Have Intense Love for One Another
“Have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.—1 Pet. 4:8.
1, 2. How does the Bible writer John confirm the importance of displaying agápē love in our lives?
IN HIS first letter to fellow Christians the apostle John refers to God’s love in sending his Son to deliver mankind and he shows that Christians are to imitate this expression of love. This is not a matter of choice but is really an obligation that we have, to love one another. He says: “Beloved ones, if this is how God loved us, then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.” (1 John 4:11) So here John emphasizes the importance of Jesus’ “new” commandment. (John 13:34, 35) Christians should be exemplary in showing love to one another. Jehovah himself has set the example in showing principled love (agápē) to his earthly children. So, as obedient children, and as God’s servants, we should follow that example and show love, not only for Jehovah God, but for one another.
2 John again confirms this obligation and shows the seriousness of the matter, at 1 John 4:20 and 21, where he writes: “If anyone makes the statement: ‘I love God,’ and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that the one who loves God should be loving his brother also.” So this matter of showing agápē love, self-sacrificing love, for one’s Christian brother or sister is a very serious thing, because thereby we show that we love Jehovah God himself.
3. Who is our visible brother whom we are to love?
3 Who is our visible brother whom we are to love? Well, we cannot limit him to someone of the same race, the same color or the same nationality, can we? Rather, our brother is our fellow servant of Jehovah in the local Christian congregation, or in any other congregation of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses throughout the earth. He is our brother in the faith. (Gal. 3:26-28) So we are obligated by Jehovah’s love to have intense love for our Christian brothers, thereby proving we are true Christians.
4. What does Paul recommend at 2 Corinthians 13:5, and so what questions should here be considered by all?
4 As an organization today, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses show such love for one another. There is no fighting between national groups; there is no racial bias or hatred. And this is as it should be. The mark of true Christianity is definitely there in the organization. But the question is: How are we as individuals doing in this matter of showing love for our Christian brothers? Are we individually displaying true agápē love for one another? Do we individually have intense love for one another? In this respect it is good for each one to examine himself according to the standard set out in Jehovah’s Word. Yes, as Paul said: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.”—2 Cor. 13:5.
5. (a) Is love optional as a quality for Christians? (b) How far should a Christian’s love reach out?
5 We have learned from the words of Jesus, and also from John, that love for our brothers is a necessary Christian quality. It is not something we could call optional; love is not something we can practice only when it is convenient. Rather, the command from Jesus for his disciples to love one another is really a royal law, one that should influence all our actions. Neither can we limit our love to just a few close associates in the congregation, but, rather, our love should reach out to include the entire association of brothers in all parts of the earth. Just as Peter wrote: “Have love for the whole association of brothers.” (1 Pet. 2:17) How important it is, then, that we do not limit our love but that we reach out to include the entire association of brothers.
HOW IS CHRISTIAN LOVE FOR BROTHERS ACQUIRED?
6. How can a Christian begin to acquire the ability to display agápē love?
6 Since love is so important in the life of a Christian, how, then, does the Christian acquire such love? Today there are many in the Christian congregation who are very new in their worship of Jehovah, and it is only proper that they should want to carry out a royal law, the ‘new command’ that Jesus laid down for his followers. Well, first we appreciate that agápē love is really a fruit of God’s spirit, as Paul points out in Galatians 5:22. So the Christian must seek and follow the leading of God’s holy spirit in union with the organization that Jehovah is using on the earth today.
7. Why is knowledge of God’s Word important to one cultivating the quality of love?
7 In addition, knowledge of Jehovah God and his wonderful attributes is all important. In this connection, the Christian must learn just what love is and how it acts toward his brother and fellowman. This knowledge, of course, comes from a study of God’s Word, privately and in association with God’s people on earth today. So the Christian must develop a deep appreciation of all the truths found in God’s Word and become a diligent student of the Bible. As Peter said, we should develop “a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word.”—1 Pet. 2:2.
8. Does the heart come into the picture, and why?
8 Then, of course, one’s heart comes into the picture, because love is primarily a quality of the heart. That is why Peter wrote: “Love one another intensely from the heart.” (1 Pet. 1:22) With proper knowledge of what agápē love is and how it acts, one’s heart can be guided and directed in the right way in showing love, first of all to Jehovah, the God of love, and then to one’s brothers and fellowman. The Christian’s having developed such love in his heart makes it possible for him eventually to dedicate himself to Jehovah, the God of love, and then to follow through on this dedication by carrying out Jehovah’s laws and conducting his life daily in harmony with God’s principles found in his Word.—1 John 5:3.
9. (a) What is sometimes more difficult than gaining knowledge of the Bible or than preaching? (b) How important is agápē love to a Christian when it comes to his relationships with his brothers?
9 Some Christians may find it not very difficult to fill their minds with knowledge of Jehovah and his laws and requirements, and they may enjoy going out and preaching the good news of God’s kingdom to others. However, sometimes living the truth and learning to “love one another intensely from the heart” is more difficult for these same individuals than just acquiring knowledge of commands, laws and principles, or preaching publicly. Here is where the Christian must learn to conform to principles regarding his attitudes, his conduct, his relationship with each one in the congregation, and it is here that agápē love is very, very important. This means that the Christian must learn to live all of the truth obediently from the heart.
10. What warning does John give about love, and so how should the Christian properly direct his love?
10 If we love our brothers, then we must eliminate anything that would tend to divide us off from any of them. We must be careful that we do not start loving the wrong things. That is why John, out of love for his Christian brothers, warned them not to be loving the world. He said: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.” (1 John 2:15, 16) So if a person were to start loving the world or the things in the world, his love would be misdirected. He would be dividing himself off from his brothers who are not lovers of the world or of worldly things. Soon he would not be found with his brothers in the congregation meetings or in the Christian field service, but he would be seeking out worldly associates or worldly interests rather than his Christian brothers. How careful we must be, then, to keep our love properly directed and to seek out always the association of those who worship Jehovah as we do!
11. (a) Real agápē love for others should prevent us from thinking in what way? (b) What is affected if we do not display real love for our brothers?
11 Real principled love should make us think of others, not just of ourselves and our own interests, insisting that we have a right to do things regardless of how others may be affected. So we should be thinking of our personal appearance and our personal interests, in order that we do not, in those respects, upset someone in the congregation or stumble such a one. (2 Cor. 6:3, 6) We should watch our conduct, our speech and our associations, having in mind not just our own wishes or interests but the interests of our brothers, thinking of how they could be affected by what we do or say. (Phil. 2:4) It is good to keep in mind that if agápē love is not properly developing in us, then really our relationship with Jehovah is affected. Remember John’s words: “For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.”—1 John 4:20.
IN IMITATION OF JEHOVAH’S LOVE
12. What example does Jehovah set for us in this matter of love, and what does Peter therefore advise us to do?
12 It is also good to consider that Jehovah loves all of us, and we are all imperfect. So Jehovah does not restrict his love to just a few in the congregation, but through his loving arrangement he is willing to forgive our mistakes and errors and accept our loving service. So intense heartfelt love for our brothers is based on the truth and a genuine appreciation of the worth of our brothers in Jehovah’s eyes. Peter advised: “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.” (1 Pet. 4:8-10) So Jehovah gives to each one a gift to use in the divine service and he accepts our service in spite of our imperfections, weaknesses and shortcomings. If we love our brothers as Jehovah loves us, then we should be able to look beyond their errors and mistakes and learn to work closely with ALL in the congregation, covering over the mistakes of others with love.
13. How can elders show love for their fellow elders in the congregation?
13 This would be especially true with the official elders in the Christian congregations. Some elders should not feel that they are superior to other elders because they have been in God’s organization longer or because they have been appointed as elders for a much longer period of time. Rather, they should appreciate their fellow elders and esteem their value and human dignity in the sight of God, respecting their opinions and thoughts, as these are based on God’s Word. Jehovah does not make any distinction as to how long one has been serving or how long one has been an elder. So those who may be longer in Jehovah’s service should not try to force their ideas or opinions on other elders but should learn to work along with them in love, giving them due respect for their ministerial “gift” and the use of it as appointed elders.
14. What counsel does Paul give about cooperating with the elders, and how can this be applied by all in the congregation?
14 The same point really applies to all in the congregation of God with respect to working with the elders. Not one of the elders is perfect, so we must be careful that we do not magnify the faults or human imperfections of an elder and tend to regard lightly his counsel or points of instruction based on God’s Word. We cannot disregard counsel just because there may be some peculiarities that we dislike about a certain elder. No, but we must overlook faults and imperfections and, rather, look at an elder’s love for Jehovah and zeal for His service, learning to respect all the elders and cooperating with all of them in the congregation. Paul emphasizes this point in Hebrews 13:17, where he says: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.” How good it is for brothers to work closely with the elders and show heartfelt love for them and for the fine work they perform!
15. How would you apply 1 Timothy 1:5 to this matter of loving one another intensely from the heart?
15 Yes, love for all our brothers should be out of a clean heart, and it should be wholehearted. Remember what Paul told Timothy: “Really the objective of this mandate is love out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience and out of faith without hypocrisy.” (1 Tim. 1:5) This means that our heart is cleaned up by the truth, and if we see ourselves lacking in some respect in love for our brothers, then we should allow the truth to purify our lives through more frequent use of God’s Word. A clean heart should impel us to have a wholesome, honest and helpful relationship with all the brothers in the congregation. Our conscience will then be a good conscience because it will be at rest. We will be sure that we are doing right. Our love will be easily observable by others, for it will not be a hypocritical display or something contrived just for the sake of appearance. True love is a godly quality, a pure inner quality that is real and that issues from a good, clean heart.
16. In what way should elders give counsel if they have real love for their brothers?
16 Those who are elders in a congregation can show this heartfelt love for their brothers by being considerate in how they speak to them. In this case humility is certainly essential. An elder should not be filled with pride, thinking he is better than others in the congregation. Each one in the congregation is valuable property, one of Jehovah’s “sheep.” (John 10:16) So the elders, when speaking to others and giving counsel, must think of how their words or actions will affect others. Their counsel should be given in a humble and kind way. Galatians chapter six, verse one, shows that a “spirit of mildness” is essential when one is seeking to help a brother spiritually. This, then, is the loving way; one is sincerely trying to help another and not setting oneself up as higher than others or more important because of a position.
INTENSE “AGÁPE” LOVE SHOWN BY ALL
17, 18. How can we follow Paul’s counsel (a) to “admonish the disorderly,” and (b) to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls”?
17 At 1 Thessalonians 5:14, the apostle Paul gave good counsel on how ALL of us in each congregation can widen out to include the needs of our brothers, thus widening out in our love for one another: “We exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly.” He was here speaking, not just to the elders in the congregation, but to ALL in the congregation. On occasion we may see someone in the congregation who perhaps is on the verge of misconduct, and this would be an appropriate time to follow Paul’s counsel to “admonish the disorderly.” This does not mean that we would severely reprimand a brother or perhaps start gossiping about what he is doing. No, we should, rather, lovingly and tactfully try to assist our brother in a personal way and point him in the right direction, encouraging him to right works and to forsake wrong works. Of course, if we see something that is very serious, then it would be good to discuss the matter with one of the elders who can give needed counsel to one who is disorderly.
18 Paul also wrote that we should “speak consolingly to the depressed souls.” (1 Thess. 5:14) In many congregations there are those who are elderly, perhaps infirm, who may be depressed because they are not able to carry on the field service as they once did. They may feel somewhat helpless and limited in their ability. We can assist such ones spiritually where needed and show them how much all in the congregation appreciate their good example in meeting attendance and service, even though limited, and encourage them in any way we can.
19. Why might a brother be weak in some respects, and how could we “support the weak”?
19 In this same text Paul also counseled that we “support the weak.” Perhaps you have observed some who are weak in the preaching work or in attending meetings. You could lovingly talk to such brothers and try to encourage them and, in some cases, make practical arrangements to help them. Or we may find someone who is getting weak in faith, perhaps because of speculating about the future. There are some who are always asking questions that have no Scriptural answers, and, when elders or others in the congregation cannot answer their questions, they begin to doubt the fulfillment of prophecies or even to doubt that Jehovah is using his organization today. How can we help such weak ones? Certainly we can encourage them to recognize the value of the congregation, can we not? See how Jehovah is using his organization today to get the good news preached! This is the work Jesus said must be done, and what other organization is there doing it? (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) Jesus also said that there would be a “faithful and discreet slave” class that would supply spiritual food to God’s people, and today Jehovah’s people are the only ones well fed spiritually, because of association with this “slave.” (Matt. 24:45, 46) Through it we have come into close association with Jehovah, his Son and his people on the earth. Where could we turn if we would leave God’s organization today? There is nowhere else! (John 6:66-69) This is the one organization he is using, and, if we ourselves are convinced of this, we should be able to assist others who are weak in faith.
20. What did Paul mean when he said to “be long-suffering toward all”?
20 “Be long-suffering toward all,” Paul also wrote. (1 Thess. 5:14) So our kindness and brotherly love should include everyone in the congregation. We should be willing to overlook the weaknesses and imperfections of everyone and be long-suffering toward all, not just toward some when we find it easy. We must learn to be patient and not be a faultfinder, demanding or critical of others. In harmony with 1 Thessalonians 5:15, we want to “see that no one renders injury for injury to anyone else, but always pursue what is good toward one another and to all others.” In 1 Th 5 verse 13 of the same chapter, Paul said: “Be peaceable with one another.” So we should always seek to be at peace with our brothers.
21. How should our love be expressed at Christian meetings?
21 Our love for our brothers should be expressive, not dormant. It should include being considerate of our brothers. For example, when we go to our congregation meetings, it is good not only to speak to those we know well, but also to look for the new ones and the timid or withdrawn ones and include them in our greetings and conversations. Thereby we encourage them and help them to relax and enjoy the association of the brothers. We would not want to overlook the children either. Our love should direct us to converse with them also, and to commend them for their fine efforts in serving Jehovah God. We should let them know how much we appreciate the good example they set in the field work and their good conduct at school and at home. Thereby we lovingly encourage them to continue in the right way of serving Jehovah God.
SHOWING LOVE IN A MATERIAL WAY
22. (a) On occasions our love may have to be expressed in what ways, and how did Jesus set the right example? (b) What are some ways whereby we could show love in a material way?
22 As we get farther along in the “time of the end” of this old system we realize that there is a need to draw closer to one another at all times in the bond of love, showing intense love for one another. Occasions may arise when we see that our brothers need assistance, and how good it is that we know them well and love them! At times it may mean more than just spiritual help, for there may be a need for material aid. John wrote of this need at 1 John 3:17 and 18: “But whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.” If we show love for our brothers in a material way, again we are copying the good example Jesus set. We recall that, at times, he fed multitudes with material food as well as spiritual nourishment so that they could return safely to their homes and not give out along the way. (Matt. 14:14-21; 15:32-38) So at times we may be able to show love in a material way too. Our Christian brothers or sisters may become ill. Then we can show intense love by doing such things as bringing them food, helping to clean their home or running errands for them. There may be others who need assistance to get to the meetings and we may have a car available. We could show love in a practical way by taking them to the meetings with us. Yes, there are so many ways in which practical love can be shown now and in the future, by providing needed assistance in a material way.
23. What may be required of us someday if we have intense love for our brothers?
23 Problems face all of God’s servants today, and indications are that these problems will increase. So it is wise to become well acquainted with our brothers, always showing intense love for one another. We know we are living in the “last days” and Satan knows this too. Realizing that his time is short, he is bringing many problems upon the peoples of the earth. All of us may have to face situations where our very lives are endangered. Then we may be called upon to show the kind of love Jesus showed, to the extent of laying down our lives for our brothers. The 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses gives good examples of how our brothers in Nazi Germany lovingly assisted one another in the face of terrible persecution. Truly they had intense love for one another and their expression of this love was both spiritual and material, aiding one another to continue faithful in Jehovah’s service and protecting one another at all cost. Will you do the same? Will you lovingly protect your brothers and never, never betray them? In the near future, our very lives may depend on such love for one another.
24. Why does the Christian not need detailed rules covering every situation when it comes to expressing love toward his brothers?
24 Right now we can all build one another up in the spirit of agápē love. We do not need rules and regulations telling us when we should love one another. Remember that Jesus’ command to love indicated we should not hold back but take the initiative in showing love for our brothers at all times. If we have intense love for our brothers, then our hearts will impel us to provide all possible help whenever and wherever it is needed. Thus, as true Christians, we will be outstanding in showing love for one another, and the world will recognize the identifying mark of love.
25, 26. (a) How does true love act, according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7? (b) Why is it so important to love one another intensely from the heart?
25 At 1 Corinthians 13:4 to 7, Paul provides an excellent description of how true Christian love should act. He says: “Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” And then in 1 Co 13 verse 8 the apostle adds: “Love never fails.” Such love is required, not just from the elders and the ministerial servants, but from all Christians who are called Jehovah’s witnesses today.
26 Yes, as Paul said, “love never fails.” The Christian should never stop loving and there is no limit to love or law that can slow it down. True love can be practiced at any time and at any place. Paul said, at Romans 13:8, that love is the only debt that Christians should have one toward the other. Today the end of this system is fast approaching. So, of all times, THIS is the time to have “intense love for one another.” (1 Pet. 4:8) Is it not true that, as God’s servants, we hope to live with one another forever? That means we should also want to love one another forever. So now is the time to strengthen our close bonds as Christians and to cultivate the ability to love one another intensely from the heart, thus imitating our loving God, Jehovah.