Home Commentary The Difference Between Mercy and Grace…And Why You Need Both

The Difference Between Mercy and Grace…And Why You Need Both


By Will Graham

Grace and mercy. Mercy and grace. Two terms that are often used interchangeably. They go hand-in-hand, but there is indeed a difference.

Mercy is not getting what you do deserve.

Grace, conversely, is getting something you don’t deserve.

Picture this: You’re racing down the road, handily breaking the speed limit, when suddenly you see the blue lights flashing behind you. There’s something you do deserve in this situation.

You deserve a ticket and a fine. You broke the law, and there’s a penalty for that crime.

After a brief conversation, the officer lets you go with a warning. That is mercy. You deserve that speeding ticket, but you are not getting what you do deserve.

Now, imagine that you have a project due at work, and—try as you may—you have not been able to complete the task. Without it, you have no chance of achieving the bonus you’ve been working towards.

At the last second a colleague jumps in and saves the day, helping you with the last remaining pieces.

That would be grace. No matter how hard you worked, you didn’t deserve the bonus. You fell short. But somebody else came along and provided what you needed.

Why do I bring up this distinction? Because all around us are people who desperately need both of these blessings, and they are both freely given by Christ through His death and resurrection.

The Bible tells us very clearly who we are and what we deserve. We are sinners who have fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Because of that, we deserve death; eternal separation from the holy and perfect Father (Romans 6:23). No matter what we do in our own power and effort, we cannot change that fact.

But this is where Christ comes in with His mercy and His grace!

Because we are sinners, we deserve death. However, as we call on the name of Jesus and make Him our Lord and Savior, we do not get the death that we justly deserve. We receive mercy.

Because we are sinners, we don’t deserve to come into God’s presence and be called His children. We don’t deserve His blessings and Holy Spirit. But through our faith in Jesus, we receive all of these things. We receive grace.

We’ve found that promise and have the hope of Christ because of it! Meanwhile, all around us are people who are struggling through this world, trying their best to do more good than bad, thinking that is their path to eternity.

They’ve never truly experienced grace and mercy, though they’re hungry for it.

My friends, look around you and I promise you will see someone who will break your heart; someone on a path leading to destruction. Share with them the hope that is within you, and allow God to open the door for them to “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Put your hope in Jesus Christ.

Will Graham is the Vice President and Associate Evangelist at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. For more information on the BGEA, visit  https://billygraham.org. This article was reprinted with permission.