Can All People Ever Love One Another?
A LAWYER had just said that to enjoy “everlasting life,” we must love God wholeheartedly and love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus commended the lawyer and told him: “You answered correctly; ‘keep on doing this and you will get life.’” (Luke 10:25-28; Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:5) But the man, wanting to prove himself righteous, asked: “Who really is my neighbor?”
No doubt the lawyer expected Jesus to say, “Your fellow Jews.” But Jesus related a story about a neighborly Samaritan, which showed that people of nationalities other than our own are also our neighbors. (Luke 10:29-37; John 4:7-9) During his ministry Jesus emphasized that to love God and to love our neighbor are the most important commands of our Creator.—Matthew 22:34-40.
Yet, has any group of people ever truly loved their neighbors? Is it really possible for all people to love one another?
A First-Century Miracle
Jesus told his followers that they would be recognized by a love that transcends racial, national, and all other boundaries. He said: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Then he added: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 13.
Jesus’ teachings about love, backed up by his example, worked a first-century miracle. His followers came to imitate their Master, learning to love one another in a way that drew widespread attention and admiration. Tertullian, a writer of the second and third centuries C.E., quoted non-Christians as commending Jesus’ followers: ‘See how they love one another and how they are ready to die for one another.’
Indeed, the apostle John wrote: “We are under obligation to surrender our souls for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16) Jesus even taught his followers to love their enemies. (Matthew 5:43-45) What is the consequence when people truly love others as Jesus taught them to?
A professor of political science evidently pondered that question. So he asked, as recorded in The Christian Century: “Can anyone seriously conceive of Jesus hurling hand grenades at his enemies, using a machine gun, manipulating a flamethrower, dropping nuclear bombs or launching an ICBM which would kill or cripple thousands of mothers and children?”
In answer, the professor said: “The question is so absurd that it scarcely merits an answer.” So he posed the question: “If Jesus could not do this and be true to his character, then how can we do it and be true to him?” We should not be surprised, therefore, by the position of neutrality taken by Jesus’ early followers, which is well documented by many history books. Consider just two examples.
Our World Through the Ages, by N. Platt and M. J. Drummond, says: “The behavior of the Christians was very different from that of the Romans. . . . Since Christ had preached peace, they refused to become soldiers.” And The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon, states: “[Early Christians] refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defence of the empire. . . . It was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers.”
What About Today?
Is Christlike love practiced by anybody today? The Encyclopedia Canadiana observes: “The work of Jehovah’s Witnesses is the revival and re-establishment of the primitive Christianity practised by Jesus and his disciples . . . All are brothers.”
What does that mean? It means that Jehovah’s Witnesses allow nothing—neither race, nationality, nor ethnic background—to cause them to hate their neighbors. Nor will they kill anyone, for they have figuratively beaten their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears, as the Bible foretold true servants of God would.—Isaiah 2:4.
No wonder an editorial in California’s Sacramento Union noted: “Suffice it to say that if all the world lived by the creed of the Jehovah Witnesses there would be an end of bloodshed and hatred, and love would reign as king”!
Similarly, a writer in Hungary’s Ring magazine remarked: “I have come to the conclusion that if Jehovah’s Witnesses were the only ones living on the earth, wars would cease to exist, and the only duties of the policemen would be to control traffic and to issue passports.”
In the Italian church magazine Andare alle genti, a Roman Catholic nun also wrote admiringly of the Witnesses: “They refuse any form of violence and without rebelling put up with the many trials inflicted on them because of their beliefs . . . How different the world would be if we all woke up one morning firmly decided not to take up arms again, whatever the cost or the reason, just like Jehovah’s Witnesses!”
The Witnesses are noted for taking the initiative to help their neighbors. (Galatians 6:10) In her book Women in Soviet Prisons, a Latvian said she became very sick while working at the Potma penal camp in the mid-1960’s. “All through my sickness [the Witnesses] were diligent nurses. I could not have wished for better care, especially under camp conditions.” She added: “Jehovah’s Witnesses consider it their duty to help everyone, regardless of religion or nationality.”
Recently the public press in the Czech Republic took note of such conduct of the Witnesses in concentration camps. Commenting on the documentary “The Lost Home,” produced in Brno, the newspaper Severočeský deník observed: “It is noteworthy that even these reliable contemporaries [Czech and Slovak Jewish survivors] have with marked admiration testified in favor of prisoners from among Jehovah’s Witnesses. ‘They were very courageous people, who were always helping us in whatever way they could, although running the risk of execution,’ many commented. ‘They prayed for us, as though we belonged to their family; they encouraged us not to give up.’”
What, though, about loving those who actually hate you? Is that possible?
Love Triumphs Over Hate
Jesus’ teaching about love of enemies is in keeping with the Bible proverb: “If the one hating you is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” (Proverbs 25:21; Matthew 5:44) Regarding the positive effect of receiving loving attention from ones once considered enemies, a black woman who had recently become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses wrote: “On occasion my heart has been warmed to the point of uncontrollable tears to experience the genuine love of white Witnesses, people whom shortly before I would have killed without hesitation to further the cause of a revolution.”
A French Witness related that a neighbor reported her mother to the Gestapo during World War II. “As a result, my mother spent two years in German concentration camps, where she nearly died,” the daughter explained. “After the war, the French police wanted Mother to sign a paper incriminating this woman as a German collaborator. But my mother refused.” Later, the neighbor developed terminal cancer. The daughter said: “Mother spent many hours making the last months of her life as comfortable as possible. I will never forget this triumph of love over hate.”
Without question, people can learn to love one another. Former enemies—Tutsi and Hutu, Jews and Arabs, Armenians and Turks, Japanese and Americans, Germans and Russians, Protestants and Catholics—all have been united by Bible truth!
Since millions of people who previously harbored hatred now love one another, surely a whole world of people could. Admittedly, however, a huge worldwide change will be needed if all people are to love one another. How will that change come about?
[Pictures on page 7]
Whites and blacks in South Africa
Jews and Arabs
Hutu and Tutsi
Figuratively, Witnesses have beaten their swords into plowshares