A man I knew when he was just a boy lived near one of those old-timey neighborhood grocery stores. As a child he was in that grocery store every day. He knew the owner and those working in the store very well. One day he stole some pencils. It didn’t amount to very much—maybe 25 cents. He didn’t need them. It was just one of those childish acts. In fact he took them home and buried them in the yard.
When his dad found out (and dads usually do find out), he made the boy take those pencils back to the grocery store and present them and some money for those goods to the owner. The boy walked in with great reluctance, and told the man what he had done. It just so happened that this was on the boy’s birthday, which the owner remembered as the boy handed him the pencils and the money. The owner of the store looked at his young friend for a long time and didn't scold him. He just handed it right back to the boy and said, “Happy birthday, son.”
Wasn’t that a gracious thing to do? Wasn’t that merciful and kind? The boy had done wrong, and he deserved at least a reprimand. Instead the man who was his friend gave him a birthday gift.
That is a picture of the graciousness, the kindness, and the mercy of God. God does not deal with us according to our merits. He deals with us according to his mercy. He does not save us because we deserve it. He saves us in spite of what we deserve. And when we think of the salvation that is ours through the Gospel, we must know that it is the Gospel of grace. God loves us so much that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16