Crosses of Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness
If you have a cross that you call a Grace Cross, Mercy Cross or Forgiveness Cross, you have a useful reminder of those gifts from God, and also a reminder that you have the power and responsibility to offer those things to others.
Let's be clear on one thing though: just owning a cross that happens to be labelled Grace, Mercy or Forgiveness, is not going to help much in receiving God's grace, mercy or forgiveness.
But first - what are grace, mercy and forgiveness? Aren't they all the same thing?
'Grace' can be referred to in several contexts; for example the short prayer said before or after a meal. (See the Christian Grizzly Bear.)
Below, we refer to Divine Grace.
Grace is the favour of God for mankind, especially salvation, irrespective whether or not we deserve it. With this favour, we can benefit by developing and improving our life and character. Without it, we are too weak to completely overcome the faults we have. Without God's grace we are unable to be saved from our sin. We cannot save ourselves from the consequences of sin.
So grace is a pretty valuable thing to acquire, and fortunately for us, it's a free gift. And that is an important point to note. We cannot 'buy' grace through 'good works' - grace is not for sale. Grace is the means by which we are saved from original sin and granted salvation.
Some Grace Crosses have the text
or some other neat phrase.
Mercy differs from grace, in that where grace is receiving a favour that we do not deserve, mercy is not receiving a punishment that we do deserve.
God is good; we all agree that. Mercy is good; there's no doubt about that either. We all agree, yes?
Sadly, no. Most of us don't like the idea of mercy. Of course we want to receive mercy from God and others, but the mercy we show to others is selective and conditional. So much so that on balance, we are pretty merciless in our everyday thoughts and actions. We crave justice and retribution. These are more important to us than showing mercy.
Our sins against God are indeed terrible, yet God's mercy is greater than our sins.
See also the Divine Mercy Cross.
Our religion is meaningless is we are not forgiving.
Forgiveness is putting mercy and grace into practice, by absolving and pardoning somebody for their offence. The person is then freed from guilt. We are not talking here about the mistake of forgetting somebody's birthday - we are talking about committing sin, and the forgiveness God grants us. All pretty powerful stuff.
Of course, forgiveness is not unconditional, but the conditions are just common sense. The contrition must be from the heart, appropriate action must be taken to right the wrong, and there must be a sincere vow not to repeat the error. In Catholic, Orthodox and some Anglican churches, this divine power to forgive can be mediated through the Church's ordained priest. At that time, the transgressor must confess their wrongdoing, ask for absolution, right the wrong and vow not to repeat the offence.
And of course, we can forgive other people - and it is to our own benefit if we do. Forgiveness of others is one of the fundamental teachings of Jesus (see The Lord's Prayer) and is beneficial to our happiness and health (recent studies show that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentment. See http://www.forgiving.org/)
Forgiveness can be at any level. Maybe she forgot your birthday (again) - well, forgiving that is usually not so difficult. At another extreme, you may recall the story of India's spiritual and political leader, Mahatma Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1948. Before he died of his wounds the next day, it is said that he forgave the assassin. This sort of forgiveness is a bit hard for most of us to understand. But then of course, Mahatma Gandhi was a rather special sort of guy, and nobody would be surprised if we hesitated in forgiving somebody who tried to kill us.
Now consider something even more difficult to forgive. Consider something that would be so bad that it would be offensive to God Himself! Well, we are all guilty of many things that offend God. And yet He is willing to forgive us.
(See also Forgiveness)
So if you have a Grace, Forgiveness or Mercy Cross, don't expect that cross to work miracles for you, but be thankful you have a reminder of something quite remarkable.