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Why grace is more amazing than mercy

Unsplash/ Brett Jordan
Unsplash/ Brett Jordan

Floyd Harris gave me the same reply every time I asked him, “How are you doing?” It was his trademark saying: “Better than I deserve.” The first time he answered, I was confused, so I asked him what he meant. He had a one-word answer: “Grace.” Floyd was my godly 80-year-old mentor who knew that the secret to life was to live by grace. I have often used this response myself, and I typically receive the same response I first gave to Floyd.

Being in the Church my entire life, I have been around the word grace a lot. I memorized verses, sang hymns, heard sermons and read books about grace. I bumped into grace often but rarely took time to understand it. Yes, I know grace is God’s lavish favor on undeserving sinners, but grace also redeems me, reforms me and rewards me — even though I don’t deserve it. I have often heard that grace stands for “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense,” which is a great way to remember that God’s grace came at a huge price — Jesus’ life!

God revealed to me that grace is not only amazing when we receive it, but it’s also eye-popping when we give it.

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Grace can only be experienced if we receive it. Ephesians 2:8–9 makes it clear that it is by grace we are saved through faith: “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

We don’t deserve to be saved, but it is through God’s grace upon us that we can receive salvation. As a teenager, I experienced God’s grace when I surrendered my life to Him. I did absolutely nothing to deserve salvation. Zip. Zero. Nada. Our human effort can never earn God’s grace.

However, experiencing the fullness of grace is not a one-time experience at salvation. God’s grace is available to receive every day. It’s hard to swallow the fact He actually rewards us for our puny efforts to serve and please Him.

Many Christians use mercy and grace interchangeably, but there is a huge difference. Mercy is not getting the bad we deserve, which I am abundantly grateful for. However, grace is getting the good we don’t deserve. I think it is easier for us to embrace and understand mercy over grace, but God wants us to fully experience His grace daily because He is good, gracious, and generous.

Grace is hard for us to receive because we know we don’t deserve it. The sin in our lives often prevents us from completely embracing the fullness of grace.

Brennan Manning nailed it when he wrote, “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”

Once we receive and experience grace, we must give it to others. This gets messy because we usually want to give grace to those who deserve it, not to those who don’t. However, when I extend God’s grace to others, it becomes a surprising grace. I have learned that giving God’s grace transforms me in two ways:

1. Grace shatters a judgmental spirit

The Lord revealed to me that I put people into two boxes. The Just-Like-Me box holds the people I like and gravitate toward. I will give them lots of grace. The Not-Like-Me box holds people whom I don’t understand and thus stay away from. I don’t offer them grace, which is judgmental. I’m embarrassed about how I judge people. All the time, the Lord painfully teaches me to extend grace to all — in the same way that He does. No picking and choosing who gets it. No boxes. When I do that, grace becomes truly shocking.

2. Grace unleashes a generous spirit

In his book titled Grace, author Max Lucado says, “Let grace unscrooge your heart. Grace walks in the front door and selfishness scampers out the back. It changes the heart.” When we extend amazing grace, it unleashes amazing generosity. We get to lavish favor on the undeserving by being the hands and feet of Jesus. This is when grace gets fun.

Daily growing in grace is a process. In 2 Peter 3:18, we are reminded of this truth: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

Receiving and giving grace is supernatural. No strings attached. No motives. Not deserved. Unmerited. It would be so counterculture in a world that is consumed with performance-based rewards. Teams, schools, communities, cities, and countries would be transformed.

Dan Britton is a speaker, writer, coach and trainer who serves as the Chief Field Officer with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and leads thousands of staff in over 100 countries. Britton played professional lacrosse with the Baltimore Thunder and has coauthored seven books, including: One Word, WisdomWalks, and Called to Greatness. He is a frequent speaker for companies, nonprofits, sports teams, schools and churches.

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