By: Dr. Gina Wintermantel, Affiliate Ministry Director
How wonderful it is that we have an approachable God! We can go directly to Him with confidence – because of our relationship with Christ. Not because we are worthy. Not because of our good works. Not because we know the Bible. Not because we are great teachers or servants. Only because of our relationship with the great high priest, the son of God, Jesus Christ. That relationship exists because He showed us mercy and grace.
I sometimes confuse those two actions – mercy and grace. An easy way to remember how to differentiate is that mercy is God not giving us what we deserve (death, or punishment for sin), and grace is God giving us what we do not deserve (forgiveness and eternal life in Christ). Oddly enough, because of mercy and grace we are able to approach the Lord, so that we can ask for mercy and grace in our time of need!
Mercy and forgiveness are inextricably linked. As I was thinking about mercy, the amazing story of redemption of the Waodani (or Auca) people came to mind. You may be familiar with the account – in 1956, 5 missionaries flew into the jungles of Ecuador to make contact with the savage people known as the Waodani. The men had been dropping gifts to the Waodani, and the morning of January 8th, 1956 they landed on Palm Beach near the Auca village. Instead of being welcomed, they were speared and murdered. This news went out to the world and spurred a mission movement that has resulted in the saving of many souls for the Lord. Have you heard the rest of the story? What about the Waodani? Amazingly, one of the wives (Elisabeth Elliot) and one sister (Rachael Saint) of the murdered men went back and lived with the Waodani, praying and waiting for the chance to tell them about Jesus.
Eventually, Steve Saint, who was 5 years old when his father Nate Saint was murdered, also went back to live with, teach, serve and share the love of Christ with the Waodani people. Today, there are 25 to 40% (depends on source of information) of Waodani who are believers and follow Jesus. In 1956, there were none. Why? Mercy, forgiveness and grace. When the family members of those murdered returned to Waodani and chose to show them mercy and forgiveness, the result was that some of the Waodani received Christ as Lord and Savior and became followers of Jesus. Steve Saint is now brothers in Christ, and great friends, with Mincaye, one of the Waodani who murdered the 5 missionaries, including his father.
Our God is a God of mercy, therefore we are to be people of mercy. In Matthew 18:21-35 we learn how much God values mercy. This passage shows clearly the value God places on mercy and forgiveness. We have an unpayable debt: our sin. Jesus was sent for us to pay that debt. We are forgiven, our debt is cancelled, and we are set free and receive the gift of eternal life. As receivers of mercy, we are expected to be givers of mercy. I don’t know about you, but I struggle at times with forgiving. It is so easy to justify our lack of forgiveness when we have been betrayed, or continuously sinned against by someone. And in the world today, it is easy to find allies who will encourage us to hold onto bitterness and anger. But this is where the Believer is to be set apart, or holy. Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
So draw near to Him and approach His throne with confidence. Receive His mercy and grace, and then, give His mercy and grace to others.