Grace and mercy can be differentiated as follows. Mercy is not getting what you deserve; grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Mercy is easier to extend than grace. Just consider all of the times you’ve shown mercy to a child, parent, friend, or spouse simply by not strangling them. Withholding judgment, especially towards those we love and care about, seems reasonable, whereas extending grace, or unmerited favor, is far more audacious. We tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. Reversing this tendency fosters more grace-infused relationships.
We must train ourselves to offer grace as much as we desire to receive it. The next time your spouse forgets a special occasion. The next time your boss overlooks your effort. The next time your children seem ungrateful. The next time a friend lets you down. The next time your Pastor offends you. The next time a waiter gives you poor service. The next time another driver cuts you off. We must seek to respond not with reciprocity, judgment, and vengeance but with grace.
Contrary to how it sometimes seems, most people don’t wake up with the intent to harm, wrong, or offend us.
Treating the shortcomings of others as if they are intentional and ours as if they are unintentional inspires conflict and discord, not harmony and trust. My mom taught me to assume the best of intentions and to expect the best in others, and you’ll usually get it. That mindset has served me pretty well so far.
Nowhere is a hefty dose of grace needed more than in marriage. Spouses tend to keep mental scorecards of what they bring to the marriage, and surprise…most think they are currently bringing more to the table than the other. I remember watching a Dr. Phil episode years ago, and the concept of a partnership was being discussed in that each spouse needed to give 50% effort. I disagreed with that advice and still do. Love tanks ebb and flow. Circumstances change. When one spouse gives less, intentionally or not, the other must pick up the slack. Sometimes the full 100% is required by one partner. This is grace. Eventually, the shoe will be on the other foot.
A beautiful depiction of grace can be viewed on YouTube.
Amber Guyer, a Dallas ex-police officer, was convicted for the murder of Botham Jean and sentenced to 10 years. Watch his brother’s act of love and grace toward her as she sobs uncontrollably after other family members, perhaps justifiably, condemned her. One of my favorite books is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, something I didn’t openly share in my younger years! It is a fictional retelling of the story of Hosea and Gomer in the Bible. It is a reminder of the grace God continues to show me in spite of my unfaithfulness.
There is mystery in grace.
How justice and accountability can coexist with it is complicated. When I was in High School, I memorized the Book of James, and one of my favorite passages is found in the second chapter. “Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” This spiritual principle is also found in Matthew, “The measure we use will be applied back to us. This is so important for us to remember when we are in a position of authority or judgment because, eventually, we will be the ones on trial.”
What does grace look like in your own life and circumstances? Where are you withholding it? Is there a relationship you can mend and redeem with a little grace? Can you take the first step to mend something broken? Who needs your grace? Remember, if it’s deserved, it’s not grace. Grace is truly a gift, and though it’s free, it will cost you valuable time, effort, and pride. It will be worth it. If reading this blog inspires you to take some action, I hope you’ll share it with me—that is always my primary goal.