In the Spirit of Love
DO YOU have a suggestion to offer? counsel to give? reproof, correction or discipline to administer? Then why not do it in the spirit of love? That is the best way to do it; it makes for good relations with your neighbor and is most likely to get results. By “love” here is meant, not the romantic eros based on sex attraction, but the love based on principle, the love that is unselfish and that is commanded in God’s Word the Bible.—Mark 12:30, 31.
One reason why love is so effective is that “love is . . . kind.” (1 Cor. 13:4) Kindness goes a long way, for it is an obvious expression of love; and we all have a basic hunger for love, even as we have for food. Since by inheritance mankind is prone to be selfish, many persons are inclined to be suspicious and on the defensive. Your speaking and acting in a kind manner will disarm them and help them to be friendlier. The simple word “please” has a kind connotation, and it is worthy of note how often this word is used by Bible characters, as shown in the New World Translation.—Gen. 13:8; Ex. 5:3; Num. 10:31; Deut. 3:25.
Another reason why the best way of doing things is in the spirit of love is that “love is long-suffering,” patient, willing to put up with things; it is not quick to give up. In the spirit of love try various ways to get your point across, especially when dealing with the failings of others. The situation may try you, cause you annoyance, but by patiently bearing it or putting up with it you will more likely succeed, in the meantime making it so much easier for the other person.—1 Cor. 13:4.
Then again, you may want to help someone who appears to be struggling with some difficulty or you may wish to make a suggestion at your place of employment or worship but fear you may meet with rebuff. True, you may, but you can lessen that risk if you proceed in the spirit of love. Why? Because, as the Bible further tells us, “love . . . does not brag,” it “does not get puffed up.” It does not offer help with the attitude of, “Let me show you!” but does so with due modesty, with humility. That makes it easier for the other person to accept your offer of help or your suggestion.
Using the spirit of love is also the best way to proceed because love “does not become provoked.” Do you have a correction to make, a reproof to give? Then do not administer it in a provoked manner, as did the mother in the United States supermarket who was heard to screech at the top of her voice: “You shut up or I’ll break your head!” That was done in anything but the spirit of love!—1 Cor. 13:5.
In striking contrast to that mother was the father (in another true-life incident) who had kindly but firmly told his daughter not to be running around in the Christian meeting place after the program for worship had ended and who warned her she would get a spanking if she did. Before long, though, she was running around again and so her father required her to sit still on a chair until the time came for them to go home. Upon arriving at home the father took her upon his lap and kindly asked her if she remembered what he had told her would happen if she kept acting disorderly. Yes, she did, but begged off being punished, promising she would not do it again. But her father asked her, “What would you think of a person who made promises but did not keep them, and would you want your daddy to be like that?” She saw he had no alternative but to give her the spanking, which he did. But right after her tears had dried she came over to where her daddy was sitting and, putting her arms around him, said, “Daddy, I love you!” No question about it, administering punishment in the spirit of love, without anger or getting provoked, is the best way.
In particular is it important for marriage mates in dealing with each other to recognize the need of saying and doing things in love, being kind and patient, exercising self-control. People are prone to overlook the importance of how things are said, but that means so much to others, and rightly so. The Bible counsels husbands, for instance, to show consideration and to give wives added honor as to a weaker vessel, a more delicate, more fragile vessel, as it were. You appreciate your wife’s being kind and showing love to you and the children, so show love to her by being kind and gentle.—1 Pet. 3:7.
Many more examples could be given, showing the wisdom of doing things in the spirit of love, but perhaps in no sphere of activity is it more important than in the Christian ministry. Without doubt the apostle Paul was one of the most effective of all followers of Jesus Christ in making disciples of people, and he did so in the spirit of love. As he himself tells it, he ‘became gentle to those to whom he ministered, giving of his own self to them, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children.’ He had tender affection for those to whom he ministered. No wonder he was able to start one Christian congregation after another.—1 Thess. 2:7, 8.
Quite likely here is one explanation for the fact that at times the most fruitful minister is not the one intellectually superior to the rest but the one displaying most unselfishness and, like the apostle Paul, having tender affection toward those to whom he ministers and gives of himself.
Helping you in this regard is empathy, that is, putting yourself in the shoes of the other person. How would you want another to come to you with a suggestion? How would you want another to point out a mistake you had made? Harshly, bluntly, intemperately, proudly? Of course not! Here again the Bible gives good advice: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to restore such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” We cannot improve on Bible principles. The best way to proceed in such matters is in the spirit of love.—Gal. 6:1.