Love Is Costly—but It Is Worth It!
THE world is full of bargain hunters. Among these are ever so many who hope to get something for nothing. But more often than not they get disappointed. This applies not only to material things but also to intangibles, such as love and affection.
The underlying sentiment of a majority of the modern-day “love” songs is that “love” is both pleasurable and free. Of course, what is referred to is romantic love or sexual gratification. Little, if anything, is said about love costing something or about one’s being deserving of love. And so youths rush into marriage. Or they begin to live together without the benefit of marriage—“free love,” some call it. But sooner or later a large proportion of them separate or get a divorce. Why? Because they were not realistic, not mature enough to be willing to pay what love costs.
The love that is lasting, be it romantic love, love of one’s family or friends, or love based on a sense of duty and a love of righteousness, invariably costs something—but it is worth it.
Various Kinds of Love
For each different kind of love the Greeks had a special word. Interestingly, Bible writers did not use eros, which designates the romantic type of love based on sex attraction. However, they did use storgé when referring to the kind of love that exists between parents and children, between brothers and sisters. They also used philía in reference to a friendship type of love that exists between persons who have a great deal in common, culturally and/or idealistically. But most frequently they used a word rarely employed by ancient Greek writers; it is agápe, referring to principled love, love that can be an exemplary expression of unselfishness.
Even with the romantic type of love, it is true that it is costly but is worth it—that is, if it is kept within the bounds set for it by the Creator. The Bible itself shows this. An example is found in an account in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. It tells of the love that Jacob had for Rachel. He served seven years in order to have her as his wife. Does that seem like quite a price to pay? Yet, the account says, “in his eyes they proved to be like some few days because of his love for her.” He felt that it was worth it. And she and her sons Joseph and Benjamin came to be very close to his heart.—Gen. 29:20; 37:3; 44:18-34.
The kind of love that exists between parents and children, also brothers and sisters, likewise costs something. Such relationships must be nourished in order to thrive. Obligations must be discharged. But doing so is worth it. Just think of the satisfaction that comes from doing something for a person you love, also of how much it means to have someone who really cares about you. Loneliness is the lot of many in the world because, as they see it, no one really cares about them.
To have the love of friends there is also a price that must be paid. Friendship between mature persons requires consideration, thoughtfulness, good manners, tact, and genuine concern for the well-being of the other person, among other things. Where friendships have faltered, it is because one person or the other has tried to do too much taking and not enough giving. A fine Scriptural example of real friendship is that between David and Jonathan. Jonathan loved David “as his own soul,” and David said that Jonathan’s love ‘exceeded that of women.’ Their relationship was richly rewarding. But it cost them something. For one thing, Jonathan risked his life for David. (1 Sam. 18:1; 20:30-34; 2 Sam. 1:26) Do your friends mean that much to you?
Love Based on Principle
Above all, it is true of agápe, principled love, that it is costly but is worth it. Jehovah God himself furnishes the greatest example of this. Of Him, we read that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Did that cost Jehovah something—to see his Son opposed, slandered, and dying a painful death on the torture stake? Yes, it did, for even though omnipotent, Jehovah God has feelings. He was distressed to see his chosen people Israel in distress. How much more must he have entered into the sufferings of his only-begotten Son!—Isa. 63:9; Matt. 27:1-50.
But it was all worth it. As can be seen from chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Job, the Devil had taunted that he could turn all of God’s creatures away from God. Thus when Jesus came to earth, Satan did his vicious worst to turn God’s Son away from an integrity-keeping course. But the Devil failed. Jehovah God was proved true and deserving of exclusive devotion and Satan was proved a liar. And so, because God was willing to pay what love cost him, his original purpose regarding the earth and man will yet be realized: having the earth a paradise filled with perfect creatures, all united in worshiping the true God.
Jesus Christ also paid the cost of love and found it well worth while. Jesus came down from a most exalted position in the heavens to dwell upon earth under imperfect conditions and among a selfish people, all because of love. He put up with all manner of abuse from his foes and with the petty selfishness of his own disciples. Not only did he say that greater love has no man than that he should lay down his life for his friends, but he even laid down his life for his enemies!—John 15:13; Phil. 2:5-8.
Was it worth it? Absolutely! Jesus gave his Father a resounding answer to the taunts of the Devil. (Prov. 27:11) He gained for himself the kingship of the Messianic kingdom and a “bride” of 144,000 joint heirs who will share with him in bringing mankind to perfection and making all the earth a paradise. Moreover, because of Jesus’ willingness to pay the cost, Jehovah gave him a name that is above every other name aside from that of God himself.—Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 14:1-3.
The Cost of Christian Discipleship
True Christians imitate God’s Son in the love they manifest. Representative thereof is the price that many are willing to pay in order to be able to dedicate themselves to Jehovah God and be baptized. For example, there was an Argentine woman whose husband left her after fifteen years of married life because, after studying the Bible, she decided to worship Jehovah God and serve the interests of his kingdom. He left, not she; but she did not forsake her faith to prevent it. An approved relationship with God was worth whatever it might cost. She was baptized at the “Divine Victory” Assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in January 1974.
For others, love for God has required that they clean up their lives. (1 Cor. 6:9-11) They have given up drug-abuse habits, use of tobacco, as well as gambling, alcoholism and dishonest business practices. Typical of the latter is the New York auto mechanic who was fired from one job after another because he was no longer willing to be a party to dishonest practices on the part of certain auto repair shops. Love for God and his righteous ways cost something, but he was firmly convinced that it was well worth it.
Being a disciple involves learning. That requires study. One of the ways that Christians express their love for Jehovah God is by applying themselves to learn about his personality, his will and his purposes. It costs something to do personal Bible study. It costs time and effort, and it means taking these from other activities that might be more pleasing to one’s fleshly inclinations. But when we pay the cost, are we not richly rewarded in increased understanding, faith and hope? Yes, and also joy, for such study causes one to feel as did the psalmist: “I am exulting over your saying just as one does when finding much spoil.”—Ps. 119:162.
And the same is true when we associate with fellow Christians. At times it may take real effort, because we are tired after a day’s work, or we might have a headache, or a slight cold, or the weather may be inclement, or there may be other things that seem to need urgent attention. But when one pays the price, one is richly rewarded, and the greater the effort put forth to associate with fellow Christians the greater the blessing.—Rom. 1:11, 12.
Expressing Love by Christian Witnessing
Jehovah’s Christian witnesses also apply this principle by sharing the good news of God’s kingdom with others. Time and again they may spend an hour or two or even more going from house to house and find only a few people at home and none with hearing ears. But the fact that they may meet only with opposition or indifference does not leave them feeling frustrated. Why not? Because it, having been a labor of love, has not been in vain.—1 Cor. 15:58.
For one thing, a Christian never knows just what good a few words may have done in starting a householder to think about God and his kingdom. Then, again, since the obligation is placed upon Christians to warn the wicked, by thus preaching, even without any visible results, the individual frees himself of bloodguilt. And, if nothing else, his faith and hope have been strengthened by his efforts. He grows spiritually strong when he endures opposition and perseveres in spite of indifference. Yes, a person simply cannot act on his convictions, on his faith and hope without significantly strengthening these.—2 Pet. 1:5-8.
But that is only the lesser part of the reward for expressing love. The greater portion is the reward that Jehovah God gives to all who unselfishly serve him, for he ‘is not unrighteous so as to forget one’s work and the love showed for his name.’ (Heb. 6:10) To those who serve him faithfully he promises eternal life in his righteous new order.
That love is costly but is worth it can also be demonstrated in relations between members of a family or congregation. It costs something to heed the inspired admonition: “Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32) It takes patience, it involves a nerve strain to put up with others who may rub us the wrong way, to be forgiving to those who have offended us; it may mean swallowing one’s pride and manifesting humility. It may even involve a material loss.—1 Cor. 6:1-8.
Is it worth it? The value of unity and peace in one’s family or in the Christian congregation is worth what it may cost in personal inconvenience. Furthermore, our being forgiving also assures us of God’s compassion, as Jesus made plain. (Matt. 6:14, 15) It makes us grow more loving and lovable. And it may well result in a grateful friendship, for the Bible says: “He who covers an offence promotes love.”—Prov. 17:9, Jerusalem Bible.
It is Jesus Christ who is reported to have said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) When a person is “giving” he is showing love. True, it costs something. But, in every aspect of life, in every activity and in every human relationship, though love is costly, it is worth it!