The Meaning of Grace and Mercy - What's the Difference? (Online Bible Dictionary)

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The Meaning of Grace and Mercy - What's the Difference? (Online Bible Dictionary)

Often the terms grace and mercy are used interchangeably; but understanding the nuances between these two terms can provide some remarkable insights into how to apply both well in your own life...

Tags: mercy, grace, online bible dictionary, mercy and grace


The two terms grace and mercy are closely related, no doubt.

However, there are slight differences in these words that, when understood, can be quite directive and insightful.

"Mercy" Defined


Webster's Dictionary defines mercy as the following: "kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly".

You will notice that there are a couple of important components in this definition. First, there is the kind or forgiving treatment of someone. Second, there is the feature of that person described as "someone who could be treated harshly".

With this important observation, we can see that mercy is applied after some sort of transgression. In other words, someone has clearly done something wrong that would justify harsh treatment.

Thus, when mercy is applied harsh treatment is skipped. The condemning judgment and punishment are avoided, despite the fact they may have been well-deserved. The recipient of mercy is left lucky, and hopefully, grateful, for the gift of mercy.

When we think about mercy in our relationship with God, we consider the sins of our past and present. God shows us mercy in forgiving the sins we have and are committing when he chooses not to punish us for those sins.

After we sin, we would rather not receive the harsh punishment we deserve. Thus, we ask (and receive) God's mercy.

"Grace" Defined


In contrast, Webster's Dictionary defines grace as the following: "a disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency".

The difference is subtle, but significant.

While this definition also describes a specific act or instance that receives clemency, the framework for that clemency is a DISPOSITION to deliver these kinds of acts.

Out of the two entities involved in sin, one sinner and the other sinned against, the one sinned against has an inherent PREDISPOSITION to show mercy.

In other words, grace has more to do with an overall approach towards others that includes giving merciful acts in response to any sinner. Although grace covers all sin, it seems to have a special feature to cover sins of the future.

When we think about grace in the framework of our relationship with God, we cannot help but recognize His grace that covers us. Specifically, we know we will likely sin in the future, but God's grace will be there to cover us.

Developing Grace and Delivering Mercy


In our own lives, there are multiple opportunities for us to recognize the importance and value of these terms.

First, we can be filled with gratitude that our God covers the sins of our past and present (through His mercy), as well as our future (through His grace).

Second, we can continually remind ourselves that we are called to live to His standards of grace, which should feed individual and frequent acts of mercy for those around us.

Conclusion


We have refreshed our understanding of the differences and similarities between the important terms "mercy" and "grace". We know that we need mercy after we commit sinful acts. We know that we can be filled with great gratitude for the gift of God's grace to cover all our sins, including those we have yet to commit.

In addition, we know that we are called to deliver mercy to those who sin against us, and to continually work towards a predisposition of grace. Doing so will produce a spirit of forgiveness that does not seek justice even in the greatest injustices, but rather humbly recognizes God's role as the ultimate judge of all people.

I hope this article helps you put grace and mercy in a helpful framework for your own understanding. Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

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