By Chris Martin
When I was a young Christian, I didn’t understand the difference between grace and mercy—I thought we simply used two words for the same thing interchangeably. Eventually I learned that “grace” is getting something you don’t deserve and mercy is being protected from a consequence you do deserve. Grace is like getting a birthday present: your mom did all the work, you were just born! You don’t earn birthday presents. Mercy is like a police officer letting you off with a warning after you’re caught speeding: you deserved to be fined, but you were protected from that consequence. In today’s reading, we see that both God’s grace and mercy were on display in His relationship with His people Israel.
In Deuteronomy 25–26, Moses wraps up his second speech to the generation waiting to enter the promised land. The Israelites were given specific laws for how they are to offer back to God that which they have already been so graciously given by Him. Moses says:
“And today the LORD has affirmed that you are his own possession as he promised you, that you are to keep all his commands, that he will elevate you to praise, fame, and glory above all the nations he has made, and that you will be a holy people to the LORD your God as he promised” (Deuteronomy 26:18–19).
God forged a relationship with people built on His goodness and grace, not at all on their might or merit. Israel, captivated by God’s creation rather than God Himself, repeatedly sinned and failed to live in response to their relationship with their gracious Father. But in their sin, they still received the mercy of God. Because Israel has been shown such amazing grace and mercy, they are called to demonstrate this grace and mercy to the world around them as a mirror of the God who showed them grace and mercy in the first place.
Believers are also called to be set apart as the people of God. This means that our lives are actually supposed to look differently than others’ lives. Our call to holiness is a call to reflect our Savior, Jesus Christ. One of the most practical ways is to show grace and mercy to people in our lives as we have been shown grace and mercy by God Himself. We are called to show love to those who we believe don’t deserve it as well as to demonstrate mercy to those who wrong us. Such a lifestyle, similar to the calling given to the people of Israel, acts as a mirror for the grace and mercy we’ve been shown in Christ.