“Have Intense Love for One Another”
1. What often impresses newcomers at the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
WHEN people first come to the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are often impressed by the love shown there. They observe it in the welcome extended to them and in the warm fellowship. Visitors to our conventions also notice this love. A news reporter wrote regarding a convention: ‘Nobody under the influence of drugs or alcohol. No yelling and screaming. No pushing. No shoving. No one swearing or 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, does not look for its own interests.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
2. (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?
2 Brotherly love is the identifying mark of genuine Christians. (John 13:35) As we grow spiritually, we learn to express love more fully. The apostle Paul prayed that the love of his fellow Christians would “abound yet more and more.” (Philippians 1:9) The apostle John showed that our love 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) Would we actually give our life for our brothers? While most situations do not require that, to what extent do we go out of our way to help them now, even when it is not convenient?
3. (a) In what way might we express our love more fully? (b) Why is it vital to have intense love for one another now?
3 Along with our deeds that reflect a self-sacrificing spirit, we need to have a genuinely warm feeling toward our brothers. God’s Word urges us: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another.” (Romans 12:10) We all feel that way toward some people. But could we learn to feel such fondness for yet others? As the end of this old system draws near, it is vital for us to draw ever closer to our fellow Christians. The Bible says: “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 Peter 4:7, 8.
When Problems Arise
4. (a) Why can problems arise between those in a congregation? (b) While we may not always be inclined to do so, what good can result if we apply the Bible’s counsel?
4 Of course, as long as we are imperfect, there will be times when we do things that offend others. Our brothers too may sin against us in various ways. (1 John 1:8) If you find yourself in such a situation, what should you do? The Scriptures provide the needed direction. But what they say may not coincide with what we as imperfect humans are inclined to do. (Romans 7:21-23) Nevertheless, our earnestly applying the counsel that the Bible contains will give evidence of our sincere desire to please Jehovah. Doing so will also enrich the quality of our love toward others.
5. If someone hurts us, why should we not retaliate?
5 When people are hurt, they sometimes 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. (Proverbs 24:29; Romans 12:17-21) Others may try to avoid contact with the offender. But we should not do that to fellow worshipers, for the acceptability of our own worship depends, in part, on our loving our brothers. (1 John 4:20) Thus, 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.” (Colossians 3:13) Can you do that?
6. (a) How often should we forgive our brother? (b) Appreciating what will help us to handle a sin against us?
6 What if someone repeatedly sins against us but does not commit gross sins for which he can be put out of the congregation? For such lesser sins, the apostle Peter suggested forgiving “up to seven times.” But Jesus said: “Not, Up to seven times, but, Up to seventy-seven times.” He highlighted the enormity of our debt to God compared to what any human may owe us. (Matthew 18:21-35) In many ways we sin against God every day—sometimes by a selfish act, by what we say or think, or by what we fail to do—not even realizing that we are sinning. (Romans 3:23) Yet, God continues to be merciful toward us. (Psalm 103:10-14; 130:3, 4) He requires us to deal the same way with one another. (Matthew 6:14, 15; Ephesians 4:1-3) Then we will be practicing the kind of love that “does not keep account of the injury.”—1 Corinthians 13:4, 5; 1 Peter 3:8, 9.
7. What should we do if a brother has something against us?
7 There may be times when we realize that even though we have no hard feelings toward our brother, he has something against us. We can choose to ‘cover it over with love,’ as 1 Peter 4:8 suggests. Or we can take the initiative to talk to him and try to restore peaceful relations.—Matthew 5:23, 24.
8. If a fellow believer does something that upsets us, what can be done about it?
8 It could be that a fellow believer is doing something that upsets not only you but others too. Would it not be good to talk to him? Perhaps. If you personally explain the problem to him in a kind way, this may bring good results. But first you ought to ask yourself: ‘Is he really doing something unscriptural? Or is the problem largely because my background and training are different from his?’ Be careful not to set up your own standards and then judge according to these. (James 4:11, 12) Jehovah impartially accepts people from all sorts of backgrounds and is patient with them as they grow spiritually.
9. (a) Who gives attention to cases of gross wrongdoing in the congregation? (b) When is it the responsibility of the one sinned against to act first, and with what objective?
9 If someone in the congregation gets involved in gross wrongdoing, such as immorality, prompt attention should be given. By whom? By the elders. (James 5:14, 15) However, if a sin is committed against an individual, perhaps in a business matter or in the harmful misuse of the tongue, then the one sinned against should first endeavor to approach the offender on a private basis. (Matthew 18:15) If that does not resolve the matter, further steps need to be taken, as outlined at Matthew 18:16, 17. Love for our erring brother and a desire to ‘gain’ him will help us do this in a manner that seeks to reach his heart.—Proverbs 16:23.
10. When a problem arises, what will help us to view the matter properly?
10 When a problem comes up, whether it is great or small, we are helped if we endeavor to understand how Jehovah views it. He does not approve of sin in any form, and in his due time, unrepentant practicers of gross sin are cleaned out of his organization. However, let us not forget that we all sin in lesser ways and are in need of his long-suffering and mercy. Jehovah thus sets a pattern to be imitated by us when we are confronted with the sins of others. When we are merciful, we are reflecting his love.—Ephesians 5:1, 2.
Seek Ways to “Widen Out”
11. Why did Paul encourage the Corinthians to “widen out”?
11 Paul spent months building up the congregation in Corinth, Greece. He 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 Corinthians 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.
12. How can we grow in our love for all in the congregation?
12 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 personality differences—as we would want them to do for us—this can help to warm the relationship between us. Our feelings toward them can also improve if we seek out their good qualities and concentrate on these. This will surely cause our love for them to grow.—Luke 6:32, 33, 36.
13. How can we widen out in showing love to those in our congregation?
13 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. But could we widen out by spending just a few minutes getting better acquainted with someone in our congregation? Might we occasionally invite someone whom we do not know well to work with us in the field ministry?
14. When among Christians we have never met, how can we show intense love for one another?
14 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. Between sessions, we can show personal interest 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 true God and Father of all. What a joy it will be to get to know one another! Intense love will move us to want to do that. Why not start now?
• When problems arise between Christians, how should these be resolved, and why?
• As we grow spiritually, in what ways should our love also grow?
• How is it possible to show intense love for more than just a close circle of friends?
[Picture on page 148]
Christian love is demonstrated in many ways, as at congregation meetings