Sunday, January 17, 2016

The difference between grace and mercy

Since my last post, I've been thinking about the difference between grace and mercy.

I already wrote out the standard differentiation:

Mercy is when we escape a consequence that we deserve.
Grace is when we receive a blessing that we do not deserve.

It occurs to me that we appreciate mercy a whole lot more than we appreciate grace.

This is, of course, because where mercy is concerned, we realize what we had coming, and we are thankful to escape it.  However, where grace is concerned, we humans often operate under the assumption that we deserve all the good things that randomly fall into our lives.

We are not thankful to wake up in a warm bed, swaddled in clean sheets and blankets.  This seems normal to us.  We take it for granted.

We expect there to be hot water flowing from the shower, a working coffee-maker for our coffee, and plenty of clothes to provide us choices in what to wear.  We expect our cars to start, our credit cards to work, and our computers to connect efficiently to the internet.  We expect the stores to have milk, bread, socks and ibuprofen.

We are not generally thankful that we are breathing, that we are not running a fever, that our family members are around us, alive and well.  All these things are graces, but we do not even notice: we are frustrated that the room is chilly, or our neck is stiff, or somebody else is in the bathroom slowing down our morning routine.  We get grumpy because the pair of slacks we'd intended to wear is dirty, and we forget to be thankful that we have a number of other pairs of slacks to choose from.

On the other hand, when something bad brushes into the edges of our world and mercy prevents a calamity, then we are thankful.  When we lose control of the car on the ice, but regain it before we crunch any metal, then we are thankful.  When we get sick, but doctors help us heal up, then we are thankful.  When one job ends, but another is quickly provided, then we are thankful.  When we fear that we are not going to be able to pay a certain bill, but God provides what we need, then we are thankful.

When I think about how much more we appreciate mercy than grace, I realize how impossible it would be for God to teach us anything if He didn't allow trials in our lives.

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