Christian Love Based on Jehovah’s Love
“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:34, 35.
1, 2. (a) Why was the apostle John well qualified to write about love? (b) What was the “new commandment” given by Jesus to his disciples?
THE Bible writer John, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, had much to say about the Christian quality of love. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and in his Gospel account he uses the words “love” and “loved” more than they are used in the other three Gospel accounts combined. John, of course, was writing primarily about agápē love, that is, love guided or governed by principle.
2 John was in a good position to discuss love because he apparently was a special recipient of Jesus’ love and affection. John was one of the three apostles more intimately associated with Jesus throughout his public ministry. He was the one who reclined next to Jesus at the last Passover, when the Lord’s Evening Meal was instituted. He was known as the ‘disciple that Jesus loved.’ (John 13:23; 19:25-27; 21:7, 20) So the apostle John had a good background on which to draw when writing about this Christian quality of love, and he it was who recorded the words of Jesus when he told his disciples about the ‘new commandment’: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:34, 35.
3. Were the Jews under the Mosaic law commanded to love one another? Give reasons for your answer.
3 Jesus here showed that genuine love was to be the identifying mark of his true disciples. But why did Jesus say that this was to be a “new commandment”? Jesus was addressing his disciples, who were all part of the Jewish nation. Under the Mosaic law the Jews were to love their fellowman as themselves. For example, at Leviticus 19:18 the Law said: “You must not take vengeance nor have a grudge against the sons of your people; and you must love your fellow as yourself.” In fact, in his teaching, Jesus called attention to this command in the Law when he said: “The second [commandment], like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’”—Matt. 22:39.
4. What kind of love did Jesus refer to at John 13:34, 35, and how was such love manifested?
4 The Mosaic law called for neighbor love, not for self-sacrificing love based on principle. Jesus, however, when giving his followers a “new commandment,” was pointing out that they were to be identified by self-sacrificing love, for he added: “Just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Jesus’ love was a self-sacrificing love based on principle, that is, agápē love. He was willing to go to the point of giving even his own life in behalf of his disciples. He spent the years of his public ministry doing good for his fellowman, especially in teaching and helping people in a spiritual way. Therefore his disciples should do the same, not holding back while waiting for an occasion to arise that might dictate the need to do good for one’s fellowman. Rather, Christians should take the initiative and work actively for the good of their fellowman, especially following Jesus’ example in teaching and preaching, thereby working for the spiritual good and welfare of others. But, above all, Jesus’ disciples were to have love for one another. So they were to be outstanding in their love among themselves. It should be something that would readily identify them as different from people of the world in general.
5, 6. (a) What does John discuss in his first letter? (b) How does John identify God with love?
5 The apostle John appreciated this identifying mark of Christianity so much that he highlighted it, not only in his Gospel account, but also in his letters. The first letter of John, for example, is really an expression of John’s love for his Christian brothers. It was written to protect them from the false teachings of antichrists in his day. Also throughout the letter John emphasizes God’s love, showing how Christians should copy this outstanding quality of Almighty God, Jehovah.
6 In First John chapter 4, verse 8, John identifies God with this quality of love, saying: “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.” So John here points to Jehovah as the Source of love, truly a God of love. John, of course, does not here mean that God is just an abstract quality. No, not at all. John recognized that God is a person, and as a person Jehovah has many qualities, the most outstanding of which is love.
7. How are true disciples of Jesus recognized today?
7 God’s Son, Jesus Christ, was also outstanding in having this quality of love, the self-sacrificing love, and he pointed out that this would be the mark of his true disciples. Today, therefore, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses living in all parts of the earth are worshipers of Jehovah, the God of love, and are disciples or footstep followers of Jesus, his loving Son. So Jehovah’s Christian witnesses today must express genuine self-sacrificing love in their daily lives in order to be identified as true Christians. John therefore recommends that the Christian imitate Jehovah God in love, saying: “As for us, we love, because he [God] first loved us.”—1 John 4:19.
THE GREATEST EXPRESSION OF JEHOVAH’S LOVE
8. To what would many persons point as evidence that Jehovah “first loved us”?
8 How is it that Jehovah has “first loved us”? What has he done for us as human creatures to express his love, his unselfish interest in us? Well, there is a great variety of evidence of Jehovah’s love for us. But what could we say is the greatest expression of Jehovah’s love? Many would immediately think of life, since it is only because of Jehovah, the Source of all life, and because of his love in giving life, that we live. (Ps. 36:9) But Jehovah has also given life to other creatures here on earth, has he not? We marvel at the tremendous variety in animal creation, the fish and other sea life, the birds and the insects; and all these creatures obviously enjoy being alive although not appreciating the Source of life, Jehovah. So really the greatest expression of Jehovah’s love would have to be more than just the gift of life itself.
9. How has Jehovah “first loved us,” and how does John confirm this at 1 John 4:10?
9 In connection with humankind Jehovah has arranged something better than the life we have here now, and that is the possibility of everlasting life for those who love and serve Him. But how has Jehovah done this? It was by the loving gift of his only-begotten, faithful Son, Jesus Christ. Sinful mankind did not ask for this loving provision for them to live forever, but Jehovah, expressing his love, took the initiative to provide this wonderful gift. So John writes: “The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.”—1 John 4:10.
10. (a) How does Paul confirm this expression of God’s love? (b) Was it an impulsive act on God’s part?
10 The apostle Paul confirms this point, showing that Jehovah recommends his own love to us by this loving gift of his Son. Paul wrote, at Romans 5:7, 8: “For hardly will anyone die for a righteous man; indeed, for the good man, perhaps, someone even dares to die. But God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The granting of this loving gift was not impulsive, either, but something that Jehovah purposed centuries before at the time of judging Adam and Eve back in Eden. (Gen. 3:15) Truly, we must say that Jehovah is the Source of love, and, as John wrote, “he first loved us,” thereby recommending love as the outstanding quality to be found among his worshipers.
MATERIAL EVIDENCE OF JEHOVAH’S LOVE
11. What is another evidence of Jehovah’s love that we enjoy daily?
11 In addition to the loving gift of his Son for the salvation and deliverance of mankind, and in addition to life itself with the possibility of its becoming everlasting life, there are many other evidences of Jehovah’s love throughout creation. Certainly Jehovah has manifested his love by making life so interesting and enjoyable. For example, daily we enjoy eating, usually several times a day. This is seldom a boring thing, is it? Jehovah has provided us with so many delicious foods and in such marvelous variety. Our foods come in many delightful colors and shapes, as well as with so many subtle flavors and aromas. In affluent countries we can enjoy our meals for days on end with hardly ever eating the same kind of food twice. We must eat daily in order to live, but how lovingly Jehovah has made it delightful and enjoyable for us to eat!
12, 13. How do Jehovah’s creative works, heavenly and earthly, testify to his love for mankind?
12 We also find evidence of Jehovah’s love in his creative works, the physical creation. (Rom. 1:20) No matter where man lives on this earth he finds beauty, whether it be in the great tropical forests or perhaps in the majestic snow-covered mountains in different areas on earth. Then there are the beautiful clear-blue waters and white-sand beaches of the tropics and subtropics, as well as the great plains covered by flowing golden grain. Or there are deep-blue lakes and beautiful green pine forests. Yes, even the barren deserts have their own peculiar beauty and charm. And we all delight in seeing the starry heavens on a clear night, do we not? Not only are the stars magnificent to behold, but they also provide guides for man in his travels. So they have a practical value too. They are another evidence of Jehovah’s love in creation.
13 Throughout all parts of the earth we find other evidences of Jehovah’s love for mankind, such as in the great variety of animal and bird life, providing beauty and color for man’s enjoyment, as well as companionship. What a tremendous variety of life Jehovah has created for the benefit and interest of mankind here on the earth! Some men spend a lifetime studying this particular evidence of Jehovah’s loving handiwork.
14. (a) In what way has Jehovah created man higher than the animals? (b) The ability to appreciate spiritual things makes it possible for mankind to do what, in harmony with John 4:24?
14 Even more importantly, Jehovah has created humankind higher than the animals. He has displayed his love in making man in his own image and likeness. (Gen. 1:26, 27) Thus, as creatures in Jehovah’s likeness, we have the capacity to love, and we also have the capacity to appreciate spiritual things. We have the ability to know, to love and to worship our loving Creator. An animal cannot do this. A person may have a pet dog or a cat and he may talk to this pet, but we never find him discussing spiritual things with his dog or his cat, do we? A lower animal just does not have the capacity to appreciate spiritual things. But humankind can and should do so. We may not see Jehovah God, but we do see so much evidence of his love in all of his creative works. And as we come to know him, gaining knowledge of him, then we are able to love and worship him. As Jesus said, we are able to worship him in “spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) Yes, Jehovah has done so much for mankind out of his love for them. Certainly, then, we should agree with what John wrote, that “we love, because he first loved us.”—1 John 4:19.
15. How does Jesus confirm that Jehovah is a loving Father to his servants?
15 As we review the evidence of Jehovah’s love we can appreciate that he is a loving Father to all of us on earth. As a loving Father he looks out for the good of his children. He looks out for our welfare and our needs. Jesus taught us that, if we are really putting Jehovah’s worship first in our lives, we should not be overly concerned about what we are going to eat or drink or what we are going to wear. Showing how loving our Father is, Jesus said: “Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. . . . For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:25, 32, 33) So as a loving Father, Jehovah is interested in his children, and if we are serving him and doing his will, then he will see that we get the necessary things for life.
16. Our prayers to Jehovah should indicate what relationship with him?
16 Hence, servants of God today should have a close relationship to Jehovah, recognizing him, not just as a deity, but as a Father, a loving Father. So our relationship to him should be that of a child to his father. Therefore we should seek to communicate with our Father regularly and tell him of our needs and our desires and our problems, as well as thanking him for the many blessings he provides. Paul wrote: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6) In teaching his disciples how to pray, Jesus did not teach them to address Jehovah as “our God” but to address him as “our Father” in the heavens. (Matt. 6:9) So it is good to keep a close personal relationship with Jehovah as a loving Father and to communicate with him regularly.
GOD’S RULE OF LOVE—SO DIFFERENT FROM THE DEVIL’S MISRULE OF HATE
17. (a) How far should a Christian’s love extend? (b) What principle has Jehovah demonstrated in this connection?
17 Jehovah has such love for his creatures that he expresses it even toward those not loving him. Remember that Jesus taught his followers: “Continue to love your enemies.” (Matt. 5:44) But on what basis could Jesus teach this? Well, the basis was the fine example of his loving Father, Jehovah, for Matthew 5:45 says: “That you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” So Jehovah blesses all with sunshine, rain and things needed to sustain life. Even those not serving him or knowing him receive these blessings. In addition, we have already learned how Jehovah established the principle of loving one’s enemies by sending his Son to earth in order to deliver mankind while people were all sinners and alienated from God. (Rom. 5:8-10) On the basis of the principle already established by Jehovah, his loving Father, Jesus therefore could teach that our love should even extend to our enemies. Truly Jehovah’s love extends to all and surpasses all other things. What a wonderful example he is as the Source of principled love (agápē)!
18. (a) On what basis does Jehovah rule as the Supreme One and Sovereign? (b) How does Psalm 84:10, 11 well express the feeling of those who support Jehovah’s sovereignty?
18 As the Supreme One and Sovereign of the universe, Jehovah does not rule by means of an improper fear or hatred. He is a God of love, as John wrote, and his sovereignty is therefore based on love. Consequently those who serve Jehovah and uphold his sovereignty do so because of their deep love and respect for him, not because of slavish fear. Those upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty recognize his superior love, wisdom, power and justice, and they personally choose to worship and serve him, thus upholding his sovereignty. Their feelings are well summarized by the psalmist who said: “For a day in your courtyards is better than a thousand elsewhere. I have chosen to stand at the threshold in the house of my God rather than to move around in the tents of wickedness. For Jehovah God is a sun and a shield; favor and glory are what he gives. Jehovah himself will not hold back anything good from those walking in faultlessness.”—Ps. 84:10, 11.
19. (a) In sending his firstborn son to earth, how was Jehovah extending his love to mankind? (b) How did this, in turn, prove Satan to be a liar?
19 Satan, of course, has challenged Jehovah’s rule of love and has removed himself from Jehovah’s love, saying, in effect, that Jehovah is an unloving God. But such a lying challenge does not alter God’s love for his creatures. Many have followed Satan in turning away from Jehovah, but this does not stop Jehovah from extending his love nor does it prevent others from supporting Jehovah’s sovereignty by expressing their love for him. Jehovah God lovingly sent his Son from heaven to vindicate God’s name and His confidence in those who do love Him. His Son Jesus proved that his Father’s confidence in him was not misplaced. He also proved his love for his Father and his love for humankind to the extent of giving his life and dying as a common criminal on a torture stake. Through this loving expression by God and his Son, mankind can hope to be delivered from sin and death and gain everlasting life. As John 3:16 says: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”
AN ORGANIZATION REFLECTING GOD’S LOVE
20. What new organization was started by Jesus, and what was it that unified this organization?
20 By means of Jesus’ active ministry on earth for three and a half years, a new organization was started on earth, an organization of preachers and teachers who follow the example of Jesus. Thus, through Jesus’ loving and helpful training, men of humble position and education like the apostles Peter and John became effective, forceful speakers and teachers. (Acts 4:4, 13) A unified international congregation of people from all races and tribes and nations was drawn together in worship of Jehovah God out of its love for him, recognizing, of course, that Jehovah ‘loved first.’ (1 John 4:19) The early Christians were bound together by agápē love, love based on and guided by godly principles. As Paul said: “Love . . . is a perfect bond of union.”—Col. 3:14.
21. Who today are the true worshipers of Jehovah, and how do they identify themselves as such?
21 This organization of Christian worshipers of the loving God Jehovah still exists today in all parts of the earth. It is separate from an unloving world, as Jesus said his followers should be. So in prayer to Jehovah, he said: “I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:15, 16) Today this organization is known as the Christian witnesses of Jehovah, and they have a worldwide reputation for having love for one another and for their fellowman. What a wonderful thing it is for those who are a part of this organization today to worship and serve Jehovah as united people, with individuals from all races and nationalities bound together in the “perfect bond of union”—godlike love! Yes, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses today have the distinguishing mark, the reputation of being outstanding in their love for their God Jehovah and for one another. Thus they prove themselves imitators of their loving God and true disciples of his Son, Jesus Christ.—Eph. 5:1; John 13:34, 35.
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Eternal life in perfection is possible because of God’s gift of his Son
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The physical creation all testifies to the love of our Creator
Out of love, Jehovah made man with the capacity to appreciate spiritual things