We usually like it when people get what they deserve. Someone who works hard deserves to be paid accordingly. People who are well-educated deserve the respect that comes with their degree. The friend who has gone out of their way to help you deserves to be appreciated and thanked.
We like when good people get what they deserve, but we also like it sometimes when people who aren’t good get what they deserve. Break the law? You deserve to go to jail. Cheat on the test? You deserve to get a failing grade. You’re rude to others? You deserve to do life alone with no friends.
After all, getting what you deserve is fair, right? Interestingly, that’s not how Jesus treats us. You see, we are more often like the person who does bad things, the one who deserves some sort of punishment. Rather than give us what we deserve, however, Jesus shows us mercy instead:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. Ephesians 2:4-5b (ESV)
Jesus lived a perfect life and deserved to be rewarded with every good thing, but that’s not what happened. God gave everything we deserved to Jesus: punishment for sin and death on a cross. We have in turn received what Jesus deserved: life eternal. God has chosen to show mercy to us.
In the same way, God invites us to be merciful to others. People are going to mistreat you. They’re going to do it often and in new and creative ways. But rather than give them what they deserve, we respond with mercy, just as God in Jesus showed us.