I’m continuing the series on: How God Sees Us, which commenced here.

What’s the difference between grace and mercy?

Mercy is not giving people what they deserve in terms of judgement. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Titus 3:4-5

Grace is giving people good things that they don’t deserve. “It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.” Hebrews 13:9

Mercy cancels our punishment and grace strengthens us so we can live out our salvation. The reason why support groups like AA and Weight Watchers are successful in terms of getting people to go to their meeting is that people find mercy. They aren’t criticized for being in the situation that they are in. Most of the people who run these groups were once participants.

Neil Anderson, who was a professor at a theological college, use to require all his students to attend an AA meeting as part of their studies. ‘Every student would return expressing the same sentiment – they all wished they could get their Bible study groups to be as real and honest as those people were.’

Part of the reason for people’s honesty is, that the mere fact they are attending a support group, is admitting they have a problem. They don’t have to tell people what their problem is, people already know, because they are there. I have a similar experience when I lived in Corryong and attended a writing group in Walwa. Walwa was an interesting place, I think it’s different now. But back then, it seemed to attract all those people who wanted to live some sort of alternative life style. For a time, it even hosted nudist camps. I only know that because one summer we had a cold spell and the op shop, where I sometimes helped out, had a surprising influx of customers!

Anyway, I loved going to this writing group because people were so real. I often wondered why? Possibly it was because if you lived at Walwa, you were already expressing some sort of dissatisfaction with the world. You were saying by your presence in the town, that you weren’t finding satisfaction in the things the world had to offer.

What about our Bible Study group? Do we offer mercy? We need to make sure that we allow people the opportunity to be real and vulnerable. Unfortunately for secular groups like AA and Weight Watchers, they can only offer mercy, not grace. Mercy accepts people as they are but grace enables them to change and to grow.

As Christians we can offer people both mercy and grace. Mercy is good because people need to know God accepts them as they are. But he doesn’t leave them as they are. Grace gives people hope because grace says, they don’t have to continue living as they are. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

God gives us both mercy and grace, which is good because we need both.