How Genuine Is Your Love?
TO DESCRIBE someone as being genuine is to give that one high praise. The genuineness of a person, or a thing, usually is made apparent by tests. Thus the Bible speaks of gold as being tried by fire, and it tells of “genuine gold,” “genuine silver” and “genuine nard,” a costly perfume. (Jer. 52:19; Mark 14:3; 1 Pet. 1:7) God’s Word also refers to persons as being genuine, as when the apostle Paul terms Timothy “a genuine child in the faith.”—1 Tim. 1:2.
The question as to whether certain ones had genuine love came up in connection with the Christian Jews at Jerusalem. They had come into dire need, and their fellow believers in Macedonia, ‘in spite of their deep poverty,’ had outdone themselves in making generous contributions to their needy brothers. After telling the prosperous Christians at Corinth about these things, the apostle Paul went on to say: “It is not in the way of commanding you, but in view of the earnestness of others and to make a test of the genuineness of your love, that I am speaking.” Evidently they had professed love for their fellow believers and now the apostle was giving them the opportunity to demonstrate the genuineness of it. How? By actions, by their contributions.—2 Cor. 8:8.
Under inspiration the apostle John, in his first letter, makes the same point, saying: “This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us. We too, then, ought to give our lives for our brothers! If a rich person sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against his brother, how can he claim that he loves God? My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.”—1 John 3:16-18, Today’s English Version.
Yes, true love, genuine love, is shown, not by mere talk, words, but by doing things, helping those who are in need. The Creator, Jehovah God himself, gives us the finest example of this. Because of the disobedience of our first parents, mankind came into great need, and so God sent his only-begotten Son “in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” Jehovah God provided his Son so that He would have a basis for forgiving repentant humans, even as we read: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”—John 3:16; 1 John 1:9.
This example of genuine love on the part of Jehovah God in forgiving our sins is set forth as a model for us to imitate. His Word counsels: “Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32) Perhaps in no other respect is the genuineness of a person’s love so tested or demonstrated as in the willingness to be forgiving. It is far easier to make gifts of material value, even costly ones, than to exercise largeness of heart, generosity, by being forgiving.
The apostle Peter found it very difficult to keep on forgiving and so asked his Master, Jesus, if he was supposed to forgive his brother up to seven times. How did Jesus reply? ‘Not up to seven times but up to seventy-seven times’; in other words, there is to be no limit to one’s forgiving another. (Matt. 18:21, 22) Peter no doubt well remembered these words of Jesus, for years later he wrote: “Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet. 4:8) A multitude is a large number, is it not? In fact, at Proverbs 10:12 we read that “love covers over even all transgressions.”
Right in the family circle, how many opportunities there are, day in and day out, to be forgiving! Both the husband and the wife, in relation to each other, or as parents, as well as the children, make mistakes, some minor or small, a few major ones with serious consequences. How should the other members of the family react? Critically, with the attitude, ‘What a stupid mistake! How could you do such a thing?’ Or, sympathetically, with feeling for the one who made the mistake and minimizing the consequences or showing ways of mitigating the results? Not without good reason has it been observed that ‘a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.’
The same applies to the larger spiritual family of which all Christians are a part. Since none are perfect, those taking the lead in a congregation, or taking the lead in a certain country, are likely to fall short at times and err in judgment. Their not being perfect furnishes a real test to those over whom they have oversight.
It might be said that even as ‘a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers,’ so happiness in the Christian congregation depends upon the readiness of spiritual brothers and sisters to forgive one another. Jesus said that his followers would be identified by their love for one another. (John 13:34, 35) For their love to be genuine, it must include this willingness to be forgiving. As a “Kingdom Song” puts it:
“Surely days of bitter sorrow Our forgiving can prevent; By it we show loving-kindness That indeed is heaven sent. . . . True forgiveness is a virtue That we all should cultivate. It will keep us from resentment, From the bitterness of hate.”
In fact, not only genuine love, but even wisdom and justice might be said to require that we be forgiving. Unless we forgive others, Jehovah God will not forgive us. Being forgiving results in happiness on the part of all concerned. Is not forgiving a form of giving that results in the greater happiness? (Matt. 18:35; Acts 20:35) Justice also requires that we be forgiving. How so? Because to be unforgiving is to attribute wrong motives to our brothers or to judge them as inexcusably negligent. Yet does not justice require that we do to others as we would have them do to us? We would not want others to judge our motives wrongly or harshly; rather, we would want them to be forgiving. We must therefore be forgiving toward our brothers.—Luke 6:31.
So there is every reason for Christians to be forgiving toward one another. It is the wise thing and it is the just thing to do. But, above all, it is the unselfish, loving thing to do, it being proof of the genuineness of our love.
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A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers