A People Taught to Love
LOVE is affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests. Love is warm attachment. It is unselfish, is loyal, and shows benevolent concern for the good of others. Love is the very antithesis of hate. A person motivated by hate is consumed by his own passion; one motivated by love thinks of others.
Love or hate—which dominates your life? This is more than just an academic question because your everlasting future depends upon the answer. While living in a world being taught to hate, millions of people are learning to love. This they are doing by putting on a new personality. They are not just talking about love; they are striving hard to practice it.
If you have ever attended a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you may have been impressed by what you saw. Regardless of nationality, Jehovah’s Witnesses are united in worship. They form a truly international brotherhood. This can be observed in their local congregations and at their conventions but perhaps nowhere better than in what they call Bethel families. These are groups of volunteers who live and work together, as a family, producing and distributing Bible literature. In each country, some of them have oversight of the work done by Jehovah’s Witnesses there. This is no small task, since it involves—as of 1997—over 82,000 congregations in 233 lands. To fill this need, over 16,000 people serve in the Bethel families around the world, including the world headquarters and the various smaller branch facilities in 103 lands.
Most Bethel families are made up predominately of citizens of the country in which the particular branch office is located. But not exclusively. Some Bethel families are composed of Witnesses of various national, ethnic, or racial origins as well as of formerly different religious backgrounds. For example, in the Bethel family of almost 1,200 people located at Selters, Germany, some 30 nationalities are represented. What enables them to live, work, and worship together in peace and unity, in an atmosphere devoid of hate? They are following the Bible counsel at Colossians 3:14, which says:
“Clothe Yourselves With Love”
Nobody is born fully clothed, nor does anyone become clothed by simply talking about it. Dressing oneself entails making definite decisions and then exerting effort in following through on them. Likewise, nobody is born clothed with love. Just talking about it is not enough. Effort is required.
Clothing serves several purposes. It protects the body, conceals unsightly body parts or imperfections, and to a degree reveals a person’s personality. Love is similar. It serves as a protection because love for righteous principles and for proper association motivates one to avoid association or places that are potentially dangerous. It serves to protect personal relationships, which should be dear to us. He who loves is more likely to be loved in return, and he who refrains from harming others is more likely to be unharmed himself.
Love also conceals the more unsightly parts of our personality, which might prove disturbing to fellow humans. Are we not more apt to overlook minor shortcomings in people who are loving than in individuals who are proud, arrogant, self-centered, and lacking in love?
People who clothe themselves with love reveal the beauty of a Christlike personality. Whereas physical beauty is only skin-deep, spiritual beauty permeates the entire person. You probably know people you consider to be beautiful, not because of their physical appearance, but because of their genuinely warm personality. On the other hand, most of us have encountered beautiful women or handsome men who lost every vestige of charm in our eyes as soon as their real personality surfaced. How pleasant it is to be around people who have clothed themselves with love!
Replacing Hate With Love
That hate can be replaced with love is illustrated by a survey taken in 1994 of 145,958 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany.
Excessive drinking, drug abuse, crime, gambling, and antisocial or violent behavior are all, in one way or another, expressions of selfishness, which can easily foment hate. But 38.7 percent of those interviewed said that in order to meet the high Bible standards advocated by the Witnesses, they had overcome one or more of these problems. Love for God and for his righteous standards of conduct motivated them to do so. Loving assistance was offered by Jehovah’s Witnesses, often on a one-on-one basis. During the past five years (1992-1996), 1,616,894 persons in 233 lands were helped to make changes, overpowering hate with all-conquering love.
By applying unselfish love in their marriages, Jehovah’s Witnesses achieve stable relationships. In some countries one marriage out of every two or three ends in divorce. But the above-mentioned survey indicated that presently only 4.9 percent of the Witnesses are divorced or separated from their mates. Not to be forgotten, however, is that a goodly number of these were divorced before they became Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Since the God of love is a Grand Instructor who teaches his ways to those who love him, Jehovah’s Witnesses direct their love, first of all, to him. Unlike other people, who may be “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God,” Jehovah’s Witnesses put God first. (2 Timothy 3:4) Contrary to the ways of this unprincipled world, the average Witness spends 17.5 hours each week on religious activities. The Witnesses are obviously spiritually minded. That is what makes them happy. Jesus said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.”—Matthew 5:3.
The true servant of God, says the writer of Psalm 118, has no need to fear humans. “Jehovah is on my side; I shall not fear. What can earthling man do to me?” (Ps 118 Verse 6) Complete trust in God removes one of the causes of hatred and fear of other humans.
A Christian, knowing that God is “slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and trueness,” will strive to blot anger out of his life, as it can be an additional cause for hatred. Developing the fruits of God’s spirit, including mildness and self-control, will help him achieve this.—Psalm 86:15; Galatians 5:22, 23.
A true Christian is humble and does not think more highly of himself than he ought. (Romans 12:3) He cultivates love in his dealings with others. In contrast to hate, love “does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury.”—1 Corinthians 13:5.
Yes, fear, anger, or a sense of injury can cause people to hate. But love, by depriving hate of its basis, triumphs over it. Indeed, love is the strongest force in the universe because “God is love.”—1 John 4:8.
Hatred Soon Gone Forever
Since they are no part of Jehovah God’s personality, selfishness and hate cannot last forever. They must, of necessity, be removed, to be replaced by love, which will last eternally. If a world without hate, and full of love, is the kind you long for, let Jehovah’s Witnesses explain to you from the Bible the requirements for living to see it.
Yes, each of us would do well to ask, ‘Which quality dominates my life, love or hate?’ This is more than just an academic question. The heart that beats for God’s adversary, a god of hate, will not beat for long. The heart that beats for Jehovah, the God of love, will beat forever!—1 John 2:15-17.
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Even today people can clothe themselves with love