When we think about the importance of forgiveness, there are two words that often come to mind; mercy and grace. Both are quite similar in nature, but very distinct in expression. After all, otherwise they would have the same meaning.
Some say that mercy is not getting what we deserve; whereas grace is getting what we do not deserve.
I tend to use the example of a kid in a confectionary aisle. The child finds a lollipop that he really wants, and decides to steal it. The parent realises that their kid has stolen it, and has a choice to make. On the one hand, the parent of the child can decide that they will not punish the child for stealing the lollipop. That would be showing mercy. But instead, the parent decides not only to forgive the child for their wrongdoing, but also to pay for what they stole. This is grace.
As Scripture says,
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
- Romans 5:8 (NIV)
It is amazing to think that God, in a very similar act of atonement, would decide to take the punishment for our sins upon Himself, and choose to trade places, paying once and for all time the penalty we duly deserved.
For us, this is distinct grace - and in our own lives, we ought to take the time to count it as gain.