The Difference between Mercy and Grace

By R.E. Olsen

Mercy and Grace are not the same.

Mercy is not getting a beating you richly deserve.
Grace is being given goodness that you do not deserve.

Someone hurts you badly; they are now in your power. You decide not to take revenge. Here you have shown Mercy.

You take this same person into friendship again because they are sorry and want to make it right. Here you have shown Grace.

Mercy is easier than Grace.

If a close intimate friend hurts you badly and laughs at your pain, it is easier to be merciful and not seek revenge. Just try to forget him and move on, rather than humble yourself and seek reconciliation.

Here is another scenario: A co-owner of your company, a partner, someone you worked with through tough years to build the business, takes everything. Using complex business and legal maneuvers, he takes all the assets and leaves you with all the liabilities. You are financially ruined. You are bankrupt, reduced to poverty, and you must begin again. He is wealthy from your work. It would be easier for you to show Mercy (not seek justice through the legal system), than to show Grace (seek him out again to try and start another business together). In fact if you tried that, most people would probably say you are stupid.

The Grace of God

God is gracious and compassionate (Exodus 34:6). But God also does not leave the guilty unpunished (Exodus 34:7). God is not just portrayed as a God of righteous wrath and punishment; rather, His strict justice is tempered (so to speak) by His Mercy. In other words, God’s Grace does not overlook sin; it punishes sin, but in a way that forgives those who are guilty.

In Genesis, there is the first homicide among the sons of Adam: Cain kills Abel. Then Cain is driven out, banished from his family to wander as a fugitive. However, God tempers His punishment with Mercy. The Lord puts His mark of protection on Cain and declares: “If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken upon him sevenfold” (Genesis 4:15).

This example is analogous to the kind of Mercy and Grace shown by God to His people. The ultimate example of God’s Grace and Mercy is expressed through Jesus Christ’s atoning death on the cross for your sins.

The Flip Side

Sometimes men do not do what is required. When strong decisive action is needed and they are afraid, they often quiet their conscience by saying, “I should show Mercy and Grace.”

On one hand there is holding a grudge, harboring hatred, and taking revenge. On the other hand there is standing idle when injustice is being perpetrated on the weak and helpless, those unable to defend themselves.

You can and should consider showing Mercy and Grace for wrongs done to yourself. But men should and ought to stand up for the weak and helpless. After all, who knows “whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Ester 4:14).

By being a man in this way, you also are doing right by the perpetrator. Whatever justice is gotten for the weak and helpless, whatever the legal system does, is nothing compared to being in hell. Your efforts in doing right by the victims may wake the bad guy up.

“Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).


Let us pray… Lord God merciful Father, direct my steps, light my path. Let me behave as your Son behaved. Let me have His hidden power and strength daily to act with love, compassion, strength, resolution, and wisdom. Give me your hidden power to humble myself to my enemy and let me be merciful and graceful even as You are. When the time comes for manly action give me courage, tenacity, strength and wisdom to do what is needed. I ask this in Jesus’ name and will perform your wishes in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

About the Author: A homeschool dad of three young men, R.E. Olsen takes his role as spiritual head of the household seriously. He also seeks to impart God’s truth to anyone who will listen.

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