Mercy is an important quality among Christians. We are to have mercy to one another. In one of the most well-known parables on this subject Jesus tells the story of a King who forgives the debts of a man who owes him years’ worth of wages. The King extended mercy and grace. The man who was forgiven then runs into a guy who owes him a couple dollars and, when the other guy can’t pay, has him thrown into prison until he pays the debt. The man who received mercy and grace extended neither to the other man. When the king heard about it, the debt was restored and the man who had been forgiven was thrown into prison for his debts. Although he had received mercy, he didn’t accept the grace and in the end, he lost the mercy.
Grace is transformative. Some seem to think that grace is nothing more than a “get out of sin’s consequences free” card. The true power of grace, though, is that it transforms us to become more and more like Jesus. When grace is working in our lives, we not only receive mercy, we extend it to others. When grace is working in our lives, sin becomes even more abhorrent and we seek God’s strength to overcome it in our lives. Our lives and our hearts are purified because of grace. “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” (Psalm 24:3-4)
The only way to have clean hands, in terms of sin, and a pure heart in our dealings with God is through His grace. If I gain God’s mercy and forgiveness, but don’t change my ways, I continually need that same mercy and forgiveness. Does God grant that, yes. He is far better at that than me. If you were to bump into me and excuse yourself, I would think nothing of it and forgive you. That happens. However, if you were to make it a practice to continue bumping into me and excusing yourself, I would begin to think that you had some kind of a problem. I would stop forgiving you. I would start getting mad. I would prepare myself when I saw you coming towards me. Many act like that towards God. Since God forgives, they can do just about anything they want knowing that God will extend mercy. And people who live like that don’t have clean hands or a pure heart, they are seeking forgiveness knowing that they will not change. They have mercy, but not grace.
Again, I say, grace is transformative. If I were the one that bumped into you, in my scenario above, grace would make me want to stop. After I stopped, grace would make me want to have a restored relationship with you. Rather than just not bumping into you, I would seek you out and try to spend time with you. Grace transforms us from a people who accept sinful behavior in ourselves and seek forgiveness to a people who don’t accept our own sinful behavior and seek positive relationships with God and others. The grace that God has given to me reminds me that just as I once gloried in my sin, people without God’s grace still glory in their sinful behavior. They are proud of their independence from God. The call of grace on my life doesn’t mean that I attack such people for not following God; it means that I am to love those people and demonstrate the grace of Christ to them. I do that by extending mercy and forgiveness no matter how many times they bump into me – to continue the analogy. Grace is transformative in that it changes my heart to seek to do right in my own life and it offers continual mercy to those who don’t know the God that I know and love.
Thank you Lord for grace. Thank you for it’s changing power in me. May I show your grace and mercy to all I meet without reservation knowing that some people may never experience grace any other way.