Exodus 34:6 describes God’s love and character in a powerful way as He passed before Moses on Mount Sinai. “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Here is a look at what we can learn from this verse about God’s love and how to emulate it.
God is merciful.
If we are going to reflect God’s love to others, we must be merciful. Mercy is defined as, “showing compassion or forgiveness to someone whom you could punish or harm.” God, in His great love for us, offers us mercy rather than judgment. He satisfies His own justice by offering Jesus as our substitute. This sacrifice is the ultimate act of mercy.
Jesus also modelled this attitude of mercy and compassion for us as He lived on earth as the Son of God. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). He continuously had compassion on the people around Him. He healed people physically and forgave their sins throughout His earthly ministry. He showed compassion when He wept at the tomb of Lazarus. Ultimately, Jesus died in our place to show us mercy.
While we may not be in a position to punish others, we can certainly show mercy to others in the sense of having compassion on them. We can love others by having a heart that cares deeply about them and seeks to show that compassion in action.
God is gracious.
We reflect His likeness to others as we are gracious. In Colossians 4:6, Paul exhorts the believers in Colossae with these words: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Loving others well means speaking gracious words to them. We can speak harshly all too easily, sometimes, if we are not careful to think about the tone and content of our words.
Being gracious also involves giving people the benefit of the doubt and not assuming the negative. Thinking graciously about people will affect how we love them in action. We must let our words and our attitudes reflect the graciousness of God to others. Jesus displayed a gracious attitude by the way He interacted with many outcasts in society. He did not adopt the stereotypical attitudes of the people around Him, but rather reached out with love and grace to those who desperately needed His love.
God is slow to anger.
Loving others means being willing to listen and not be easily angered. James 1:19 compels us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Jesus took time to listen to people’s concerns. He was patient with them and did not get easily angered. Even though He had every right to be angry over their lack of faith, Jesus patiently walked through daily life with His disciples and did not get angry at their lack of belief.
Oftentimes we may feel that we have the right to get angry about things, but the reality is that no one will ever wrong us as much as we wronged Christ. Most of the things about which we get angry are petty and insignificant. We need to be careful that we do not fail to love others because of a lack of self-control. Our restraint in regard to anger may be the very thing that points someone to the love of Christ. We cannot afford to miss such an opportunity because we are quick to anger.
God is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end,” according to Lamentations 3:22. God’s love has no end. It is infinite. God’s faithfulness is completely immutable. 2 Timothy 2:13 tells us that even “if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.”
Jesus showed unceasing love to the people around Him during His earthly ministry, and He extends that same steadfast love to us. He genuinely loved the people He encountered. His love was not just an emotion, it was displayed in action. Jesus’ life of love is our example. Furthermore, since love and faithfulness are also part of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), they must characterize the life of every Christ follower.
Loving like Jesus means having a love for others that is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness. We see this kind of love demonstrated throughout Scripture by both God the Father and Jesus the Son. Emulating this type of biblical love will point others to Jesus and bring glory to God.