We often talk about following God’s example or wanting to be like him, but we sometimes repeat that concept as if that was a good enough instruction on its own. The “just be like Jesus” message is not particularly actionable, even for experienced Christians.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

Psalm 103:8

The above verse from the Psalm includes three words that all roughly translate to some form of mercy.

The first word (רַחוּם, raḥūm) means compassion. It is exclusive to God in its use; it speaks of a divine, inimitable compassion that comes from his divine role. The second is the same; (חַנּוּן, ḥannūn) is a divine attribute. It carries the connotation of freeing the debtor of his obligations (Brown-Driver-Briggs). Neither of these qualities are ones we can imitate. They are the exclusive domain of the One True God.

That leaves us with lovingkindness (חֶ֫סֶד, ḥeseḏ). This is the aspect we can share with our Maker. God is abounding in this quality, so how do we cultivate abundant lovingkindness? The word conveys giving favor to others, displaying mercy and extending kindness to the needy and the downtrodden. It can even be used of those acts themselves. Lovingkindness is not only a quality we can take on but a pattern we can follow. When people practice lovingkindness it shows. It requires placing a priority on doing good for people and then following through on that attitude.

So where does that leave us? Are we any closer to understanding how to be like God in his mercy? Maybe, maybe not. The difficulty with this teaching is that no teacher can give you a list of good deeds to do and stamp your salvation card when you are done. Lovingkindness is a continual state, a part of our being that we must practice from moment to moment in order to fulfill that purpose.

Want to “just be like Jesus”? Then show God’s lovingkindness through your words and deeds.

Ethan Kirl