Grace and Mercy
By: Gene Markland, Author, 1.cbn.com
A young co-worker asked me, “What is the difference between grace and mercy?” An immediate answer didn’t come to mind so I resorted to humor and replied, “Grace works on the first shift and Mercy works on the second.” Laughter and chuckles came from those within earshot because we have two ladies with those names working with us.
Later, her question came back to mind, which gave pause for me to consider the real answer. I thought about God’s grace, the free and unmerited favor that He has shown towards us as a gift. And I thought about God’s mercy, His compassionate forbearance toward us showing Him kind and forgiving, even though we deserve punishment. Surely our heavenly Father is the finest example of grace and mercy.
As I considered how grace and mercy work together, I remembered a famous event from the battlefields of World War I. It was Christmas Eve 1914, on the western front, where British and German forces faced each other in fierce fighting. The following is an excerpt from a letter written by a British soldier who was present on that night.
“I never hope to see a stranger and more lovely sight. Clusters of tiny lights were shining all along the German line, left and right as far as the eye could see.
“What is it?” I asked in bewilderment, and John answered, “Christmas trees!”
And so it was. The Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle or lantern like beacons of good will. And then we heard their voices raised in song.
Stille nacht, heilige nacht . . . .
This carol may not yet be familiar to us in Britain, but John knew it and translated: “Silent night, holy night.” I’ve never heard one lovelier—or more meaningful, in that quiet, clear night, its dark softened by a first-quarter moon.
When the song finished, the men in our trenches applauded. Yes, British soldiers applauding Germans! Then one of our own men started singing, and we all joined in.
The first Nowell, the angel did say . . . .
In truth, we sounded not nearly as good as the Germans, with their fine harmonies. But they responded with enthusiastic applause of their own and then began another.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum . . . .
Then we replied. O come all ye faithful . . . .
But this time they joined in, singing the same words in Latin.
Adeste fideles . . . .
British and German harmonizing across No Man’s Land! I would have thought nothing could be more amazing—but what came next was more so.
“We’ve agreed there will be no shooting before midnight tomorrow,” he announced. In minutes more, there we were in No Man’s Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each side, shaking hands with men we’d been trying to kill just hours earlier!
Even those who could not converse could still exchange gifts—our tea for their coffee, our corned beef for their sausage. I myself traded a jackknife for a leather equipment belt—a fine souvenir to show when I get home.
As it grew late, a few more songs were traded around the fire, and then all joined in for—I am not lying to you—“Auld Lang Syne.” Then we parted with promises to meet again tomorrow, and even some talk of a football match.”
Reflecting upon this Christmas miracle I ask myself, what could cause two opposing armies, fighting to the death, to lay down their arms and embrace each other as friends? Only grace and mercy. The same grace and mercy that first entered men’s hearts on another night more than two thousand years ago.
On that night, an Angel announced to the world through a tiny band of shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14KJV).
Those same shepherds found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. As their weary eyes beheld Him, they witnessed the embodiment of God’s grace and mercy made flesh, and living among them, Christ Jesus!
May we follow the example of our heavenly Father, and like those British and German soldiers in the icy war-torn Belgium countryside, extend grace and mercy to all whose path we may cross. Merry Christmas!
Grace and Mercy
By: Author, Peter Hoytema, reframemedia.com
Scripture Reading — Ephesians 2:1-10
God … is rich in mercy … ?it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:4-5 —
Yesterday we reflected on the difference between praise and thanksgiving. Today let’s think about the difference between grace and mercy. Did you notice how both words are used in today’s Bible reading? In verse 4 we read that God is rich in mercy, and in verses 5 and 8 we read that it is by grace we have been saved. What’s the difference? Maybe the best way to explain is to say that mercy is shown when a person does not get what he deserves, and grace is shown when a person gets what he does not deserve. I once heard a preacher illustrate this by asking us to imagine we had been stopped by a police officer for speeding. He said, “If the officer is merciful, he will let you off with a warning instead of a ticket.” The preacher continued, “But suppose the officer then reached into his wallet and gave you a hundred dollars before sending you on your way. In that case, he would be following up mercy with grace.” God’s mercy and grace work in a similar way. When we believe in Jesus, we are spared from the punishment we deserved. And there’s more?we also receive the riches of God’s grace that he freely pours out on us. So let’s offer rich thanksgiving to God! Remember to thank him for giving us what is good. And remember to thank him for not giving us what we deserve.
Lord, your mercy is amazing, and your grace never ends. Thank you for sending Jesus to die in our place and for all the riches we have in him. We pray in his name. Amen.
Paul does something in verse 1 before he gets to the mercy of this chapter. You may remember, this chapter is saturated with a call to be merciful:
- Show mercy with cheerfulness (Romans 12:8).
- Let love be genuine (Romans 12:9).
- Give to the saints (Romans 12:13).
- Bless those who persecute you (Romans 12:14).
- Weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).
- Associate with the lowly (Romans 12:16).
- Repay no one evil for evil (Romans 12:17).
- Never avenge yourselves (Romans 12:19).
- If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat. If he’s thirsty, give him drink (Romans 12:20).
This chapter is saturated with, “Come on now, Christianity means a merciful lifestyle.” But before he calls us to be merciful, he calls us to be worshipful. This is absolutely crucial.
“It is not merciful to make people more comfortable on the way to hell.”
We need to see the order in which Paul defines the Christian life. Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God . . .” He’s thinking, “I’m going towards radical mercy, but not first.” “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
This is absolutely crucial to see. Before he calls the Christian life merciful, he calls the Christian life worshipful. And if you get that backward, you can’t be merciful. You cannot be a merciful person if in and through all of your deeds of mercy you are not making much of Jesus. Because, in the end, the bottom line need of every human in the world — whether you’re going to Senegal or Mexico or Romania or wherever — is mercy from God through Jesus.
If you are not making much of that, delighting in that, treasuring that in your acts of mercy with a design to display that in order that they may come to taste it and live in it, you’re not a merciful person. It is not merciful to make people more comfortable on the way to hell. The comfort you are providing as a nurse or a doctor or a bricklayer building a church is designed to display Jesus to them. If Jesus and worshiping him is not the source and the goal, you’re not a merciful person. You’re putting a band-aid on cancer, and nobody’s going to call that mercy.
Therefore, the order is: “I want you to be a worshiping people first, and then I’m going to show you how to be a merciful people.” If you trade off the one against the other, you will degenerate into a mere social agenda, and I say the word mere consciously.
I think social agendas are hugely important in the Christian calling, but mere social agendas that are not rooted in worshiping God as the most valuable treasure in the universe and designed to display God through the agenda with words to interpret the agenda — that is not a merciful lifestyle. We have hit upon something tremendously important here. We must be a worshiping people in order to be a merciful people.
Streams in the Desert – December 10
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort that you experience in your patient endurance of the same sufferings that we also suffer. And our hope for you is steadfast because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you will share in our comfort. —2 Cor 1:6-7
Are there not some in your circle to whom you naturally betake yourself in times of trial and sorrow? They always seem to speak the right word, to give the very counsel you are longing for; you do not realize, however, the cost which they had to pay ere they became so skillful in binding up the gaping wounds and drying tears. But if you were to investigate their past history you would find that they have suffered more than most. They have watched the slow untwisting of some silver cord on which the lamp of life hung. They have seen the golden bowl of joy dashed to their feet, and its contents spilt. They have stood by ebbing tides, and drooping gourds, and noon sunsets; but all this has been necessary to make them the nurses, the physicians, the priests of men. The boxes that come from foreign climes are clumsy enough; but they contain spices which scent the air with the fragrance of the Orient. So suffering is rough and hard to bear; but it hides beneath it discipline, education, possibilities, which not only leave us nobler, but perfect us to help others. Do not fret, or set your teeth, or wait doggedly for the suffering to pass; but get out of it all you can, both for yourself and for your service to your generation, according to the will of God.
Once I heard a song of sweetness,
As it cleft the morning air,
Sounding in its blest completeness,
Like a tender, pleading prayer;
And I sought to find the singer,
Whence the wondrous song was borne;
And I found a bird, sore wounded,
Pinioned by a cruel thorn.
I have seen a soul in sadness,
While its wings with pain were furl’d,
Giving hope, and cheer and gladness
That should bless a weeping world;
And I knew that life of sweetness,
Was of pain and sorrow row borne,
And a stricken soul was singing,
With its heart against a thorn.
Ye are told of One who loved you,
Of a Saviour crucified,
Ye are told of nails that pinioned,
And a spear that pierced His side;
Ye are told of cruel scourging,
Of a Saviour bearing scorn,
And He died for your salvation,
With His brow against a thorn.
Ye “are not above the Master.”
Will you breathe a sweet refrain?
And His grace will be sufficient,
When your heart is pierced with pain.
Will you live to bless His loved ones,
Tho’ your life be bruised and torn,
Like the bird that sang so sweetly,
With its heart against a thorn?