Mercy & Grace
There was a woman caught in adultery.
She was literally ripped naked from the bed. She was half chased, half dragged through the streets by angry idiots with rocks. They meant to throw them at the woman until her bones were broken and her flesh a bloody pulp. They meant to kill her for her sins. Its what she deserved!
Then Jesus, in all the Father’s splendor, is thrust into the middle of the story. Can you picture it? The woman, weeping and afraid, is flung before Him. Then yanked to her feet, she’s forced to stand. She tries to cover her nakedness. She won’t meet His eyes; the condemnation is so great, her shame so real, her guilt so sure. She knows it, the vicious mob knows it; even the disciples know it.
“The law says she should be stoned” the men scream. Need demands…
Then Jesus, our hero, does something so stunning it brings tears to our eyes. He reveals the Father’s love – and it looks like mercy.
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
His words resound through the city streets, the nation, the world, and all the way up to heaven. “She will not get what she deserves. I will show her mercy.”
“At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.
Mercy! It’s beautiful – stunning in its simplicity!
Even if the story ended there, it would be worthy of the good book, worthy to be retold century upon century. But it didn’t end there. Why, because mercy by itself isn’t enough.
Jesus didn’t just come to set us free from sin; He came to release us into righteousness. He didn’t just reveal the Father in all His mercy, He revealed the Father in all His grace. Jesus never released mercy without following up with grace. In fact, mercy is incomplete without it.
In my opinion, the next thing Jesus says to the woman is just as beautiful, just as stunning as what’s already been proclaimed.
Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
You may have heard it said like this, “Go and sin no more.”
That is grace; the power, and the wonder, the beauty, and the fullness of His glorious love.
It was mercy that set her free from what she deserved, but it was grace that transformed her into His likeness. It was mercy that forgave her, washed her clean – white as snow. But it was grace that empowered her to live as a pure daughter, a saint and an overcomer – free from her adulterous nature.
I want to make this clear, not once, not ever did Jesus release mercy without grace. He always redeems what He forgives.
As stunning as mercy is, its only half of the story. It’s the Oreo cookie without the cream center, its Abbott without Costello, it’s the beginning without an end, a foundation without a tower. Mercy and grace are two sides of the same coin; they perfectly work together to reveal the fullness of His love – the whole story. Mercy covers sin, grace releases identity. Mercy sets us free, grace empowers us to become how He sees us. Mercy redeems, grace transforms.
The woman caught in adultery not only left set free, she also left transformed. She received mercy AND grace – the fullness of our Fathers love!
For most of my life I’ve lived from earth to heaven. I have received the wonder of His forgiveness but somehow grace seemed too good to be true. And so I’ve embraced mercy and colored it grace… and in so doing I limited the impact of the transforming power of His love.
Our relationship with God is not only about the beauty of His forgiveness, there is more! It’s also about the wonder of our transformation into His righteousness through grace. When all we embrace is mercy, we are playing with one hand tied behind our back. But grace sets us free to fully live.
Grace is seeing ourselves from His perspective. Grace is about releasing heaven on earth. It’s the authority and power of Love – the Love that trumps every need. I believe we are called through mercy into grace – it is the fullness of the Fathers love!
While mercy shows us Dad, grace shows us how Dad sees us. While mercy sets us free from sin, grace reveals our identity and empowers us to become saints. When we begin to embrace all of His love, His mercy, and grace, we begin to live from heaven to earth. Suddenly we are not just forgiven, we are overcomers. Suddenly we are not just set free, we are made whole. Suddenly we are not prone to sin, we are prone to love!
Now back to the woman caught in adultery; Jesus wasn’t suggesting that she would never sin again, but He was saying, “you no longer have to be a sinner.” I am convinced He was revealing why He had come, not just to forgive our sins but also to set us free from a sinful nature. Jesus was showing us that life no longer had to be about not sinning; instead, life could be about loving. No longer must we live trying not to be bad, instead, in Him we could become good – heart, mind, and soul.
No longer must we live enslaved to need, we are now invited into the revelation of Love – both knowing and becoming!
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
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