding our “rights” or “justice” from God, we miss by a mile!
“God! I deserve better than this!”
My Goodness! Do we realize what we’re saying?
If we could see things from God’s perspective (remember, He is the only one Who has a handle on Reality) we would be too terrified to even think of such a thing!
God doesn’t owe us anything!
We make excuses for our tendency to self-centredness (“Sin”).
But God looks at our not-so-nice-guy hearts and sees what’s really going on in there. (Gulp!)
Who do we think we are to accuse God of injustice, when He created Justice and Integrity in the first place??
Ultimate justice will happen when we stand before God, the judge of the universe.
He is omniscient. He has ALL the evidence and proof of guilt before Him.
"But..but...what about the times when we’ve done noble, God-like things? We’ve done good, helped people, made sacrifices."
All this is wonderful, but God made us that way in the first place. (See Genesis 1:27)
We’re merely acting out the way we’re supposed to be. But we have fallen from that beautiful state that God intended – by our own choices!
No matter how “nice guy” we seem on the surface, we still have this Sin principle operating inside. Then we have the gall to complain when we suffer the consequences.
Normally, we’d throw out any bad apple from the basket of good ones. We isolate and destroy any destructive microbe, pest, predator or weed to keep us safe, successful and healthy.
Yet we often refuse to do the same with our Sin.
Comparisons don’t help either i.e. “OK, I’m bad, but I’m not as bad as him.”
The trouble is...We still get thrown out as a bad apple as well as him.
We can’t blame our parents, we can’t blame our poverty, we can’t blame anyone or anything for our own choices.
Not only are there consequences in this life for being out of kilter with the way the universe is run, but we will have to face ultimate justice, being accountable for everything we’ve done, said or even thought! (Gulp!!)
That means, on my own merits, I AM GUILTY! I haven’t got a legal leg to stand on.
We have disqualified ourselves from all our supposed “rights” apart from a fair trial -- the ultimate Fair Trial. In the harsh light of Truth, we are completely stripped of any excuse or extenuating circumstances.
Like Shylock, all we can do now is fall down and beg mercy of the presiding King.
Enter the Council for the Defence!
He brings out a legal decree, proclaiming that the ultimate penalty has been paid – at His expense.
We are free to go. Acquitted.
Now THAT ....is Mercy!
But…. that’s only if we decide to beg for mercy now -- in this life -- while we have the chance.
If we reject, ignore or even just put off this golden opportunity until it’s too late, we only have ourselves to blame for the ultimate consequences.
If you haven’t already done so, PLEASE, kneel down and ask God for His mercy right now!
OK. So what’s the difference between Grace and Mercy?
Ken Malmin (Bible Temple in Portland, Oregon, USA) put it very succinctly:
- Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.
- Mercy is not getting what we do deserve.
But does God merely let you off legally, waves you out of His courtroom to make way for the next case, letting you wander off to struggle with life on your own? NO!
It’s only the beginning!
More on that next time.