Above All Things, Have Intense Love for One Another
1, 2. According to the inspired apostle, what, above all else, should we cultivate if we want to live in God’s new order?
IN VIEW of the near “end of all things,” what is the outstanding thing that those desiring life in the New Order ahead should cultivate? At 1 Peter 4:8-10, the inspired apostle writes:
2 “Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. In proportion as each one has received a gift, use it in ministering to one another as fine stewards of God’s undeserved kindness expressed in various ways.”
3, 4. In view of what we know will definitely be in God’s new order, in what should we find real interest now?
3 We have no way of knowing what part, if any, such things as automobiles, television sets, stereophonic sets or similar things will play on earth during God’s new order. But there is something that we do know is going to be in that new order, something present that we deal with every day. What is that?
4 People; people who, like yourself, love what is right. So, rather than build our interests and lives around manufactured items and gadgets of this present order, things that have no certainty of continuance, how much better and wiser to make people our real interest and learn to find genuine joy in doing things for others. Life in the approaching new order will surely be brim full of such loving service and “ministering to one another.” If we can find real pleasure and satisfaction in doing that now—loving to serve others, to be helpful, to work for their best interests, being considerate and hospitable—we are well on our way toward success in New Order living.
5. (a) What will an “intense love” accomplish, and why is this vital? (b) Please comment on the scriptures at the end of this paragraph.
5 To do that our love must be, as the apostle says, “intense,” or, as other translations put it, “at full strength,” “never insincere.” (New English Bible; Jerusalem Bible) Literally, the original Greek word rendered “intense” means “stretched out.” Our love, therefore, cannot be halfhearted, restricted to doing only what we feel we must do, or what we feel will not inconvenience us, nor be limited to a favored few. It must reach out, extend itself both as to taking in as many as possible and also as to exerting itself with intensity. Only that kind of love will enable us to maintain vital unity with our brothers under a wide variety of circumstances that could strain our relations and cause us to become critical, or be inclined to expose and make issues of the imperfections and faults of our brothers. But an “intense love” will ‘stretch out’ to encompass any such circumstances.—Compare Proverbs 10:12; Colossians 3:12-14.
6, 7. (a) What questions might we ask ourselves to determine whether we are lacking in intensity in our love? (b) How is it that such love ‘covers a multitude of sins’? Why will this be necessary even after the “great tribulation”?
6 Is our love like that now? In the few hours a week we generally spend with our brothers, does our love cover over the faults of others? Or do we incline to become upset and provoked at such faults? Some find it hard to get along with others, and so allow differences to develop, coolness to set in. But if a person finds it hard to get along with his brothers now for a few hours a week, what, then, if he survives into God’s new order and finds himself surrounded by his brothers on all sides, every day and throughout the day?
7 An “intense love” will not let one mull over offenses, nourishing memories of them to the point of feeling bitterness toward individuals, holding on to such unpleasant thoughts and not letting them die away. Putting them out of mind and heart or taking positive steps toward improving relations, such love ‘covers a multitude of sins.’ It moves us to extend our help to those inclining to weaken or slip away into error, not merely being critical or gossiping about them. (Jas. 5:20) Since sins will not disappear from earth overnight in the coming new order, we need such intense love to assure our maintaining a fine relationship with Jehovah God, who “is love,” and with his Son, whose own intense love moved him to give his very life on behalf of sinners.—Rom. 5:6-8.
8. (a) What course does Peter further urge as an expression of intense love? (b) How will this aid us in preparing for the New Order?
8 We can also show such love by our hospitality. “Be mutually hospitable”; “welcome each other into your houses without grumbling.” (1 Pet. 4:9, New American Bible; Jerusalem Bible) Yes, whatever we do along these lines should be free from complaint, for only the “cheerful giver” is beloved of God. (2 Cor. 9:7) There possibly may be much sharing of material things to be done in the initial period after the “great tribulation” passes. Any inclination toward being ungenerous or stingy could create grave difficulties for us then. If, on the other hand, we show a spirit like the Christians in Jerusalem who opened their homes to receive and feed their new brothers from among the three thousand newly baptized disciples, then we are making ourselves ready for New Order living. (Acts 2:46; 4:32-35) As the apostle Paul urges: “Share with the holy ones according to their needs. Follow the course of hospitality.”—Rom. 12:13.
FINE STEWARDS OF GOD’S GIFTS
9. How has each one in the Christian congregation “received a gift,” and what should he do with it?
9 “In proportion as each one has received a gift, use it in ministering to one another [put yourselves at the service of others, Je].” In this way we act “as fine stewards of God’s undeserved kindness expressed in various ways.” (1 Pet. 4:10) And, indeed, none of us are without something to give in ministering to our brothers. Everyone who comes into God’s theocratic arrangement receives a gift. Each one has things to do, assignments of service or responsibilities. We are not, as it were, all cast in an identical mold, having identical personalities, abilities, talents, strengths, knowledge or possessions. But whatever we have, in the final analysis, we owe to God. (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 4:7) Appreciating this, we will not let our “gift” lie idle, as if stuck away in a treasure chest. (Matt. 25:14-30) We must use it, employ it, in the service of others.
10. What does our being “stewards of God’s undeserved kindness” mean?
10 The fact that we are called “stewards of God’s undeserved kindness” shows that the “gift” is a trust. With acceptance of such gift the receiver comes under responsibility to the Giver, Jehovah God. A “steward” or house administrator in Bible times was appointed by the owner of the house and had to deal with the various members of the household. He was to treat them in a helpful way. Fellow servants were encouraged by the steward to carry out their own duties in faithfulness. Has God favored us with privileges, opportunities, assignments or responsibilities? This is an undeserved kindness on his part and we want to make use of that undeserved kindness to accomplish his will, to fulfill the purpose for which such kindness or favor was shown us.—Compare Luke 12:42-44.
11. How is it that God’s undeserved kindness, of which we can be stewards, is “expressed in various ways,” and is this true also of elders?
11 In his wisdom God has provided for “varieties of ministries” guided by the same spirit, and “varieties of operations, and yet it is the same God who performs all the operations in all persons.” By his spirit, God can help each of us to use or develop what we have, “for a beneficial purpose.” (1 Cor. 12:4-7) Though all of them are to fulfill basic requirements, elders, as God’s ‘stewards’ (Titus 1:7), also have their particular strengths and abilities. Some may excel in teaching from the platform, while others may be stronger in teaching on a more informal basis, perhaps in aiding congregation members or families with personal problems through home visits or in private conversation.—Acts 20:20.
12. (a) How is similar variety seen among all congregation members in using their ‘gifts’ in ministering? (b) Please comment on Romans 12:6-8.
12 Similarly, the individual members of the congregation have varying gifts that they can use in ministering to one another. All can share in meetings, and the variety of expressions and abilities has an enriching effect. In sharing in preaching the good news of the Kingdom to people in their homes, some may be able to set an excellent example in placing Bible literature or in starting conversations and in answering objections. Others may do especially well in starting and conducting home Bible studies. Some may have fine ability to make newcomers at meeting places quickly feel welcome and ‘at home.’ Or one may have unusual ability to deal with young people or children, who also need to feel that they matter and merit attention. Another may do a fine service when it comes to visiting congregation members who are ill or perhaps undergoing depression, being able to cheer them up and encourage them in their faith in Jehovah’s goodness. As Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome concerning the gifts God gave them: “Since, then, we have gifts differing according to the undeserved kindness given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the faith proportioned to us; or a ministry, let us be at this ministry; or he that teaches, let him be at his teaching; or he that exhorts, let him be at his exhortation; he that distributes, let him do it with liberality; he that presides, let him do it in real earnest; he that shows mercy, let him do it with cheerfulness.”—Rom. 12:6-8.
13. Rather than lead to self-satisfaction, how should the variety of expression of God’s undeserved kindness encourage us, and what effect should this have on the congregation?
13 So, while we all can continually seek to improve and also learn from the fine examples of others, we need never feel discouraged because we cannot accomplish just what another can. We can all receive of “God’s undeserved kindness expressed in various ways” and give of what we have received. If each one contributes what he or she has to give, the congregation is made spiritually rich by the wide variety of gifts and is like a healthy body, its many members all working together harmoniously for the good of the entire body. (Compare Romans 12:3-5.) Such unselfish giving on behalf of others will not stop when Jehovah God brings his people through the “great tribulation” into his new order.
SPEAKING AND MINISTERING TO GOD’S GLORY
14. What “gift” should we especially appreciate for ‘ministering to one another,’ and what should this move us to do?
14 Certainly all of us should want to fill our minds and hearts with the truths of God’s inspired Word, being diligent in our study thereof. Then we will always have something truly worth while to contribute of a spiritual nature, something far surpassing any gifts of precious gems or gold and silver, because of the grand blessings resulting. (Prov. 2:1-6; 3:13-18) Especially those privileged to serve as elders in the congregations should want to do this. They should be particularly concerned with carrying out the apostle Peter’s further counsel:
15, 16. How can we “speak as it were the sacred pronouncements of God” in accord with the counsel of Peter and Paul?
15 “If anyone speaks, let him speak as it were the sacred pronouncements of God; if anyone ministers, let him minister as dependent on the strength that God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. The glory and the might are his forever and ever. Amen.”—1 Pet. 4:11.
16 Now, as the end of the old order draws so close, there is real need for speaking with conviction and with faith. Is that the way you speak when privileged to serve before the congregation or in talking with your brothers on spiritual matters? Are you like Paul, who “did not come with an extravagance of speech or of [human] wisdom,” but whose speech and preaching were “with a demonstration of [God’s] spirit and power,” that his hearers’ faith might be “not in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power”? (1 Cor. 2:1, 4, 5) Not one’s personal cleverness or a pleasing ‘way with words,’ but solid knowledge of God’s Word and its principles and full consciousness of the need to represent faithfully and adhere reverently to that Word will enable us to do this.
17. Why should elders particularly seek to apply this counsel as we draw near to the New Order?
17 The days ahead between now and the “great tribulation” may see God’s people face very serious circumstances, dangers and problems. Those privileged to “shepherd the flock of God” should certainly want to be able to show that their counsel, guidance and judgment are soundly founded on the unerring Word of God. Like Jesus, they want to be able to say: “It is written.” (Matt. 21:13) Then their brothers will know that their confidence and trust are well placed—not in humans but in God, who, through his Son and by his spirit, is using such men on behalf of his servants. Lives are at stake, and lack of diligence or concern in this regard could never merit the approval of the Great Shepherd, Jehovah God, and his Fine Shepherd, Christ Jesus. And whatever service Christian elders may be called on to perform in the future in the new order of righteousness, their equipping themselves and training themselves in this way now will certainly stand them in good stead then.—John 10:11; Acts 20:28-30; 1 Pet. 2:25; 5:1-4.
18. How can all of us follow the good example of elders in our speaking, and what do we want to guard against?
18 Elders, of course, are to be “examples to the flock,” and so what is true of them is true of all of us. (1 Pet. 5:3) If we really believe in the promises of God’s new order and the nearness of it, this will show in our speech. We will show that we are “keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.” (2 Pet. 3:12) But speaking can be mere words, and we do not want to make a pretense of “intense love” merely ‘in word or with the tongue, but show it in deed and truth.’ (1 John 3:18) And so the apostle’s inspired counsel adds:
19. (a) Why does ministering within the congregation call for much strength? (b) Why can those so ministering be encouraged to keep working hard and exerting themselves?
19 “If anyone ministers, let him minister as dependent on the strength that God supplies.” (1 Pet. 4:11) To speak and teach in imitation of Jesus, Peter, Paul, John and other faithful shepherds, elders in congregations have to work hard, and those who do are to be “reckoned worthy of double honor” and be given “more than extraordinary consideration in love because of their work.” (1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13) Their labors on behalf of the congregation, ‘admonishing the disorderly, speaking consolingly to the depressed souls, supporting the weak, being long-suffering toward all,’ can be taxing on their strength. (1 Thess. 5:14) They may feel that, like Paul, they are being “poured out like a drink offering upon the sacrifice and public service to which faith has led” their brothers. But the blessings this results in can cause them to “be glad and rejoice,” as their hard-working example stimulates their brothers to wholehearted service to God.—Phil. 2:17, 18; Heb. 13:7.
20. Why did the apostle Paul’s exhortation to elders regarding this same point carry so much weight, and what do we learn from that counsel?
20 The “older men of the congregation” of Ephesus well knew the course the apostle Paul had set among them of “slaving for the Lord with the greatest lowliness of mind and tears and trials.” So his words should have carried great weight with them when he exhorted: “Keep awake, and bear in mind that for three years, night and day, I did not quit admonishing each one with tears. . . . I have coveted no man’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands have attended to the needs of me and of those with me. I have exhibited to you in all things that by thus laboring you must assist those who are weak, and must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’”—Acts 20:17-20, 31-35.
21. How can we all “minister as dependent on the strength that God supplies,” and with what confidence?
21 In his mercy God has given us all the privilege of ministering, of serving as “fine stewards of God’s undeserved kindness expressed in various ways.” If we rely in faith on “the strength that God supplies,” we will not “give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.” (1 Pet. 4:10, 11; Gal. 6:9) The certainty of his promised new order should draw us onward, and its nearness should infuse greater determination in us. With the apostle, we can say: “Therefore we do not give up, but even if the man we are outside is wasting away, certainly the man we are inside is being renewed from day to day.” Nothing that God has given us to do is beyond our doing it if we “minister as dependent on the strength that God supplies.” He grants us “power beyond what is normal” so that ‘for all things we have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to us.’—2 Cor. 4:7, 16; Phil. 4:13.
22, 23. Why should we never become disheartened or weaken in our ministering but, rather, strive to do yet more?
22 What we may be accomplishing may seem small in our eyes and bring us no prominence. Yet Jehovah is never unappreciative of what we do nor is he “unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering.” With the longed-for time of his new order so near, this is the time of all times to continue to “show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end.”—Heb. 6:10, 11.
23 Grand blessings await us if we do this. And thereby we will be equipped to share fully and happily and successfully in those splendid times in God’s new order because we have focused our attention on those matters that are truly vital now.
24. In order that “in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ,” what must we do both now and in the coming new order?
24 Whatever we do, and in all that we do—in our daily occupations and affairs and family life, in our ministering the word of life to those in the world of mankind, and in our ministering to one another in the Christian congregation—may we “do all things for God’s glory,” proving ourselves true disciples of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 10:31) Then we, all together, can serve as a jewel of praise to Jehovah’s name in all the earth, as a people prepared for life in his new order. For “the glory and the might are his forever and ever. Amen.”—1 Pet. 4:11.