Cultivate Intense Love for One Another
“Love one another intensely from the heart.”—1 Pet. 1:22.
1, 2. (a) How important is love? (b) Why do even atheistic scientists recognize love to be vital?
LOVE is vital to the enjoyment of peace, happiness and contentment. Indeed, life is not worth living without love—a fact that even materialistic scientists recognize. “I want to affirm the unique importance of love . . . Love is indispensable,” wrote the well-known scientist Sir Julian Huxley.
2 Why do even those who refuse to acknowledge the existence of a Creator stress the importance of love? For one reason, scientific studies have documented our need for love. These studies indicate that, as hunger must be satisfied for a person to survive, so humans also need to love and to be loved. Scientist Ashley Montagu wrote: “We now know from the observations of a number of physicians and investigators that love is an essential part of the nourishment of every baby and that unless he is loved he will not develop as a healthy organism . . . Even though he is physically well nurtured, he may nevertheless waste away and die.”
WHY HUMANS POSSESS LOVE
3. (a) Why do children usually receive the love they need? (b) Where did humans receive this capacity and ability to love?
3 Happily, however, there is little danger that a child will fail to receive the tender, unselfish care it needs. This is because instinctively, as the Bible says, “a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” (1 Thess. 2:7) Where did mothers get this love for their offspring? It did not develop by chance. Is it not evident that it was implanted in them by a loving Creator? All of us have the ability and capacity to love and, with cultivation, this quality can be expressed in the most beautiful, heartwarming ways.
4. (a) Why do we know that Adam was endowed at creation with the quality of love? (b) What evidence is there that Adam had love for Eve, and that this capacity to love one of the opposite sex was passed on to his offspring?
4 Jehovah God bestowed this gift of love at the creation of the first human pair. We know this because Adam was created “in God’s image.” And since “God is love”—love being his dominant quality—the creature made in his image would also possess love. (Gen. 1:26, 27; 1 John 4:8) That the first man Adam was endowed with love for his beautiful new wife is evidenced by his joyful expression at seeing her: “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” (Gen. 2:23) Even though Adam sinned and lost perfection, he passed on to his offspring the ability to love, including the capacity humans have to find intriguing delight with one of the opposite sex. Indeed, an ancient wise man said that one of the four things too wonderful for him to understand was “the way of an able-bodied man with a maiden.”—Prov. 30:19; Gen. 24:67; 26:8.
LOVE IS EXPANSIVE
5. Besides romantic love between men and women, what evidence is there of love existing between fleshly relatives?
5 But in addition to this romantic love that can exist between men and women, humans ordinarily have a natural, deep feeling of affection for their fleshly relatives. Thus when Joseph, after many years of separation, saw Benjamin, “his inward emotions were excited toward his brother.” Later, “he fell upon the neck of Benjamin his brother and gave way to weeping, and Benjamin wept upon his neck.” (Gen. 43:30; 45:14) This family love also moved Andrew, when he had found the Messiah, to look for his brother Peter to tell him this grand news.—John 1:40-42.
6. What Bible examples show that a person’s love can include others besides fleshly relatives?
6 Yet this quality of love is capable of reaching out and including persons other than one’s fleshly relatives. Jonathan, the Benjamite son of Israel’s King Saul, was so moved by the good qualities of David, a descendant of Judah, that his “very soul became bound up with the soul of David, and Jonathan began to love him as his own soul.” Later, when Jonathan was killed, David was moved to call him “brother,” and to say: “My brother Jonathan, very pleasant you were to me. More wonderful was your love to me than the love from women.” The Moabite Ruth’s love for her mother-in-law Naomi is another example of how love can include persons other than natural fleshly relatives.—1 Sam. 18:1; 2 Sam. 1:26; Ruth 1:16, 17.
7. How inclusive must a Christian’s love be?
7 Those who become true Christians must also have warm brotherly love for one another, regardless of the race, nationality, social position or economic status of their Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus showed this, saying: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) And yet, a true Christian’s love cannot be limited to just fellow servants of God. It must reach out to include still others. In fact, Jesus commanded: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens.”—Matt. 5:44, 45.
THE LOVE THAT WE NEED TO CULTIVATE
8. Explain how love can be expressed in various degrees and senses.
8 Clearly, this quality of love with which God endowed humans can be expressed in various degrees and senses. How so? Because obviously the love a Christian has for an enemy who is persecuting him is not the same tender affection that a nursing mother has for her baby, that Joseph had for Benjamin, that Jonathan felt for David, or that a Christian feels for a fellow believer. God does not expect us to be fond of an enemy, or even necessarily to like him. Yet we are obligated to love him. Is this contradictory?
9, 10. (a) How does knowing the meaning of agápē, and Jehovah’s exercise of it, help us to appreciate that persons might be loved but not necessarily liked? (b) How can we show love for evil, immoral persons?
9 No, it is not, when once we understand the meaning of the principal Greek word translated “love” in the Christian Greek Scriptures, or so-called New Testament. The noun form of that word is agápē. Regarding God’s agápē for mankind, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W. E. Vine says: “This is not the love of complacency, or affection, that is, it was not drawn out by any excellency in its objects.” And it is a fact: Humankind as a whole are not a very lovable lot. But this is not really their fault.—Eph. 4:17-19; Titus 3:3.
10 Due to inheritance from Adam, all humans were conceived in sin and brought forth with an inclination toward wrongdoing. (Ps. 51:5) God knows this. So he is moved to love mankind, not because of any merit or excellency on their part, but particularly because he realizes that, in time, many humans will respond to his love and bring their lives into harmony with his will. (Rom. 5:8-11) Agápē, therefore, carries the meaning of love that is distinguished by respect for principle. So, then, if we copy the example of our heavenly Father we will love even those who give no evidence of deserving our love. They may be cynical, selfish and even immoral or criminal. We will hate what they do and say, yet, at the same time, we will be concerned for their personal welfare. We will do all we can to encourage them to respond to God’s love. Are you cultivating such a love for humankind in general, one that is guided by principle?
11, 12. (a) Should a Christian’s love for his brothers be guided only by principle? (b) How does marital love and Jehovah’s love for his Son indicate that agápē includes more than just love guided by principle?
11 But it is not love guided only by principle, and lacking affection and warmth, that the apostle Peter had in mind when he wrote fellow Christians: “Love one another intensely from the heart.” (1 Pet. 1:22) While respect for principle is a distinctive feature of agápē, this love can also include affection and fondness. Thus we read: “Husbands ought to be loving [verb form agapáo] their wives.” (Eph. 5:28) Obviously this does not mean that Christian husbands should love their wives simply as they love their enemies! No; but, rather, the admonition “to be loving their wives” means that husbands should also have feelings of warmth, tenderness and affection for their wives, as the Creator purposed.
12 That the Greek word agápē may include very deep feelings of affection and fondness is also indicated in other Bible examples. For instance, we are told: “The Father loves the Son.” (John 3:35) The love of God for his Son, Jesus Christ, is not simply governed by respect for principle. Jehovah has tender affection and compassion for Jesus, as the Bible says: “The Father has affection for the Son and shows him all the things he himself does.” Jehovah God said: “This is my son, my beloved, whom I myself have approved.”—John 5:20; 2 Pet. 1:17.
13. (a) What degree of love should Christians have for one another? (b) How does the basic meaning of the Greek word for “intensely” indicate the proper degree of our love?
13 So, then, this is the degree of love that Christians need to cultivate for one another. It is not a halfhearted love, or love shown simply out of duty for persons whom they may not even like. But it is a warm, tender affection for others, comparable to the tender love that one has for a cherished relative, and which Jehovah has for his dearly beloved Son. The apostle Peter stressed that our love for one another should be of this kind or degree when he encouraged: “Love one another intensely,” or, as other translations put it, “fervently,” “with all your strength.” (1 Pet. 1:22; New American Standard Bible, The New English Bible) The original Greek word rendered “intensely” means, literally, “outstretchedly.” (Kingdom Interlinear Translation) Our love, therefore, must be exerting itself to the limit with intensity. Are you cultivating this kind of love?
14. (a) Why do we need to work on cultivating love? (b) How can we learn to love one another?
14 We all need to work on doing so. This is because Adam’s disobedience about 6,000 years ago has sunk the human family deep into sin and imperfection, adversely affecting our capacity to reflect Jehovah’s dominant quality of love. Even the instinctive feelings of love that close relatives naturally have for one another are sometimes twisted and perverted, as in the ancient cases of Cain, Esau and Joseph’s half brothers. The Bible foretold that this would also be evident “in the last days” when people would have “no natural affection.” (2 Tim. 3:1-3) How vital it is, therefore, that we cultivate love so as to keep it alive in our hearts! But how can we who are living in this critical period of the “last days” learn to love one another? The apostle Paul explains: “With reference to brotherly love, you do not need us to be writing you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” (1 Thess. 4:9) How does God teach us this?
HOW TAUGHT BY GOD TO LOVE
15. (a) In what way might it be said that Jehovah teaches us to love one another? (b) How much are Christians obligated to love one another?
15 He does so in a number of ways. We might say that by creating man in his image, endowing mankind with the capacity and ability to love, God has, in effect, inclined us, even though now sinful, to be loving. Then, too, God has taught us to love one another by repeatedly making the exercise of love a command. According to Jesus Christ, one of the two principal commandments of God’s law to Israel was: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” The disciple James called this “the kingly law.” (Matt. 22:39; Lev. 19:18; Jas. 2:8) However, speaking as God’s representative, Jesus revealed that Christians must have even superior love, loving one another just as he had loved his disciples. (John 13:34; 1 John 3:16) But in another especially appealing way Jehovah God has taught humankind to love one another.
16. (a) In what particularly fine way does Jehovah teach us to love one another? (b) What is the greatest manifestation of God’s love?
16 This is by example. The apostle Paul spoke to a crowd in the ancient Roman province of Galatia, Asia Minor, saying about God: “He did good, giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts to the full with food and good cheer.” (Acts 14:17) Thus God not only commands us to love one another, but shows by example how we should do it. (Matt. 5:44, 45) His finest example of showing love is the provision of his most precious possession for our benefit. The Bible explains: “God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him. . . . Beloved ones, if this is how God loved us, then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.”—1 John 4:9-11.
17. What should be the result of our learning the truth about Jehovah and his grand provisions for us?
17 So, as we consider the marvelous things Jehovah has done—providing us with bountiful material blessings, but especially with the gift of his Son that makes possible everlasting life in a new system of righteousness—we learn the truth about what a fine God and Creator Jehovah is. What should be the result of our acceptance of this grand truth regarding Jehovah’s provisions and then living in harmony with it? The apostle Peter spoke of “unhypocritical brotherly love as the result,” yes, a beautiful family relationship of brotherhood and love! And so in our appreciation, what is it vital that we do? Peter added: “Love one another intensely from the heart.”—1 Pet. 1:22.
WHY INTENSE LOVE VITAL THEN
18. When did Peter write his first letter, and what was then near?
18 To appreciate why intense love was vital in Peter’s day, we need to examine the circumstances then. Peter explains: “The end of all things has drawn close. Be sound in mind, therefore, and be vigilant with a view to prayers. Above all things, have intense love for one another.” (1 Pet. 4:7, 8) It is true, the end was then near. Peter wrote sometime between 62 to 64 C.E., and it was shortly after that, in the year 70, that the end finally came to the Jewish system of things. The Roman armies devastated the whole area of Judea, and especially Jerusalem. A prophecy of Jesus helps us to appreciate why Christians then needed “intense” love for one another.
19. (a) What sign did Jesus give so that Christians would know that the end was near, and how was this sign fulfilled? (b) How were Christians able to heed Jesus’ command to flee, and was it wise that they obey?
19 Jesus foretold: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near.” (Luke 21:20; Matt. 24:15) It was in November 66 C.E. that the Roman armies under Cestius Gallus did surround Jerusalem. They pushed right into the city, a place considered “holy” to the Jews, and made an attack on the temple wall, undermining it. Easily the Romans could have captured the entire city, but suddenly, without any apparent reason for doing so, General Gallus withdrew and retreated. This gave Christians opportunity to heed Jesus’ next admonition: “Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains.” (Luke 21:21-24) Later the Roman armies under General Titus returned and ravaged the land, resulting in 1,100,000 reported deaths in Jerusalem alone, indeed a “great tribulation”!
20. What evidence is there that Christians heeded Jesus’ command?
20 But what about the Christians? The third-century historian Eusebius Pamphilus notes: “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.”a Yes, the Christians apparently heeded Christ’s instructions and, after Cestius Gallus and his armies withdrew, fled to the mountainous region around Pella, thus escaping with their lives. But they did not have it easy.
21. (a) Why did Jesus stress the urgency of immediate flight? (b) What circumstances may have been experienced by fleeing Christians?
21 Knowing that developments in connection with the return of the Roman soldiers—under General Titus—would soon make it nearly impossible to get out of the doomed city, Jesus had long before urged: “Let the man on the housetop not come down to take the goods out of his house; and let the man in the field not return to the house to pick up his outer garment.” (Matt. 24:17, 18) As a result, hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of obedient Christians left in haste as soon as Gallus and his armies withdrew, taking few possessions with them. It was good that they were not loaded down, for the journey was long, the terrain rugged and the weather conditions no doubt oppressive at that time of the year. Under such circumstances, arguments and other troubles between the fugitives could easily have occurred. Then, too, there was the question of where they would all live.
22. (a) What conditions then existed throughout the area? (b) Why was it vital that Christians then apply Peter’s admonition?
22 They may have eventually set up makeshift shelters around Pella, possibly establishing some sort of mountain refugee camp there. We do not know. But whatever the case, it was difficult for them. It was a time of shortages and hardship throughout the whole area. The end of that entire Jewish system was near! How appropriate, therefore, Peter’s inspired encouragement to readers of his letter, who were “temporary residents”: “The end of all things has drawn close. . . . Above all things, have intense love for one another.” (1 Pet. 1:1; 4:7, 8) With such love, Christians would not be selfish and exasperating to one another, but would share with one another and build up and strengthen one another to endure the trialsome circumstances they faced.
WHY INTENSE LOVE IS VITAL NOW
23. Do the Bible warnings about the nearness of the end have meaning for us today?
23 We do not want just to look back at that time, however. For Jesus’ prophecy regarding “the conclusion of the system of things” has application today; in fact, its major application is now. And so, too, does Peter’s similar warning that “the end of all things has drawn close.” God’s purpose is to wipe out this entire wicked system and usher in his ‘new heavens and new earth’ in the immediate future! (Matt. 24:3-22; 2 Pet. 3:13) So we are living at a time when the horrible destruction of Jerusalem and its environs will pale into insignificance in comparison with the “great tribulation” now so near! The trials that most Christians will have to face during the “great tribulation” ahead may be similar to those endured on two recent occasions.
24, 25. (a) What experience did Malawi Witnesses endure, and why was obedience to Peter’s admonition important to them? (b) What self-examination would it be wise for us to make?
24 The first of these involved Jehovah’s witnesses in Malawi. Beneath the headline “Jehovah’s Witnesses—Fleeing For Their Lives,” the New York Times of October 22, 1972, reported: “Last week from the tiny East African country of Malawi came reports of massive harassment . . . the raping of women members of the group, the burning of Witnesses’ homes and what amounted to the forcible expulsion of most of the 23,000 adherents in the country.” Because of their faithfulness to God’s law, the Malawi Witnesses were driven across the border and forced into a huge refugee camp where, at first, there were severe shortages of life’s necessities. Many died due to the hardships. How important, under those distressful circumstances, to heed the inspired counsel: “Above all things, have intense love for one another.”
25 The majority of Malawi Witnesses came through their experience faithful to God and spiritually strong, and what surely helped was their obedience to the above Bible counsel. But what about ourselves? Are we preparing for the trials ahead? Are we cultivating an intense feeling of tender affection for one another, as Joseph felt for his brother, as Jonathan felt for David, and as Jehovah God feels for his beloved Son Jesus Christ? Exercising such love is truly vital in these “last days.”
26, 27. (a) What occurred in December 1972 in Managua, Nicaragua, and of what could it be a small-scale preview? (b) How did Jehovah’s witnesses show love for one another during that disaster in Managua?
26 The difficulties that lie ahead may also have been previewed by a disaster reported in the March 8, 1973, Awake!, which said: “The sign is still standing. In mute testimony it declares: MANAGUA, 404,700 INHABITANTS. And in the center of the city another silent sentinel bears witness. The clock on the main entrance of the National Palace stands at 12:35. At that early morning hour, Saturday, December 23, 1972, during the darkness, the capital of Nicaragua died in a terrifying earthquake.” Yes, the city simply ceased to function—the plumbing did not work, the electricity went off, practically everything stopped. Soon this will happen, not to just one city, but city after city after city will break down—the entire system of things will die! Under such circumstances, what is it vital that we exercise?
27 Many hundreds of Jehovah’s witnesses in Nicaragua and in nearby countries demonstrated their intense love, as Awake! reported: “At once efforts were under way to care for these Witnesses [affected by the earthquake] and their families. The genuine love that exists among God’s people certainly manifested itself. By Saturday afternoon a Witness arrived with a truck and 300 gallons of water from a congregation sixteen miles away. . . . Then at 10 p.m. the first two truckloads of supplies arrived from Jehovah’s witnesses in Liberia, Costa Rica. A short time later, two more trucks arrived from Witnesses in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Thus food, clothing, medicines, water and gasoline were on hand within twenty-four hours or so after the disaster!”
28. (a) What can we learn from that Managuan experience? (b) In what other ways have Jehovah’s witnesses been receiving training in showing love for one another?
28 We can learn from that experience. When great troubles and disasters are everywhere occurring, what we need most, above all things, is intense love for one another. And when we think about it, have we not, as Jehovah’s witnesses, been receiving training to face such circumstances? Regularly we meet together in assemblies, large and small, where we receive fine instruction and encouragement to love one another. Also, we have had cafeterias for feeding one another, and we have hospitably provided accommodations for fellow Christians in our homes. Really, what fine training in love and care for one another! But we must continue to express this marvelous quality of love with which God endowed humans, but which has been so distorted and perverted by about 6,000 years of sin and imperfection. It is vital that we continue to cultivate intense love for one another now, because the end of all things has drawn close.
a The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, translated from the Greek, by C. F. Crusé (1894), page 75.
[Picture on page 337]
Genuine love for David moved Jonathan to give him some gifts as a token of his affection