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Mike Riehls
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September 19, 2013
A few years ago, a family member gave to my wife and me a plaque that reads “Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve. Mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve.”

I realize it is always difficult, and yes, sometimes maybe even a bit dangerous, to try to reduce the teachings of scripture down to short sayings; but I like this saying.


Grace has traditionally been defined as “God’s undeserved love.” God loves because God loves. As St. Paul reminds us in his epistle to the Romans, “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”

Certainly our salvation is an important issue in the Bible, but as scripture reminds us, God’s great love for us is evident in many ways from the very gift of life, to the resources placed within this earth, to the ongoing gifts of seed, soil, rain and sunshine, plus hands to work, minds to think, hearts to love and the list goes on.

These gifts and many more we could name, come from the providence of God who freely and abundantly gives to us his people. And yes, from the perspective of scripture, God’s greatest gift, God’s greatest revelation, is the gift of his son who suffered and died, paying the price for human sin, and who conquered death, granting not only newness of life now, but life eternal in God’s heavenly kingdom. It has often been said, and rightly so, God is so good to us that it is so easy to take his many gifts and blessings for granted. Now obviously, not everyone acknowledges God as the giver of every good and perfect gift and as scripture reminds us God does not force us to believe or to acknowledge his goodness.

But you know, in my experience, I believe it is that second half of the saying: “Mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve,” where modern day society struggles. What I mean is it seems the notion of sin and brokenness has gone the way of the land ine phone. We struggle to assume responsibility for our actions, we blame others, we blame society and it seems at least to me, we have this notion that whatever I want to do is somehow or other perfectly fine. In other words, we do not need God’s mercy.

I do not consider myself a pessimist, or a legalist; I consider myself a realist — but is it not wise to ask ourselves where all of this “me first” has gotten us? I don’t know about you, but as I look around I see increasing brokenness in our society, in our relationships, even within ourselves. There is no “golden age” we need to get back to; sin has been around since the time of Adam and Eve. To me, I am concerned when we fail to recognize the reality of brokenness and continually plunge ahead with our self-centered attitudes, it brings even more brokenness.

Certainly God has created us with the freedom to live our lives as we see fit. My concern is that as we turn inward upon ourselves — we turn away from God, the very source of our being, the very source of grace and mercy.

Have we, are we neglecting the grace and mercy of God?

What do you think.

Schmidt is the senior pastor at First English Evangelical Lutheran Church, 800 Vernier, Grosse Pointe Woods.


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