“Have Intense Love for One Another”
1, 2. (a) What often impresses newcomers at the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses? (b) What other evidence of this quality do they observe at our conventions?
WHEN people first come to congregation meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses they are often deeply impressed by the love shown there. They observe it in the warm fellowship and in the welcome extended to them personally.
2 At our conventions visitors also notice that most of those attending are very well behaved. A news reporter wrote regarding such a convention: ‘Nobody under the influence of drugs or alcohol. No yelling and screaming. No pushing. No shoving. No one swearing and cursing. No dirty jokes or foul language. No smoke-filled air. No stealing. No one throwing cans on lawns. It was really unusual.’ All of this is evidence of love, the kind that ‘does not behave indecently and does not look for its own interests.’—1 Cor. 13:4-8.
3. (a) In time, what should be evident as to our displaying love? (b) In imitation of Christ, what kind of love do we need to cultivate?
3 Love is a quality that identifies every genuine Christian. (John 13:35) As we grow spiritually, we ought to express it more fully. The apostle Paul prayed that the love of his brothers would “abound yet more and more.” (Phil. 1:9; 1 Thess. 3:12) Also Peter urged fellow Christians to allow their love to embrace “the whole association of brothers.” (1 Pet. 2:17) Our love should move us to do more than simply attend meetings with people whom we put forth little effort to know personally. It ought to include more than saying a kind “Hello” from time to time. The apostle John showed that it should be self-sacrificing. He wrote: “By this we have come to know love, because [the Son of God] surrendered his soul for us; and we are under obligation to surrender our souls for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16; John 15:12, 13) We have not yet done that. But would we actually give our life for our brothers? Well, to what extent do we go out of our way to help them now, even when it may not be convenient?
4. (a) In what other way may we find that we could express love more fully? (b) Why is it vital to have intense love for one another?
4 Along with deeds that reflect a self-sacrificing spirit, it is also important to have a genuinely warm feeling toward our brothers. God’s Word urges us: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another.” (Rom. 12:10) We all feel that way toward some persons. Could we include more in the group for which we feel such fondness? As the end of the old system draws near, it is vital for us to draw ever closer to our Christian brothers. The Bible alerts us to this, saying: “The end of all things has drawn close. . . . Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”—1 Pet. 4:7, 8.
5. Why would it be wrong to expect that no problems would arise between members of a congregation?
5 Of course, as long as we are imperfect, there will be times when we do things that offend others. They, too, in various ways will sin against us. (1 John 1:8) If you find yourself in such a situation, what should you do?
What to Do When Problems Arise
6. (a) Why may the Bible’s counsel not always agree with our inclinations? (b) But what will result if we apply it?
6 The Scriptures provide the needed direction. But what they counsel may not coincide with what we as imperfect humans are inclined to do. (Rom. 7:21-23) Nevertheless, our earnestly working at it will give evidence of our sincere desire to please Jehovah, and it will also enrich the quality of our love toward others.
7. (a) If someone hurts us, why should we not retaliate? (b) Why should we not simply avoid a brother who offends us?
7 Sometimes when people are hurt they look for ways to get even with the offender. But that only makes the situation worse. If recompense is needed, we should leave that to God. (Prov. 24:29; Rom. 12:17-21) Others may try to shut the offender out of their life, avoiding contact with him. But we cannot do that to fellow worshipers. The acceptability of our worship depends, in part, on our loving our brothers. (1 John 4:20) Can we honestly say that we love someone that we will not talk to or whose very presence disturbs us? We need to come to grips with the problem and solve it. How?
8, 9. (a) If we have cause for complaint against a brother, what is the right thing to do? (b) But what if he has repeatedly sinned against us? (c) Why should we handle the matter in this way, and what will help us to do so?
8 On this matter the apostle Paul wrote: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.” (Col. 3:13) Can you do that? What if the person repeatedly sins against you in various ways?
9 The apostle Peter had the same question, and he suggested that perhaps he should try to forgive a brother up to seven times. Jesus replied: “I say to you, not, Up to seven times, but, Up to seventy-seven times.” But why? Jesus explained with an illustration that highlighted the enormity of our debt to God in comparison with what any human may owe us. (Matt. 18:21-35) In numerous ways we sin against God every day—sometimes by a selfish act, frequently by what we say or think, as well as by failure to do what we should. In our ignorance we may not even realize that some of the things we did were wrong, or in the rush of life we may not think seriously enough about the matter. God could demand our life in payment for our sins. (Rom. 6:23) But he has continued to be merciful toward us. (Ps. 103:10-14) It is not at all unreasonable, therefore, that he require us to deal similarly with one another. (Matt. 6:14, 15; Eph. 4:1-3) When we do that, instead of harboring resentment, it is evidence that we have attained to the kind of love that “does not keep account of the injury.”—1 Cor. 13:4, 5; 1 Pet. 3:8, 9.
10. What should we do if a brother has something against us?
10 There may be times when we realize that, even though we have no hard feelings toward our brother, he has something against us. What should we do? Without delay we ought to talk to him and endeavor to restore peaceful relations. The Bible urges us to take the initiative. (Matt. 5:23, 24) Doing that may not be easy. It requires love coupled with humility. Are those qualities strong enough in you so that you would do what the Bible advises? This is an important goal toward which to work.
11. If a brother does things that upset us, what should be done about it?
11 On the other hand, it could be that someone is doing things that upset you—and possibly others. Would it not be good for someone to talk to him? Perhaps. If you personally will explain the problem to him in a kind way, this may bring good results. But first you ought to ask yourself: ‘Are the things he does really unscriptural? Or is the problem largely because my background and training are different from his?’ If so, be careful not to set up your own standards and then judge according to these. (Jas. 4:11, 12) Jehovah impartially accepts persons from all sorts of backgrounds and is patient with them as they grow spiritually.
12. (a) If there is a case of gross wrongdoing in the congregation, who takes care of that? (b) But under what circumstances is it the responsibility of the one sinned against to act first? With what objective?
12 However, if someone in the congregation gets involved in gross wrongdoing, this needs prompt attention. But by whom? Usually by the elders. However, if it involves a business matter between brothers, or possibly misuse of the tongue in a way that has seriously harmed someone, then the one sinned against should first endeavor to help the offender on a personal basis. That may seem difficult to some. But it is what Jesus counsels at Matthew 18:15-17. Love for one’s brother and an earnest desire to keep him as a brother will help one to do it in a manner that will, if possible, reach the heart of the erring one.—Prov. 16:23.
13. If a problem arises between us and another brother, what will help us to view the matter properly?
13 When a problem comes up, whether great or small, we are helped if we endeavor to understand how Jehovah views it. He does not approve of sin in any form, yet he sees it in all of us. In his due time unrepentant practicers of sin are cleaned out of his organization. But what about the rest of us? We are all objects of his long-suffering and mercy. He sets the pattern to be imitated by us. When we do so, we are reflecting his love.—Eph. 5:1, 2.
Seek Ways to “Widen Out”
14. (a) Why did Paul encourage the Corinthians to “widen out”? (b) How do the scriptures cited here indicate that we all do well to think about this?
14 The apostle Paul had spent many months building up the congregation in Corinth, Greece. He had worked hard to help the brothers there and he loved them. But some of them lacked warmth of feeling toward him. They were very critical. He urged them to “widen out” in expressing affection. (2 Cor. 6:11-13; 12:15) We all do well to consider the extent to which we express love to others and to seek ways to “widen out.”—1 John 3:14; 1 Cor. 13:3.
15. What can help us to grow in love for any to whom we personally may not feel attracted?
15 Are there some in the congregation to whom we find it difficult to draw close? If we go out of our way to cover over any minor transgressions on their part, as we would want them to do for us, this can help to warm the relationship between us. (Prov. 17:9; 19:11) Our feelings toward them can also improve if we seek out their good qualities and concentrate on these. Have we really taken note of the ways in which Jehovah is using these brothers? This will surely cause our love for them to grow.—Luke 6:32, 33, 36.
16. Realistically, how can we “widen out” in showing love to those in our congregation?
16 Admittedly, there are limitations to what we can do for others. We may not be able to greet everyone at each meeting. It may not be possible to include everyone when we invite friends for a meal. We all have intimate associates with whom we spend more time than we do with others. But could we “widen out”? Could we spend just a few minutes each week getting better acquainted with someone in our congregation who has not been a close friend of ours? Might we occasionally invite one of these to work with us in the field ministry? If we truly have intense love for one another, we will surely find ways to show it.
17. When among brothers that we have never met before, what will show whether we have intense love for them too?
17 Christian conventions afford fine opportunities to “widen out” in our love. Thousands may be present. We cannot meet them all. But we can conduct ourselves in a way that shows we put their welfare ahead of our convenience, even if we have never met them before. And we can show personal interest between sessions by taking the initiative to meet some of those around us. Someday all who live on earth will be brothers and sisters, united in worship of the God and Father of all. What a joy it will be to get to know them all, with their many and varied qualities! Intense love for them will move us to want to do that. Why not start now?
● When problems arise between brothers or sisters, how should these be resolved? Why?
● As we grow spiritually, in what ways should our love also grow?
● How is it possible to show intense love for more than a circle of close friends?