Are Forgiveness and Grace the Same Thing?

Aren’t forgiveness and grace the same thing? Can one exist without the other? What is the real difference?

What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness is about taking down barriers. It is the intentional and voluntary process to which you relinquish claim against a perceived offense. Another way to define it is to give up resentment, anger, or indignation as a result of a perceived offense, flaw, or mistake. In short, it is to let go.

Forgiveness involves a level of control because you must choose to allow God to do the work. A person must decide to take down the barrier of unforgiveness. It is such an important concept that God mentioned it many times throughout scripture.forgiveness, grace, forgive, marriage

The exact number of times it is written in the Bible depends on which version you are using. According to the NIV version, the word appears in the form of Forgive, Forgiven, Forgiveness, Forgiving 150 times. It seems that God knew it would be a difficult concept for His children to put into practice.

In Luke 6:37 God addresses judging others. In Ephesians 4:31-32 God commands us to rid ourselves of all bitterness or any other form of slander. And, in Colossians, He instructs us to “bear with each other and forgive” as the Lord forgives us. These are only a few examples of how God highlights the concept of forgiveness in the Bible. Need more verses about forgiveness? See the 20 Best Bible Verses here.

Forgiveness is not Free

Forgiveness often comes with expectations. We expect our spouses to acknowledge or apologize for a wrong before we are willing to entertain the thought of letting them off the hook. Sometimes, we even expect God to reward us when we extend forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not free. It may be free to the one who is receiving forgiveness, but it is not free for the one extending it. When we forgive, we have to give the perceived wrong up. We don’t get to keep it. Instead, we make an exchange. We give God the offense, and in return, He provides us with the cure, freedom. Forgiving releases us from the poison that eats away at our spirit if we hold onto how we were hurt or wronged.

What is Grace?

Grace, as defined in scripture, is God’s love and mercy or unmerited favor that is freely given to us. He does not give it to us because of anything we have done to earn it. We all fall short of His glory. We are saved because of His generous, undeserved, and unexpected gift of grace.

(Romans 3:23-24 and Ephesians 2:8-9)

Grace may be God’s specialty. We have to work on it. With God’s help, we can take His example and implement it in our marriages, and even to the world around us.  

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Grace is Proactive

While forgiveness is reactive, Grace is proactive. Grace differs a great deal from forgiveness. When offended, Grace chooses not to accept the offense and building a barrier in the first place.

Practicing Grace in our marriage rests on the acceptance that we are imperfect people, and not allowing those flaws to form barriers between us in the first place. Having grace for each other is recognizing that there are things more valuable than the perceived offense our spouse commits or the flaws we have.

Grace Does Not have Expectations

Grace does not have expectations and keeps us from building barriers. Relationships that operate in Grace, unconditionally accept the other person’s imperfections and loves them.

Grace removes the focus on control of other’s intentions and actions. It assumes good intentions and space to become better people. It does not expect rewards for accepting the imperfections of our spouses and others.


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Eagle Family Ministries marriage conferences are a great way to learn the skills or freshen ones you already have. Contact us schedule a conference for your church or organization.

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