Love Neighbor, Not the World
IT WAS in the dead of winter and the needy motorist was getting discouraged. For some time he had vainly appealed to passing motorists for help. Finally a truck driver came along and, seeing the plight of the motorist, played the role of the good Samaritan to him. But the helpful deed rankled deep in the breast of the needy motorist. Why? Because, as he himself put it: “My God! Of all those passing by, the one to stop and help should be one of the Watchtower people!” that is, one of Jehovah’s witnesses. The truck had the Watchtower name on it and was being driven by a member of the Brooklyn staff of that Society.
These people have built up an enviable reputation because of their fine Christian manners. Professor Bruno Bettleheim, in his recently published book The Informed Heart (1960), in telling of his experiences in a German concentration camp describes the Witnesses as “exemplary comrades, . . . the only group of prisoners who never mistreated or abused other prisoners.”
Why do some feel antipathy to the Witnesses, while others speak so well of them? Why this difference of opinions? Because of the failure of some to distinguish, as do the Witnesses, between love of the world and love of neighbor. God’s Word plainly states that Christians are not to love the world, and just as plainly that Christians are to love their neighbors.
Thus on the one hand we are commanded: ‘Do not be loving the world.’ And we are warned: “Do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” Further, Jesus said that he, his followers and his kingdom were no part of the world and that he did not petition God on behalf of the world.—1 John 2:15; Jas. 4:4; John 17:9, 16; 18:36.
And yet on the other hand Christians are required to ‘love their neighbors as themselves,’ and to “work what is good toward all.” How can Christians love their neighbors and yet not be loving the world, which may be said to consist of their neighbors? In that they distinguish between a “world,” “system of things,” organization or arrangement and the individuals who comprise that system.—Luke 10:27; Gal. 6:10.
To illustrate: In the United States there are two chief political parties, Republican and Democratic. A good and loyal Republican would certainly not make campaign contributions to the Democratic party, nor would he vote the Democratic ticket or assist the Democrats in their campaign against the Republicans. And should the Democrats be in office he would not fraternize with Democrats merely to get political favors. No, he would do none of these things, out of loyalty to his party. But that does not mean that he would not pay his taxes just because the tax office is run by Democrats. It does not mean that if he has a neighbor who is a Democrat he would not help him in case his house was on fire, just because he was a Democrat, or that he would not do necessary business with him, buying from or selling to him. Of course not! So he distinguishes between the Democratic political system of things and the individuals comprising that party who happen to be his neighbors.
JESUS SET THE PATTERN
Jesus throughout his ministry clearly distinguished between the two. When Satan offered him his world, that is, all its kingdoms, if he would fall down and do an act of worship to Satan, “Jesus said to him: ‘Go away, Satan! For it is written, “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” ‘“ He recognized, as the apostle Paul later expressed it, that Satan is “the god of this system of things,” and so he exercised care that Satan would ‘get no hold on him.’—Matt. 4:10; 2 Cor. 4:4; John 14:30.
But what made that world Satan’s system of things was not only Satan’s godship of it but also the fact that the elements that ruled it were under the control of Satan, doing his bidding. And what were those ruling elements? Politics, commercialism and false religion. Jesus kept separate and distinct from all three. He did not mix in the politics of his day. He refused to cast in his lot with the Roman government, referring to its representative, Herod Antipas, as “that fox.” He did not collaborate with Caesar, but only paid back “Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” He would not even let his own people make him their king, for we read that “Jesus, realizing that they were about to come and seize him to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain all alone.”—Luke 13:32; 20:25; John 6:15.
Neither did Jesus get involved in commercialism, in amassing wealth. He counseled his followers to lay up treasures in heaven, not upon earth, and to give their services freely, since he had given them the truth free of charge. In fact, he gave so little thought to material possessions that he had “nowhere to lay down his head.”—Luke 9:58.
Far from making common cause with the religious element of Satan’s system of things, he lashed out boldly against its representatives. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” “You are from your father the Devil.” He was not in favor of interfaith, for, as he explained, “nobody sews a patch of unshrunk cloth upon an old garment . . . Neither do people put new wine into old wineskins.” Obviously Jesus did not love the world of his day, Satan’s system of things, consisting of politics, commercialism and false religion.—Matt. 23:29; John 8:44; Matt. 9:16, 17.
But how he did love his human neighbors! “On seeing the crowds he felt tender affection for them, because they were skinned and knocked about [by Satan’s world] like sheep without a shepherd.” He appealed to them: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matt. 9:36; 11:28-30.
He showed his neighbor love by first of all preaching to them the truth about his Father and the good news of his Father’s kingdom. For upward of three years he covered Palestine on foot—Galilee, Judea and Perea—preaching and teaching in the synagogues, in the temple at Jerusalem, in the homes of the people, on the mountainside and on the seashore. And to add weight to his message he performed all manner of miracles, curing the sick, feeding the multitudes and even raising the dead. Surely no man that ever lived on earth before or since showed such neighbor love during his lifetime. And the greatest expression of all he made by giving his life for the life of the world. Did Jesus love the world or wicked system of his day? No! Did he love his neighbors? He certainly did!
LOVE THE WORLD?—NO!
The world has not changed since Jesus’ day, even though for most of the readers of these lines Christendom has replaced the Judaism of Jesus’ day. Satan is still the god of this world; the ruling elements still are politics, commercialism and false religion. The mere fact that a large part of this world is called Christendom does not make it Christian. How can it be Christian when it fails to recognize God’s laws and principles, his will and kingdom? Jesus said: “He that is not on my side is against me, and he that does not gather with me scatters.”—Matt. 12:30.
How can a Christian be a part of city, state and national governments when their politics reek with corruption? Hardly a day goes by without some of it being exposed; a particularly well-documented example being “Dirty Money in Boston,” which appeared in the Atlantic magazine, March, 1961. In a city proud of its religiousness, indifference to corruption has reached a new high. Surely no sincere Christian could have anything to do with such crooked politics. “Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:33.
What is Christian about the ruthless and basically dishonest commercialism of today? Recently officials of some of the leading corporations of the United States were imprisoned because of cheating the Government and others out of millions of dollars. Big business stops at nothing for the sake of profits: it corrupts youth with pornographic entertainment and violence; it corrupts the politicians by bribes, direct and indirect; it corrupts the family man by employing prostitutes. Well does the apostle warn: “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Tim. 6:10.
And what about the popular religions of Christendom? Their making common cause with corrupt politicians and ruthless and dishonest commercialism is enough to condemn them; so is the fact that, while religions are greatly increasing in numbers, the morals of society are steadily deteriorating, and so is their confusion of conflicting creeds. According to God’s Word Christ is not divided, but the religion of Christendom is, and that not only into many sects but some of the individual sects themselves are, in turn, split up into as many as a score of denominations, stridently testifying to their inability to get along harmoniously with one another.—1 Cor. 1:13.
Clearly, then, a sincere Christian, one dedicated to do the will of God, cannot be a part of Satan’s world as such. He uses the world in that he takes advantage of its facilities, paying for the benefits received. But he does not become part of it, he is not sucked in by its greed, ambitions, allurements, temptations, the way one of the apostle Paul’s co-workers was: “For Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things.” No, the Christian heeds the beloved disciple’s warning: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—2 Tim. 4:10; 1 John 2:15-17.
But not loving the world does not mean that the Christian today may not or does not love his neighbor. He distinguishes between the system of things under Satan’s control and the individuals held captive by Satan, fellow human creatures. He loves his neighbor as himself in that he deals with his neighbor as he wants his neighbor to deal with him. He is always ready to go to the help of his neighbor if circumstances require it, even as did the Christian truck driver mentioned in the beginning of this discussion. Like the Samaritan of Jesus’ illustration, he takes advantage of opportunities to be of help to someone in distress. He heeds the command to do good to all men as he has opportunity, but especially to fellow Christians.—Luke 10:30-37; Gal. 6:10.
Yet in their desire to avoid friendship with the world, dedicated Christians may come short on this score. Because they have dedicated themselves to do God’s will as Christian ministers they may be inclined to feel that the only kind of assistance they can give another is spiritual, but not so. That is the most important kind, but there are times when a neighbor needs material or physical assistance, and then such should be given if one is in position to do so, although not getting carried away by sentimentality and so going to an extreme.
Yes, while ever ready to give material assistance according to one’s means and the other’s need, a Christian may never forget that all lovers of righteousness in the world today are greatly in need in a spiritual sense; they lack knowledge and understanding of Jehovah God, his name, Word and purposes, as well as his will for them. Being diligent to satisfy this spiritual need is the best way Christians can show love, for while “wisdom is for a protection the same as money is for a protection; . . . the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom itself preserves alive its owners.”—Eccl. 7:12.
It takes a great deal of love of neighbor on the part of Christians to go regularly from house to house, ignoring insults, indifference and what not, and doing so in all kinds of weather, urging others to learn of God’s provisions of everlasting life. At the same time these would not do all this if they loved the world. So should we love the world? No! Should we love our neighbor? Yes!