God’s great love makes it possible for us to experience, and pass along, grace and mercy. No matter what problems we may face in our relationships, we can improve them if we open ourselves up to God’s love flowing through us. Giving others grace and mercy doesn’t mean that we’re not being honest about problems. It simply means that we’re welcoming God’s power into our relationships. Here are 5 ways to exhibit grace and mercy to others.
What Is the Difference Between Grace and Mercy?
Grace and mercy are related concepts, yet distinct.
Grace is a pure gift. When God gives people grace, he does so freely. When we receive God’s grace, we do so without earning, deserving, or expecting it. We experience God’s goodwill as a pure expression of his love for us.
Mercy means choosing to be compassionate toward those whom it is possible to punish for their sins. When God gives people mercy, he does so even though it is within his power to punish us. Our merciful, omnipotent God chooses compassionate acts like kindness and forgiveness rather than acts of punishment when he could easily do otherwise. When we receive God’s mercy, we’re often inspired to turn away from sin and toward God, out of gratitude.
Experiencing either grace or mercy can wake us up to the awesome reality of God’s love for us. When God chooses to be graceful or merciful toward us, that gets our attention in ways that can strengthen our faith. A wondrous experience I share in my book Wake Up to Wonder shows how grace and mercy can inspire us to worship God. I became overwhelmed by the raw power of the water flowing over Niagara Falls as I watched it from a nearby boat. All my senses were flooded by the water: a wall of white, blue, and green filled my entire field of vision. The clean scent of water refreshed me, a thundering sound reverberated through my body, cold water sprays drenched my face, and I could taste the mist. I knew that powerful waterfall could engulf me completely if I came too close. However, I dared to reach my hands out a bit closer and spontaneously praised God for what his design had made possible. The Creator was vastly more powerful than the waterfall he had created, and he could easily choose to drown me – but instead, he chose to love me with grace and mercy.
We’re blessed, whether we’re receiving a gift from God (grace) or being spared from harm by God (mercy).
What Does the Bible Tell Us about Grace and Mercy?
Grace and mercy work together, the Bible tells us. Ephesians chapter two describes how that happens. Verse two points out, “you were dead in your transgressions and sins” and verse three explains how, because of that, we all are “deserving of wrath”. However, the good news is that God has made us alive in Christ, through grace and mercy. Verses four and five explain: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.”
In the Bible, we discover that grace and mercy are both qualities that flow out of God’s character. Exodus 34:6 describes God as “a God merciful and gracious”.
The Bible describes grace as a blessing regardless of whether people are worthy to receive that blessing. God blesses us with grace gladly, as a gift. Jesus Christ, humanity’s Savior, personifies grace, the Bible says: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth … Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:14-17). After we’re saved, God generously continues to extend the favor of grace to us. 2 Corinthians tell us: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” 1 Peter 4:10 urges us to be faithful stewards of God’s grace by using our gifts: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
Scripture presents mercy as deliverance from judgment for sins, which is made possible by God’s great love. God shows mercy to us, and God empowers us with love to show mercy to each other. Jesus says in Matthew 9:13: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” The Bible points out in Lamentations 3:22-23 that God’s mercy is unlimited: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” God’s mercy stands in contrast to the unmerciful choices that human beings make too often. As King David says in 2 Samuel 24:14: “… Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” Jesus reveals in his Sermon on the Mount that when people choose to be merciful, God will show them mercy: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Micah 6:8 urges us to love mercy and put it into practice: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
There are many ways to exhibit grace and mercy to others. Here are some key ways to do so:
1. Choose loving words. Words are powerful, and they can either help or harm people. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you speak and write words every day. Pray for your words to reflect the reality of God’s gracious love at work in your life. Use your words to spread that love to others. Look for opportunities to send caring, kind, and encouraging messages whenever you can.
2. Apologize and forgive. Whenever you make mistakes that have hurt other people, apologize to them. Whenever others hurt you through their mistakes, forgive them. Rely on God to help you do so. Make this a daily practice, so grudges and bitterness won’t have time to take root in your soul.
3. Do acts of kindness. Many acts of kindness are also expressions of grace and mercy. There are so many simple yet profound possibilities, including smiling at people, doing volunteer work in your community, offering to take care of children or pets, sending someone flowers, and cooking a meal for someone.
4. Express gratitude. By expressing gratitude regularly, you can train your mind to notice and appreciate your blessings, which grace and mercy have made possible. Make a habit of thanking God for the blessings he is constantly pouring into your life. Thank other people for what they say and do that helps and encourages you. Let them know that their caring choices have blessed you and that you appreciate them.
5. Listen to other people’s stories. In a world where there’s much more talking than listening, it’s a gracious and merciful gift to truly listen to others. Show respect and care for other people by listening to their stories attentively. Seek to learn from those stories and build caring connections with people.
As God’s love flows through your life, you’ll recognize all sorts of opportunities to show grace and mercy to others. The Holy Spirit will guide you day by day. Be willing to say “yes” to the opportunities you encounter. When you do, you’ll experience many moments of wonder.
Whitney Hopler is author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). Connect with Whitney on Twitter and Facebook.