1-3. What results when we imitate Jehovah’s example of showing love?
“THERE is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) Those words of Jesus underscore this important truth: Unselfish love brings its own reward. Although there is much happiness in receiving love, there is even greater happiness in giving, or showing, love to others.
2 No one knows this better than our heavenly Father does. As we saw in the preceding chapters of this section, Jehovah is the ultimate example of love. No one has shown love in greater ways or over a longer period of time than he has. Is it any wonder, then, that Jehovah is called “the happy God”?—1 Timothy 1:11.
3 Our loving God wants us to try to be like him, especially when it comes to showing love. Ephesians 5:1, 2 tells us: “Become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love.” When we imitate Jehovah’s example of showing love, we experience the greater happiness that comes from giving. We also have the satisfaction of knowing that we are pleasing to Jehovah, for his Word urges us “to love one another.” (Romans 13:8) But there are yet other reasons why we should “go on walking in love.”
Why Love Is Essential
4, 5. Why is it important that we show self-sacrificing love to fellow believers?
4 Why is it important that we show love to fellow believers? Put simply, love is the essence of true Christianity. Without love we cannot have a close bond with fellow Christians, and more important, we amount to nothing in Jehovah’s sight. Consider how God’s Word highlights these truths.
5 On the final night of his earthly life, Jesus told his followers: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35) “Just as I have loved you”—yes, we are commanded to show the kind of love that Jesus displayed. In Chapter 29, we noted that Jesus set a superb example in showing self-sacrificing love, putting the needs and interests of others ahead of self. We too are to display unselfish love, and we are to do it so plainly that our love is evident even to those outside the Christian congregation. Indeed, self-sacrificing brotherly love is the mark by which we are identified as true followers of Christ.
6, 7. (a) How do we know that Jehovah’s Word places a high value on showing love? (b) Paul’s words recorded at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 focus on what aspect of love?
6 What if love is lacking in us? “If I . . . do not have love,” said the apostle Paul, “I have become a sounding piece of brass or a clashing cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1) A clashing cymbal produces a harsh noise. What about a sounding piece of brass? Other versions say “a noisy gong” or “a resounding gong.” What apt illustrations! A loveless person is like a musical instrument making a loud, jarring noise that repels rather than attracts. How could such a person enjoy a close relationship with others? Paul also said: “If I have all the faith so as to transplant mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2) Just imagine, a person without love is “a useless nobody,” despite any works that he might perform! (The Amplified Bible) Is it not clear that Jehovah’s Word places a high value on showing love?
7 How, though, can we display this quality in our dealings with others? To answer that, let us examine Paul’s words found at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. The emphasis in these verses is neither on God’s love for us nor on our love for God. Rather, Paul focused on how we should show love to one another. He described certain things that love is and certain things that it is not.
What Love Is
8. How can long-suffering help us in our dealings with others?
8 “Love is long-suffering.” Being long-suffering means patiently putting up with others. (Colossians 3:13) Do we not need such patience? Because we are imperfect creatures serving shoulder to shoulder, it is only realistic to expect that from time to time, our Christian brothers may irritate us and we may do the same to them. But patience and forbearance can help us to cope with the minor scrapes and scratches we sustain in our dealings with others—without disrupting the peace of the congregation.
9. In what ways can we show kindness to others?
9 “Love is . . . kind.” Kindness is shown by helpful acts and considerate words. Love moves us to look for ways to show kindness, especially toward those most in need. For instance, an older fellow believer may be lonely and in need of an encouraging visit. A single mother or a sister living in a religiously divided home may need some assistance. One who is ill or facing some adversity may need to hear kind words from a loyal friend. (Proverbs 12:25; 17:17) When we take the initiative to show kindness in such ways, we demonstrate the genuineness of our love.—2 Corinthians 8:8.
10. How does love help us uphold and speak the truth, even when it is not easy to do so?
10 “Love . . . rejoices with the truth.” Another version says: “Love . . . joyfully sides with the truth.” Love moves us to uphold truth and to “speak truthfully with one another.” (Zechariah 8:16) If, for example, a loved one has been involved in serious sin, love for Jehovah—and for the erring one—will help us hold to God’s standards rather than trying to conceal, rationalize, or even lie about the wrongdoing. Granted, the truth of the situation may be hard to accept. But having the best interests of our loved one at heart, we would want him to receive and respond to an expression of God’s loving discipline. (Proverbs 3:11, 12) As loving Christians, we also wish to “conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”—Hebrews 13:18.
11. Because love “bears all things,” what should we endeavor to do with respect to the shortcomings of fellow believers?
11 “Love . . . bears all things.” That expression literally means “all things it is covering.” (Kingdom Interlinear) First Peter 4:8 states: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Yes, a Christian who is governed by love is not eager to drag into the light of day all the imperfections and shortcomings of his Christian brothers. In many cases, the mistakes and faults of fellow believers are minor in nature and can be covered by the cloak of love.—Proverbs 10:12; 17:9.
12. How did the apostle Paul show that he believed the best about Philemon, and what can we learn from Paul’s example?
12 “Love . . . believes all things.” Moffatt’s translation says that love is “always eager to believe the best.” We are not unduly suspicious of fellow believers, questioning their every motive. Love helps us “to believe the best” about our brothers and to trust them.* Note an example in Paul’s letter to Philemon. Paul was writing in order to encourage Philemon to welcome kindly the return of the runaway slave Onesimus, who had become a Christian. Instead of trying to coerce Philemon, Paul made an appeal based on love. He expressed confidence that Philemon would do the right thing, saying: “Trusting in your compliance, I am writing you, knowing you will even do more than the things I say.” (Verse 21) When love moves us to express such confidence in our brothers, we bring out the best in them.
13. How can we show that we hope the best for our brothers?
13 “Love . . . hopes all things.” Even as love is trustful, it is also hopeful. Motivated by love, we hope the best for our brothers. For example, if a brother takes a “false step before he is aware of it,” we hope that he will respond to loving efforts to readjust him. (Galatians 6:1) We also hold out hope that those who are weak in faith will recover. We are patient with such ones, doing what we can to help them become strong in faith. (Romans 15:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14) Even if a loved one goes astray, we do not give up hope that someday he will come to his senses and return to Jehovah, like the prodigal son in Jesus’ illustration.—Luke 15:17, 18.
14. In what ways may our endurance be tested within the congregation, and how will love help us to respond?
14 “Love . . . endures all things.” Endurance enables us to stand firm in the face of disappointments or hardships. Tests of endurance do not come only from outside the congregation. At times, we may be tested from within. Because of imperfection, our brothers may on occasion disappoint us. A thoughtless remark may hurt our feelings. (Proverbs 12:18) Perhaps a congregation matter is not handled as we think it should be. The conduct of a respected brother may be upsetting, causing us to wonder, ‘How can a Christian act like that?’ When faced with such situations, will we withdraw from the congregation and stop serving Jehovah? Not if we have love! Yes, love prevents us from becoming so blinded by the failings of a brother that we can no longer see any good in him or in the congregation as a whole. Love enables us to remain faithful to God and supportive of the congregation regardless of what another imperfect human may say or do.—Psalm 119:165.
What Love Is Not
15. What is improper jealousy, and how does love help us to avoid this destructive emotion?
15 “Love is not jealous.” Improper jealousy can cause us to become envious of what others have—their belongings, blessings, or abilities. Such jealousy is a selfish, destructive emotion that, left unchecked, can disrupt the peace of the congregation. What will help us to resist the “tendency to envy”? (James 4:5) In a word, love. This precious quality can enable us to rejoice with those who seem to have certain advantages in life that we ourselves do not have. (Romans 12:15) Love helps us not to view it as a personal affront when someone receives praise for some exceptional ability or outstanding achievement.
16. If we truly love our brothers, why would we avoid boasting about what we are doing in Jehovah’s service?
16 “Love . . . does not brag, does not get puffed up.” Love restrains us from flaunting our talents or accomplishments. If we truly love our brothers, how could we constantly brag about our success in the ministry or our privileges in the congregation? Such boasting can tear others down, causing them to feel inferior in comparison. Love does not allow us to brag about what God lets us do in his service. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9) After all, love “does not get puffed up,” or as The New Testament in Modern English says, it does not “cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.” Love prevents us from having an elevated view of ourselves.—Romans 12:3.
17. Love moves us to show what consideration for others, and what kind of conduct will we thus avoid?
17 “Love . . . does not behave indecently.” A person who behaves indecently acts in an unseemly or offensive manner. Such a course is unloving, for it shows an utter disregard for the feelings and welfare of others. In contrast, there is a graciousness in love that moves us to show consideration for others. Love promotes good manners, godly conduct, and respect for our fellow believers. Thus, love will not permit us to engage in “shameful conduct”—really, any behavior that would shock or offend our Christian brothers.—Ephesians 5:3, 4.
18. Why does a loving person not demand that everything be done his way?
18 “Love . . . does not look for its own interests.” The Revised Standard Version says here: “Love does not insist on its own way.” A loving person does not demand that everything be done his way, as if his opinions were always correct. He does not manipulate others, using his powers of persuasion to wear down those who have a different view. Such stubbornness would reveal a measure of pride, and the Bible says: “Pride is before a crash.” (Proverbs 16:18) If we really love our brothers, we will respect their views, and where possible, we will show a willingness to yield. A yielding spirit is in harmony with Paul’s words: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.”—1 Corinthians 10:24.
19. How does love help us to respond when others offend us?
19 “Love . . . does not become provoked . . . , does not keep account of the injury.” Love is not easily provoked by what others say or do. True, it is only natural to become upset when others offend us. But even if we get justifiably angry, love does not let us remain provoked. (Ephesians 4:26, 27) We would not keep a record of hurtful words or deeds, as if writing them in a ledger so that they will not be forgotten. Instead, love moves us to imitate our loving God. As we saw in Chapter 26, Jehovah forgives when there is sound reason for doing so. When he forgives us, he forgets, that is, he does not hold those sins against us at some future time. Are we not thankful that Jehovah does not keep account of the injury?
20. How should we react if a fellow believer is ensnared by wrongdoing and fares badly as a result?
20 “Love . . . does not rejoice over unrighteousness.” The New English Bible here reads: “Love . . . does not gloat over other men’s sins.” Moffatt’s translation says: “Love is never glad when others go wrong.” Love finds no pleasure in unrighteousness, so we do not wink at immorality of any kind. How do we react if a fellow believer is ensnared by sin and fares badly as a result? Love will not let us rejoice, as if to say ‘Good! He deserved it!’ (Proverbs 17:5) We do rejoice, however, when a brother who has erred takes positive steps to recover from his spiritual fall.
“A Surpassing Way”
21-23. (a) What did Paul mean when he said that “love never fails”? (b) What will be considered in the final chapter?
21 “Love never fails.” What did Paul mean by those words? As seen in the context, he was discussing the gifts of the spirit that were present among early Christians. Those gifts served as signs that God’s favor was on the newly formed congregation. But not all Christians could heal, prophesy, or speak in tongues. However, that did not matter; the miraculous gifts would eventually cease anyway. Yet, something else would remain, something every Christian could cultivate. It was more outstanding, more enduring, than any miraculous gift. In fact, Paul called it “a surpassing way.” (1 Corinthians 12:31) What was this “surpassing way”? It was the way of love.
Jehovah’s people are identified by their love for one another
22 Indeed, the Christian love that Paul described “never fails,” that is, it will never come to an end. To this day, self-sacrificing brotherly love identifies Jesus’ true followers. Do we not see evidence of such love in the congregations of Jehovah’s worshipers earth wide? That love will last forever, for Jehovah promises everlasting life to his faithful servants. (Psalm 37:9-11, 29) May we continue to do our best to “go on walking in love.” By doing so, we can experience the greater happiness that comes from giving. More than that, we can keep on living—yes, keep on loving—for all eternity, in imitation of our loving God, Jehovah.
23 In this chapter concluding the section on love, we have discussed how we can show love for one another. But in view of the many ways in which we benefit from Jehovah’s love—as well as from his power, justice, and wisdom—we do well to ask, ‘How can I show Jehovah that I truly love him?’ That question will be considered in our final chapter.
Of course, Christian love is by no means gullible. The Bible exhorts us: “Keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling . . . , and avoid them.”—Romans 16:17.