"That's a strange job for a guy like you." I was not taken aback by his observation, because it was not the first time I had heard it, and I doubt it will be the last. When you are an alum of a particular seminary and an employee of a particular organization, you grow accustomed to thoughtful people inquiring about what they see as an apparent inconsistency: "You care about Scripture and theology, why do you work in compassion ministry?"
Now, I readily admit that this apparent inconsistency is often more real than apparent. I swim in waters of pragmatism, materialism, and superficial theology on a daily basis. I often do nothing other than eat evanjellybeans. And I am quite confident that if I did not work alongside a brother with a master's degree in biblical counseling, I would surely have committed professional hari kari a long time ago.
Yet, in spite of that, I have come to believe that the apparent inconsistency is far more imagined than real. Of all people in the world (let alone the Church!), those who should most stridently engage the needy with compassion, it should be us Bible-thumping Calvinists. Far more than any other stripe of Christian theology, we know the glory of God in mercifully electing totally depraved sinners and drawing them to Himself in Christ, over and against their hostile unwillingness to receive His great mercy:
Many people think that the Reformed faith de-motivates Christians from sharing the Gospel. But when we realize the costly mercy by which God has saved us, the natural result is that we would look with mercy on the world. The Bible says that we love because God loved us, we forgive because God has forgiven us, and we give because of what God has given to us. If we understand the sovereign mercy that has saved our souls, we will be merciful to others by presenting a living and loving witness to the Gospel of Christ.- Rick Phillips, "What the Needy Need," in Tabletalk (April 2008).
The major keys of Calvinism ring with compassion. I know the full riches of Christ's simple reminder, "just as your Father is merciful." So, it turns out that this is not such a strange job for a guy like me.