You hear it talked about in Christian circles…”God’s mercy and grace…” It sounds good and churchy. But what does it really mean?
Let’s get to the true meaning of these important terms. Suppose you are a shopaholic. You have five credit cards and they are all maxed out to a total of $100,000. You will never be able to pay that debt—ever. Now imagine some stranger comes to you and recognizes your debt, and he gives you $100,000 to pay for that debt. This is mercy—a pardon/forgiveness. Now imagine that not only does this person pay off your debt, he gives you $1,000,000 for no reason. This is grace—something we don’t deserve.
In theology, we all have a debt to pay that we can never pay off. That debt is sin. When you read the word “sin,” think of the word “offense” because that is truly what it is—an offense against God. Those words are interchangeable.
In Old Testament times, a priest had to sacrifice an animal to pay for the sins of the people. What this amounts to is that whoever brought the animal to be sacrificed on behalf of their family had to lose something. Animals were an important commodity to the family. And they couldn’t offer up just any goat or sheep. It had to be a flawless animal without defects. Compared to today, it would be like us having to pay a portion of our paycheck each year to atone for our sins.
This animal sacrifice covered the sins of the people for a limited amount of time. When Jesus came, he offered himself up as a human sacrifice. Jesus, like the animals without defects, was perfect. God allowed for the sacrifice. He lost his Son, just like the family in OT times lost a portion of their wealth. Jesus is fully human but also fully God and therefore had no sin in his life. This perfect, human sacrifice atoned for all of the sins of the people then and now. God’s loss was done for our gain!
Jesus’ death was an act of mercy. It pardoned the sins of all mankind, which is something none of us would ever be able to do. How could anyone other than Jesus repay the offense made to an Infinitely Holy God? Without this ultimate sacrifice, we were all destined for hell, because an offense against God has to be paid for. Jesus paid for our offense. He took our place. This is mercy. Mercy allowed us a ticket out of hell.
Grace comes in the form of eternal life in Heaven with our Savior. We don’t deserve Heaven, but God in his unfailing love has given us Heaven. We as sinful humans don’t deserve the mercy, and definitely don’t deserve the grace, but God loves us this much.
The sacrifice of His son is something that a parent can easily relate to. Parents are typically very protective of their children and would never want anything to happen to them. For the parents, imagine the sorrow you would have to go through by sacrificing your own child for someone who rebelled against you. You would have to watch this beating and murder take place. This is what God had to do for all of us so we could be saved from eternal torment. He saw His son Jesus endure the mockery, punishment, beatings, and brutal crucifixion for you and me! For those who don’t have children, think about something you cherish, such as a pet. Imagine seeing your dog or cat going through a brutal beating all for the sake of people who offended you.
What God has done for us is True Love. God is Love. God loves us so much that he created a way for us to be redeemed instead of having eternal punishment in hell! And to think, so many billions of people reject this sacrifice. They reject the One who offers the only hope. Thank God for the Mercy he gave us—the ticket out of hell—and thank God for the Grace we don’t deserve—the gift of eternal life with Him!