“Above All Things, Have Intense Love”
“The end of all things has drawn close. . . . Above all things, have intense love for one another.”—1 PETER 4:7, 8.
JESUS knew that his last few hours with his apostles were precious. He was aware of what lay ahead of them. They had a great work to accomplish, but they would be hated and persecuted, even as he was. (John 15:18-20) More than once on that final night together, he reminded them of the need to “love one another.”—John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 13, 17.
2 The apostle Peter, who was present that night, got the point. Years later, writing shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, Peter emphasized the importance of love. He counseled Christians: “The end of all things has drawn close. . . . Above all things, have intense love for one another.” (1 Peter 4:7, 8) Peter’s words are rich in meaning for those living during “the last days” of this present system of things. (2 Timothy 3:1) What is “intense love”? Why is it important that we have such love for others? And how can we demonstrate that we do?
“Intense Love”—What Is It?
3 Many think of love as a feeling that must spring forth naturally. But Peter was not talking about just any kind of love; he was speaking about love in its noblest form. The word “love” at 1 Peter 4:8 is a translation of the Greek word a·gaʹpe. That term denotes unselfish love that is guided, or governed, by principle. One reference work says: “Agape love is capable of being commanded because it is not primarily an emotion but a decision of the will leading to action.” Because we have an inherited tendency toward selfishness, we need reminders to show love to one another, doing so in ways that godly principles direct.—Genesis 8:21; Romans 5:12.
4 This is not to say that we are to love one another merely out of a sense of duty. A·gaʹpe is not devoid of warmth and feeling. Peter said we must “have intense [literally, “outstretching”] love for one another.”* (Kingdom Interlinear) Still, such love requires effort. Regarding the Greek word rendered “intense,” one scholar says: “It portrays the image of an athlete’s straining muscles as the last bit of strength is willed forth at the finish of a race.”
5 Our love, then, must not be limited to doing only what comes easily or be restricted to a select few. Christian love requires “stretching” our heart, extending love even when it may be challenging to do so. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13) Clearly, this kind of love is something we need to cultivate and work at, just as an athlete must train and work to hone his skills. It is vital that we have such love for one another. Why? For at least three reasons.
Why Should We Love One Another?
6 First, “because love is from God.” (1 John 4:7) Jehovah, the Source of this endearing quality, loved us first. The apostle John says: “By this the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him.” (1 John 4:9) God’s Son was “sent forth” by becoming a human, carrying out his ministry, and dying on a torture stake—all so “that we might gain life.” How should we respond to this supreme expression of God’s love? John says: “If this is how God loved us, then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.” (1 John 4:11) Note that John writes, “If this is how God loved us”—not just you but us. The point is clear: If God loves our fellow worshipers, then we ought to love them too.
7 Second, it is especially vital that we love one another more now in order to extend help to our brothers in need because “the end of all things has drawn close.” (1 Peter 4:7) We are living in “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) World conditions, natural disasters, and opposition bring hardships upon us. Under trying circumstances, we need to draw ever closer to one another. Intense love will bind us together and motivate us to “care for one another.”—1 Corinthians 12:25, 26.
8 Third, we need to love one another because we do not want to “allow place for the Devil” to take advantage of us. (Ephesians 4:27) Satan is quick to use the imperfections of fellow believers—their weaknesses, faults, and mistakes—as stumbling blocks. Will a thoughtless remark or an unkind act cause us to withdraw from the congregation? (Proverbs 12:18) Not if we have intense love for one another! Such love helps us to maintain peace and unitedly to serve God “shoulder to shoulder.”—Zephaniah 3:9.
How to Demonstrate That You Love Others
9 Showing love must begin at home. Jesus said that his genuine followers would be identified by the love they have for one another. (John 13:34, 35) Love must be evident not just in the congregation but also in the family—between marriage mates and between parents and children. It is not enough to feel love for family members; we need to express it in positive ways.
10 How can marriage mates show love for each other? A husband who genuinely loves his wife lets her know by his words and deeds—in public and in private—that he cherishes her. He respects her personal dignity and is considerate of her thoughts, viewpoints, and feelings. (1 Peter 3:7) He puts her welfare ahead of his own, and he does all that he can to care for her material, spiritual, and emotional needs. (Ephesians 5:25, 28) A wife who truly loves her husband accords him “deep respect,” even if he at times does not meet her expectations. (Ephesians 5:22, 33) She is supportive of her mate and submissive to him, not making unreasonable demands, but cooperating with him in keeping the focus on spiritual matters.—Genesis 2:18; Matthew 6:33.
11 Parents, how can you show love for your children? Your willingness to work hard to provide materially for them is evidence of your love. (1 Timothy 5:8) But children need more than food, clothing, and shelter. If they are to grow up to love and serve the true God, they need spiritual training. (Proverbs 22:6) That means making time as a family to study the Bible, share in the ministry, and attend Christian meetings. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7) Being consistent in such activities requires considerable sacrifice, especially in these critical times. Your concern and your efforts to care for your children’s spiritual needs are an expression of love, for you thereby show that you have their eternal welfare at heart.—John 17:3.
12 It is vital that parents also show love by caring for their children’s emotional needs. Children are vulnerable; their tender hearts need reassurance of your love. Tell them you love them, and give them lots of affection, for such expressions assure them that they are lovable and have worth. Give them warm and genuine commendation, for it lets them know that you see and value their efforts. Discipline them with love, for such correction tells them that you care about the kind of person they are becoming. (Ephesians 6:4) All such wholesome expressions of love help to build a happy, close-knit family that is better prepared to resist the pressures of these last days.
13 Love moves us to overlook the shortcomings of others. Recall that when admonishing his readers to “have intense love for one another,” Peter gave the reason why this is so important: “Because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) To ‘cover’ sins does not mean to ‘cover up’ serious sins. Such matters are rightly reported to and handled by responsible ones in the congregation. (Leviticus 5:1; Proverbs 29:24) It would be most unloving—and unscriptural—to allow gross sinners to continue hurting or victimizing innocent ones.—1 Corinthians 5:9-13.
14 In most cases, the mistakes and faults of fellow believers are minor in nature. We all stumble in word or deed at times, disappointing or even hurting one another. (James 3:2) Should we be quick to publicize the shortcomings of others? Such a course would only serve to create friction in the congregation. (Ephesians 4:1-3) If we are governed by love, we will not “give away a fault” of a fellow worshiper. (Psalm 50:20) Just as plaster and paint cover the imperfections of a wall, so love covers the imperfections of others.—Proverbs 17:9.
15 Love will cause us to come to the aid of those who are in real need. As conditions in the last days continue to deteriorate, there may be times when our fellow believers need material or physical help. (1 John 3:17, 18) For example, has a member of our congregation suffered a severe financial reversal or the loss of a job? Then perhaps we can offer some material assistance, as our circumstances allow. (Proverbs 3:27, 28; James 2:14-17) Is the home of an elderly widow in need of repair? Then perhaps we can take appropriate initiative to help with some of the work.—James 1:27.
16 Our showing love to others is not limited to those who may live in our vicinity. At times, we may hear reports about God’s servants in other lands who have been victims of severe storms, earthquakes, or civil unrest. They may be in desperate need of food, clothing, and other items. It does not matter if they are of another race or ethnic group. We “have love for the whole association of brothers.” (1 Peter 2:17) So, like first-century congregations, we are eager to support relief efforts that have been organized to provide help. (Acts 11:27-30; Romans 15:26) When we show love in all such ways, we strengthen the bond that unites us in these last days.—Colossians 3:14.
17 Love moves us to share the good news of God’s Kingdom with others. Consider the example of Jesus. Why did he preach and teach? He was “moved with pity” for the crowds because of their poor spiritual condition. (Mark 6:34) They were neglected and misled by the false religious shepherds, who should have taught them spiritual truths and given them hope. So, motivated by deep, heartfelt love and compassion, Jesus comforted the people with “the good news of the kingdom of God.”—Luke 4:16-21, 43.
18 Today, too, many people have been spiritually neglected and misled and are without hope. If, like Jesus, we sharpen our sensitivity to the spiritual needs of those who do not yet know the true God, then we will be moved by love and compassion to share with them the good news of God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 6:9, 10; 24:14) In view of the short time remaining, it has never been more urgent to preach this lifesaving message.—1 Timothy 4:16.
“The End of All Things Has Drawn Close”
19 Remember, Peter prefaced his counsel to have love for one another with the words: “The end of all things has drawn close.” (1 Peter 4:7) Soon this wicked world will give way to God’s righteous new world. (2 Peter 3:13) Today, then, is no time to be complacent. Jesus warned us: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare.”—Luke 21:34, 35.
20 By all means, then, let us “keep on the watch,” being alert to where we are in the stream of time. (Matthew 24:42) Let us be on guard against any of Satan’s temptations that could distract us. Let us never allow this cold, loveless world to prevent us from demonstrating our love for others. Above all, let us draw ever closer to the true God, Jehovah, whose Messianic Kingdom will soon fulfill his glorious purpose toward this earth.—Revelation 21:4, 5.
At 1 Peter 4:8, other Bible translations say we must love one another “sincerely,” “deeply,” or “earnestly.”
• What parting counsel did Jesus have for his disciples, and what shows that Peter got the point? (Pars. 1-2)
• What is “intense love”? (Pars. 3-5)
• Why should we love one another? (Pars. 6-8)
• How can you demonstrate that you love others? (Pars. 9-18)
• Why is this no time to be complacent, and what should we be determined to do? (Pars. 19-20)
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A close-knit family is better prepared to withstand the pressures of these last days
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Love moves us to come to the aid of those who are in real need
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Sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom with others is an act of love