Apparently I've got the spiritual gift of Mercy in large doses. But some of my thoughts recently might not seem very merciful.
I was walking by a courtyard near our apartment in China the other day on the way to a meeting. Heaps of trash were littered around the edges of the small courtyard, and two or three small children were sitting in the dusty middle and playing with their plastic toys. My heart was at first wrenched at the sight of their poor living condition. After a minute of thought, however, I changed my mind. The trash didn't get there by accident. Their families are the ones who threw all the trash carelessly around the courtyard. They made their own mess.
Another example of my recent hard-heartedness: After seeing beggars in China (and even more sad, those who should be begging but are too proud), I began to have little patience with American beggars.
Beggars and many homeless in America, as far as I can tell, live that way as their choice of lifestyle. I've dabbled a little in street ministries, enough to know there are places devoted to giving people a roof over their head and getting people back on their feet. Say what you want about the difficult situations of homeless beggars in America, it doesn't hold a candle to the plight of a Chinese beggar. They have truly fallen between the cracks and there is no way back up again, ever.
*Flush* went my merciful feelings for American beggars.
So those who loudly clamor about how people deserve compassion are often mistaken. There are some orphans and truly helpless to whom I still award the label "deserving" to, but so many others get themselves into deep doo through their own ignorance and stupid choices. My neighbors don't "deserve" compassion for playing by the trash piles they themselves made.
Then I got snagged by the word "deserve."
Do I deserve the education I've gotten? Or forgiveness for the various mistakes I've made that have put me deep in the doo? Or the patience and untiring help of the Only Good One?
I realized I can still have mercy and compassion on my neighbors and their trash, and on American beggars. Not because they deserve it, but because God loves to give undeserved compassion. He is more understanding than we deserve, more patient than we deserve, and more helpful than we deserve. And I have the joy of learning to be like Him. Not to mention taking advantage of His compassion myself.