Mercy, forgiveness, and grace.
These words are all related. How are they related, you might ask? To start off with, they are all:
1. Selfless attributes
2. Characteristics of Christ
3. Characteristics that Christ wants us to have
These characteristics all fall under the same category: love. Why would you have mercy on someone? Because of love. Why would you forgive someone? Because love covers over their faults and keeps no record of wrong (1 Cor. 13:5). Of course these are characteristics of God - because God is love.
Love should govern everything we do - first out of a love for God, and as a result, out of a love for others.
Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Cor. 16:14)
Jesus wants us to love others as He has loved us (John 15:12). Possibly, one of the reasons that Jesus tells us to love - which is a self-sacrificing attribute - is so that we'll be more in awe of Him.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
After all, self-sacrifice is not a natural attribute. Our sinful human nature only cares about three people - me, myself, and I.
But now that we have been remade and born again, Christ is our motivation for loving others. So, to love others sacrificially, we must know the One Who loved them first. In spite of their flaws. I heard this quote that I am reminded of in moments of annoyance:
"The next time you're tempted to lose patience with someone, remember how patient God has been with you." (author unknown)
True, Christ's Love is three things: unconditional, undeserved, and unrequited.
Then again, there are many other words that describe it (mainly in 1 Cor. 13). Love means that consider God above all, then others, then self. That is the direct opposite of human nature, and even the culture as a whole. That's why, if you want to see how to live with love, you can't look for it in the world - you have to look for it in the Bible.
Love is faithful.
God loves us when we don't even stop to think about it. Can you recall a time when, in a moment of anger, God stopped the earth from turning? I can't.
Not even once.
In the 5, 681 days that I've been alive, God hasn't halted the earth's rotation. In none of those days has he not provided me with food, shelter, air, water or clothing. Each of those 5,681 days He's sustained me and provided for all of my needs - and almost all of those blessings unnoticed and un-thanked. He has given me far more than I deserve, and I often pass by these gifts every day - even the gift of life itself.
Love is a series of second chances, regardless of how many past failures. Love cares for enemies. Before we were saved, we were enemies of God. Yet He loved His enemies - enough to die for them. Love does not envy - the joy in another's victory is untainted by their own "unfair" loss.
Love happens when we take our eyes off of ourselves.
We place them instead on Jesus and the love that He has. Then we turn to others, and think of their needs. God, then others, then self.
Love is not always pleasant - because it's sacrificial. Sometimes it's humiliating. It meant the Maker and Sustainer of the whole universe assuming the lowest position, then being mocked and hated by the same people He was dying for. It meant being forsaken by the Father so that unworthy sinners could be forgiven. He had full power to save Himself from every one of those sufferings, but He didn't.
This puts minor annoyances into much-needed perspective. We need to put on this mindset every single day.
One last thing: I would encourage you to study 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and, aloud, replace the word "love" with your name. See how it lines up. Although you may have some of these qualities, ask God where you need to grow in each of them. There are moments when we slip in all of these areas. However, take a look at the passage and admire how God has kept this definition of love - towards you, and towards even those you don't get along with. Then, replace the word "love" in the passage with "God."
Let us encourage each other as we challenge ourselves daily:
Do we love like Jesus does?