Cultivating Love as Christ’s Imitators
What is the kind of love that dedicated Christian witnesses of Jehovah are to cultivate? It is not the romantic kind of love known as éros in the Greek, which looks so glamorous and desirable but which can cause much suffering. Neither is it merely the affection that naturally exists between members of one’s own family, known as storgé, and which love is getting ever rarer and rarer, even as the apostle Paul foretold. (2 Tim. 3:3) Nor is this love limited to the affection shown by those who have much in common because of personality, environment, hobbies, ideals and suchlike, and which friendly affection the Greeks termed philía. Rather, the love that Jesus exemplified and that true Christians cultivate is the wholly unselfish love that is based on principle. It is known as agápe.
It was this kind of love that impelled Jesus Christ to leave his Father, brothers and closest associates in heaven and come down to this earth as a flesh-and-blood human creature to live and work, eat and sleep among people that were imperfect and sinful, sick and dying. And after having begun his ministry it was agápe that motivated him to go from city to city and village to village preaching the good news of God’s kingdom from early to late, day in and day out, keeping him so busy that often “it was not convenient” for him and his apostles “to eat a meal.”—Mark 6:31; Phil. 2:5-8.
More than that, this principled love, agápe, so strengthened Jesus Christ that he could continue faithful in this course in spite of bitter opposition from the enemies of God and truth and in the end submit to being nailed to a torture stake to die as a condemned criminal although he had lived a perfect, sinless life. Surely there was no question about Jesus’ loving his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, with all his heart, mind, soul and strength; and he loved others not only as himself but even more than himself, for as he himself said: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.”—John 15:13.
Cultivating this love as Christ’s imitators, Jehovah’s witnesses go from house to house, preaching the good news of God’s kingdom, and they do this also on the busy thoroughfares as well as incidentally whenever they can find a hearing ear, as did Jesus when meeting a Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar. (John 4:7-26) They also conscientiously make return visits and regularly conduct Bible studies with those who are conscious of their spiritual needs, gladly sacrificing personal pleasures and conveniences for the sake of the spiritual welfare of others!
It is particularly important to cultivate this love as Christ’s imitators by carrying out the new commandment he gave his followers just before his death, when he said: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”—John 13:34.*
There are many ways in which we can cultivate this love. One way is by being forgiving. Peter asked how often he should forgive his brother, and Jesus replied, “Up to seventy-seven times”—the implication being that there can be no limit to the number of times we should be ready to forgive one another.—Matt. 18:21-25.
Another way we can cultivate this love is by showing hospitality to our brothers. Especially should we be alert to show this to those less favorably situated materially than we. And how about visiting the sick and others having tribulation?—Jas. 1:27.
We can also cultivate this love by imitating Christ in his teaching of others. To the extent that we are mature and have the opportunity to do so, let us help others to become more qualified to preach and to teach the good news of God’s kingdom. And, of course, all this implies not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.—2 Tim. 2:24; Heb. 10:23-25.
For details see The Watchtower, April 1. 1965, pp. 201-213.