But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us. (Ephesians 2:4)
Grace is God’s gift of something undeserved to believers, while mercy is God’s withholding of something deserved. God’s mercy and love are inseparable just as grace and love are. God gives us what we don’t deserve because He loves us. He holds back what we deserve because He loves us.
Before you start thinking of things you deserved that you didn’t get, and they’re things you wish you had gotten, pause to see the truth of God’s mercy. He gives us mercy from punishment and many consequences. He gives us mercy from pain, harshness, and persecution. These are all things that we deserve because of what we do (or don’t do), including what we think and what attitudes we develop and hang onto. Remember, God knows our intent. Yet because of His love for us, He withholds the blunt blows of much of what we deserve.
That doesn’t mean He protects us from all consequences, and I’m not just referring to consequences of our own messes but also of the world’s messes. We live in community. God didn’t create us for isolation. That means, what we do and don’t do impacts others and vice versa. If you think something in life has been a harsh reality check, perhaps even unjust, consider what it would be without God’s mercy. God doesn’t take things completely away (at least, not all the time) because He knows us intimately. He knows what impacts our lives, including lessons through experiences.
As a believer, it’s sometimes difficult to live God’s mercy—and grace—out loud in daily life. Even when we have full access to them through God and understand what they are, it can be difficult to access the insight to live them out. But let’s consider the verses that follow.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
We are made alive in Christ.
We are saved by grace through faith.
We are raised with Christ and seated with Him in heaven.
We receive grace in kindness.
We receive salvation as a gift.
We are God’s workmanship.
We are created for good works through Jesus.
God has prepared our good works so we will walk in them.
These statements are given from a grace perspective. They are what God gives us that is undeserved. But each one involves mercy, too. Each act of love involves the withholding of something we actually deserve.
We are destined to die and to live dead lives.
We are doomed. There is no hope.
We cannot know Jesus, nor God. Heaven is not an option.
We receive punishment and judgment, void of love.
We are accidents.
We are evil.
We have been left to figure it all out on our own.
I’m not trying to be a downer, and I don’t know that these are the exact things from which God is giving us mercy, but I think it’s important to look at them. We see both grace and mercy as such positive blessings, and they are, but we often downplay the options we have if we live life without them.
Of course, the reality is we don’t have to. Whether we accept God’s grace, mercy, and love or not, it exists. It is available. It’s an option. And He doesn’t want us to seek Him just to avoid condemnation. Or maybe He doesn’t mind. After all, He will accept people who come to Him through many paths just as long as they eventually end up walking through the narrow gate.
Instead of waiting until we know someone is standing at the narrow gate, we need to be reaching out to them with God’s mercy and love. After all, we really don’t know where they are from God’s perspective, just where they appear to be from ours. But we want them to see a glimpse of God through us no matter where they are.
Dear God, thank you for Your mercy. I don’t completely understand the specifics of Your grace, mercy, and love, but I trust You and know that they are all for my good and Your glory. Help me to live them out with gratitude and glory for You.