We all know that mercy is a good thing, and we are grateful to God when He extends it to us. We also know that we are called to imitate God in this, and to show mercy to others. But because of our fallen world, this is more complicated than it might look at first glance.
God’s mercy to us is shown in our actual salvation, our actual deliverance, our actual liberation from sin and selfishness. God is to be praised because He is the God who acts, the God who does. Not only does He love us, He loves us competently.
In contrast, we have a tendency to want to be known as a merciful people because we were the people who meant well. We measure out our mercy with the tiny spice spoons of sentimentalism. If we thought it was a good idea, then it must have been. This is the driving force behind every form of collectivism—the hard rock of envy covered over with the thin moss of sentimentalism. For the poor! For the children! For the future!
Since we don’t want to evaluate by the results, but rather by our intentions, it is not surprising that the Christian world is filled with people who have filled up their medicine bottles with various kinds of poison, and who then go around trying to create feel good stories for themselves. But good works are not to be measured or evaluated on the basis of whether or not they give the doer of the good deed a lump in his throat. The question of heart motive is an important one to consider, but only if we match it up with what actually happens.
This is because we are people who have been saved by God. We are not the people that He wanted to save, and tried hard to save. We have entered into actual deliverance. This means that we must be the ardent enemies of every false form of salvation – because God is merciful. He did not aspire to mercy; He is the merciful one.