I was listening to Ski’s sermon during worship last night and realized, no matter how hard to try, we still tend to use a lot of “churchy” words in worship. Two that we talked about last night, and Ski did a great job explaining were ‘grace’ and ‘mercy.’
I have to be honest. Growing up, I learned that grace was “God’s undeserved love” but I’m not sure I ever learned what mercy was. A couple of years ago I heard a gentleman giving a speech tell a great story describing the difference between those two words. Every time I hear either one of them, I think of that story. I’d like to share it with you.
One day a dad came home from work and said to his young son, “Let’s go get an ice cream cone.” The boy looked at his dad confused. He asked why they were going to get ice cream. You see, usually the boy had to earn such rewards. His dad said he wanted to teach him a lesson and ice cream was going to help.
So, the two headed out to get ice cream. As they were enjoying their treat, the dad said to his son. “You didn’t deserve this ice cream. You did nothing to earn it. Just as you do nothing to earn God’s love. In fact, you don’t deserve his love. But, he gives it to you anyway. That my son, is what we call grace.” The child nodded and smiled at his father. He said, “Dad, I like grace.”
The two finished their treat and headed home. Later in the evening the young boy got into trouble. He and his father both knew it was something he should be punished for. As the father prepared to dole out his son’s punishment he suddenly stopped. The boy looked at his father in disbelief. His father looked back at him and said, “Son. I’m going to teach you a different kind of lesson right now. You deserve this punishment. You did something wrong and you know the consequences. But, I’m not going to punish you.” The child looked at his father in amazement and simply said, “But I don’t understand, dad.” His father proceeded to explain that he was showing the boy mercy. “You see,” he said, “God’s mercy is when he doesn’t give us the punishment that we deserve. The ice cream you got earlier tonight was grace, it was something good you didn’t deserve. But not receiving this punishment that you do deserve, that’s mercy.”
The boy recalled in his mind the ice cream from earlier in the evening. He looked at his father with a big smile and said, “Dad, I LIKE grace. But I LOVE mercy.”
That story just helps lay out the difference as well as the meaning of those two words so clearly in my mind. In my opinion, they’re both great words. And they’re both words that can only be rooted in our Heavenly Father. Without his loving example we wouldn’t know what grace or mercy was like.