If you are going to go ziplining across a huge canyon, do you want a line that is just barely strong enough to hold you, or a line that is way stronger than what you need? You want a stronger line!
You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin…
If Jesus’ mercy was expressed for killing a fly or stealing a dollar, then His mercy would work only for such shallow easy sins. Justice and mercy would kiss no further. But His expression of mercy is that we should obey God all the way until it kills us, and love our enemies and forgive them from the heart while they are murdering us. If we are going to imitate Christ, this is what we must do. In the example of Jesus’ life, there is mercy expressed for subtle heart and worship imperfections in the face of death and murder. Justice and mercy seriously get it on. So you may not murder, but if you don’t obey God to the point of shedding blood, since His mercy is applied to this stringent standard, you can expect forgiveness – for everything. There is no higher standard of law than Jesus’ example, so there is also no higher level of mercy expressed than Jesus’ mercy.
Think of it like a safety net: if your net is only set to work for people 50 pounds and under, then you are in danger. If your safety net is set to work for anyone 2500 lbs and under, you’re OK. If Jesus’ standard of law was something like, don’t commit adultery but it is OK if you look – after all you’re only human – then everyone who gets divorced and remarried, or whoever masturbates, would have to wonder if they were saved. Justification by obedience to a nicer standard is still legalism, and it doesn’t work. Your saving net is inadequate for your real needs. But His standard is much much higher, and so His mercy is much much greater. You have to forgive and love your enemies from your secret heart as they murder you. Your blood should cry out from the ground for mercy, not revenge. You have to say, not my will but Yours Father – when He asks you to die a horrible death. When Jesus taught that we should love our enemies and turn the other cheek, He really did it – to the shedding of blood. If Jesus is mainly our example and not our savior, then so must you.
True grace and real mercy do not try to create kindness by drawing the law more loosely so that it is more easily practiced. That is, ironically, the pharisaical legalist’s game. The gospel is an expression of genuine deep authentic forgiveness to the degree that we actually need it because it draws the law so stringently.