Epistle: 2 Corinthians 3:12--4:2
12Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. 4:1Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.
In the verse above, we are told that is is by God’s MERCY that are engaged in this ministry.
Mercy is not a word we use every day. How would you define mercy? How does mercy differ from grace?
Being a good Lutheran pastor, I can give you my definition for grace. I use this acronym –
God’s gifts given to us simply because God loves us. And this is all given through Jesus Christ, who suffered, died and rose again so that we might attain the gifts of forgiveness and life eternal.
Grace is God’s unmerited goodness.
So how does that differ from mercy?
I came across this definition of grace and mercy on weblog called “Our Father’s House Soup Kitchen:”
Though often used interchangeably, “grace” and “mercy” differ in many ways.
In a nutshell, they are two sides of the same coin. Grace is a gift we don’t deserve, while mercy is not getting the punishment we deserve.
Sounds confusing? Let’s break it down bit by bit.
In the dictionary, grace is defined as courteous goodwill. Meaning, it’s not asked for nor deserved, but is freely given. Mercy, on the other hand, is the compassion and kindness shown to someone whom it is in one’s power to punish or harm. It is an act meant to relieve someone of their suffering.
Let’s put it this way: suppose someone attempted to rob your house. You learned that the robber was just in a desperate situation and didn’t intend to do any harm at all. Instead of calling the police, you chose to pardon the thief and let the matter go – that’s mercy. Then you gave him some food and a few dollars to get him through this trying time – that’s grace.
(Published December 4, 2019 - https://ofhsoupkitchen.org/difference-grace-and-mercy)
In today’s lesson, Paul shares a message with the church in Corinth. A former persecutor of Christians, as we see in the Book of Acts, as Paul works the coat check room for those who gather to stone Stephen to death for being a follower of Jesus Christ. Even though he considers himself the chief of sinners, God showed him mercy and grace.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul talks of BOTH mercy and grace. This is Eugene Peterson’s take on that letter:
12-14 I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry. The only credentials I brought to it were violence and witch hunts and arrogance. But I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing—didn’t know Who I was doing it against! Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus.
15-17 Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever.
Deep honor and bright glory to the King of All Time— One God, Immortal, Invisible, ever and always. Oh, yes! (1 Timothy 1:12-17)
How has God been gracious to you? How has God been merciful to you?
The saying is that it is easier to give than receive. Is that true with grace and mercy?
Something to ponder for today, yes?
Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. We will hear these words again and again from Joel 2 as we enter our Lenten journey starting next week.
Let us pray: Almighty God, for your mercy and grace, we give you thanks. May we be gracious in merciful in our love and service to others. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen