Love—The “Surpassing Way”
“I show you a surpassing way.”—1 Cor. 12:31.
1. With what advice did an elderly historian sum up his study of human events?
“LOVE one another.” A 92-year-old historian summed up his long study of human events by giving that short piece of advice. “My final lesson of history,” stated Will Durant, “is the same as that of Jesus. . . . just try it. Love is the most practical thing in the world.”
2. In giving his followers “a new commandment,” what did Jesus Christ say?
2 On the last night of his earthly life, Jesus Christ told his followers: “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) What, then, would be the main identifying quality of Jesus’ true followers? Clearly, they would love one another, would have outstanding love among themselves. But how was this “a new commandment”? How were they to love one another as Jesus had loved them?
AS JESUS LOVED HIS DISCIPLES
3. Jesus’ commandment on love was “new” in what respect?
3 Shortly before giving the “new commandment,” Jesus humbly washed the feet of his apostles. His action on that occasion shows Christians that they should serve their fellow believers lovingly, even by performing humble tasks in their behalf. (John 13:1-16) But that was not all there was to the “new commandment.” That commandment on love was “new” in that it went further than the law given to the Israelites through Moses, under which Jesus and his disciples were at that time. That law specified: “You must love your fellow [or neighbor] as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39) It called for neighbor love, but not for self-sacrificing love that would go even to the point of giving one’s life for a fellow human.
4. How did Jesus show the kind of love called for by the “new commandment”?
4 “No one has love greater than this,” said Jesus, “that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) Yet, that is what Jesus did in giving his life as a ransom in behalf of imperfect, sinful and dying mankind. (Matt. 20:28; John 3:16; 10:14-18; Rom. 5:12; 6:23) In fact, Jesus’ earthly life and his death both exemplified the love called for by this “new commandment.” Under Christ’s direction, the Christian is not to do good just when the occasion arises, but is to take the initiative in aiding others spiritually and otherwise.
5. What is one of the greatest expressions of love?
5 Yes, the follower of Jesus Christ is to work actively for the good of his neighbor. And what is one of the greatest expressions of love? Why, it is preaching to others and teaching them the “good news,” for this can result in their attaining eternal life! For that matter, the Christian must ‘impart, not only the good news of God, but also his own soul’ in working with and aiding those who accept this message. (1 Thess. 2:8) Indeed, he should be ready to surrender his soul, or life, in their behalf.—1 John 3:16.
6. To what extent were Jesus’ followers to love him?
6 Acting in love, Jesus did not follow the course of least resistance. Rather, ‘the reproaches of those reproaching God fell upon him,” and he steadfastly followed a path of greatest resistance by Satan and his agents. (Rom. 15:3) So life was not going to be easy for Christ’s true followers. For that matter, Jesus indicated that they were to love him more than their closest relatives and even more than their own souls. (Luke 14:25-27) Certainly, Jesus’ disciples would have to love their associates in Jehovah’s service and would need to bear spiritual fruitage, even in the face of intense persecution.—Mark 10:29, 30; John 15:8.
PAUL POINTS TO “A SURPASSING WAY”
7, 8. What was the “surpassing way” mentioned by the apostle Paul at 1 Corinthians 12:31, and it surpassed what?
7 The Christian apostle Paul emphasized the importance of love when writing to fellow believers in Corinth. In those days, copies of the Scriptures were few in number, and knowledge thereof chiefly was conveyed by word of mouth. So miraculous gifts of the spirit (special knowledge, speaking in tongues, and so forth) were vital for the congregation. “Yet,” wrote Paul, “I show you a surpassing way.” (1 Cor. 12:4-11, 27-31) What was this “surpassing way”?
8 It was the way of love, and its import was highlighted in these words: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels [spirits having their own language] but do not have love, I have become a sounding piece of brass or a clashing cymbal [for shallowness]. And if I have the gift of prophesying and am acquainted with all the sacred secrets and all knowledge, and if I have all the faith so as to transplant mountains [either mountainous obstacles or literal mountains, if that be God’s will], but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my belongings to feed others, and if I hand over my body, that I may boast, but do not have love, I am not profited at all.”—1 Cor. 13:1-3; Mark 11:23.
9. If we do not live according to the “surpassing way” of love, what is true of our efforts in God’s service?
9 Yes, even acts that might otherwise be of value become “dead works” if the motivation for them is not love for God and neighbor. (Matt. 22:37-39; Heb. 6:1) “Loving labor” is essential. (1 Thess. 1:2, 3) All our efforts and sacrifices in God’s service amount to nothing if we do not live according to the “surpassing way” of love. Not all early Christians could perform powerful works, heal, speak in tongues and translate under the influence of God’s spirit. (1 Cor. 12:29, 30) But all of them could display love, a fruit of Jehovah’s holy spirit that all Christians should cultivate.—Gal. 5:22; 1 John 4:16.
MODELS OF LOVE FOR US TO IMITATE
10. How has Jehovah set us an example in displaying love?
10 Both Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ have set us examples in displaying love. Consider this: Physical creation is a manifestation of God’s love, for it gives abundant evidence of care for the health, pleasure and welfare of mankind. Humans were not created merely to exist. They usually can taste food, smell fragrant flowers, note the various colors and beauties of creation, enjoy the company of fellowmen and laugh at the antics of playful animals, to say nothing of the many other delights of living. (Ps. 139:14) Manifestations of Jehovah’s unselfish giving in love include the making of man in His image and likeness, with the capacity for love and spirituality. (Gen. 1:26, 27) The provision of a paradise home and the sure promise of a restored earthly paradise also show God’s love, as does his revelation of himself to mankind through his inspired Word and holy spirit. (Luke 23:43; 1 Cor. 2:10-13) And, of course, Jehovah’s love also is shown by his providing for mankind’s redemption from sin and resulting death.—Rom. 5:7, 8.
11, 12. God’s Son has displayed love for mankind in what ways?
11 God’s Son had a fondness for mankind even during his prehuman existence. Under the figure of wisdom personified, he is identified as God’s “master worker” who served with gladness and said: “The things I was fond of were with the sons of men.” (Prov. 8:30, 31; John 1:1, 14) So, with mankind’s need of redemption in mind, Jehovah chose one especially fond of mankind—His only-begotten Son, who “emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:5-7) Yes, God’s Son displayed self-sacrificing love in becoming a man.
12 Love also was evident in Jesus Christ’s teaching and tender regard for others. When he saw a great crowd, “he felt pity for them, and he cured their sick ones.” “Because they were as sheep without a shepherd,” Jesus was moved with pity and “started to teach them many things.” (Matt. 14:14; Mark 6:34) Of course, Jesus Christ displayed surpassing love by dying on a stake to provide “a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28; Phil. 2:8) In this and many other ways, both Jehovah and Jesus furnish models of love for Christians to imitate.—John 13:34; 1 John 4:10.
“HAVE INTENSE LOVE” FOR FELLOW BELIEVERS
13. (a) Peter urged fellow believers to have what kind of love for one another, and is there evidence that such love existed among them? (b) What effect does love have on present-day Christians?
13 Love is reflected in willingness to give of oneself and is basic to godly life. (Ps. 110:3) The apostle Peter urged fellow worshipers of Jehovah to “have intense love for one another.” (1 Pet. 4:8) That such love existed among early Christians is shown by their expressions, for they were known to refer to or address one another with endearing words—“my beloved children,” “the beloved, whom I truly love,” and so forth. (1 Cor. 4:14; 3 John 1) Similar love among true Christians today is encouraging, sustaining one during trials. It “builds up.” (1 Cor. 8:1) Despite adversity and persecution, we are not friendless in a loveless world. Christians know that their spiritual brothers and sisters really love them, and this “perfect bond of union” helps them to face the future with confidence.—Col. 3:14.
14. (a) How does Paul epitomize love at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8? (b) What questions may aid a Christian to display love in keeping with Paul’s words?
14 But the question is, How well are we personally displaying love for fellow believers? The apostle Paul’s divinely inspired epitome of love aids us in testing the quality of our love for one another. Please read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Then take time to reflect on those words in the light of the following questions:
Am I “long-suffering and kind,” showing patient forbearance in unfavorable circumstances?
Do I shun jealousy, as when I am passed over and another brother is given certain privileges in the congregation?
Am I humble instead of bragging about what Jehovah may have permitted me to accomplish in his service?
Do I “behave indecently,” in manners or in the way I treat certain fellow Christians?
Do I ‘look for my own interests,’ as in the relatively small matter of pushing ahead of others at Christian assemblies?
As an elder, for instance, do I “become provoked” just because others fail to respond promptly to Scriptural counsel?
Do I ‘keep account of injuries,’ offenses of years ago, or do I forgive my brothers and sisters in the faith, even as I desire forgiveness?
By my conversation, do I show that I shun worldly unrighteousness, rejoicing, rather, in truth?
Do I ‘bear all things,’ not expecting perfection from imperfect fellow Christians?
Am I a person ‘believing all things,’ not unjustly imputing bad motives to fellow believers?
Do I ‘hope all things,’ really hoping in everything in God’s Word and are my hopes truly founded upon it?
Have I the kind of love for God that will enable me to ‘endure all things,’ including persecution as a Christian?
Questions such as these may well aid the Christian in his efforts to display love.
15. Love has prompted Jehovah’s people to do what for needy fellow worshipers?
15 Numerous, indeed, are the ways of showing love for fellow believers. For example, love prompts us to aid them materially when there is such a need. (Jas. 2:14-17) Accordingly, Jehovah’s people helped needy fellow worshipers in war-ravaged lands after World War II. During a two-and-a-half-year worldwide relief campaign, love was displayed as witnesses of Jehovah in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden and other countries donated clothing and money to purchase food for Christians in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippine Republic, Poland and Romania. Moreover, through the years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have gladly furnished material aid, as needed, when their fellow believers have been the victims of natural disasters.
16. What effect should Christian love have on appointed elders in the congregation?
16 Christian love also makes appointed congregational elders approachable, understanding. This should be the case if they imitate the ways of Jehovah, of whom it is said: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, his loving-kindness is superior toward those fearing him.” (Ps. 103:10-14) A humble, loving attitude moves Christian overseers to make diligent efforts to aid fellow believers spiritually.
17. In what ways might love be shown for elderly or infirm Christians?
17 However, Christian love will prompt all godly persons, not just appointed elders, to be cooperative and helpful in dealing with fellow worshipers of Jehovah. For instance, love may move us to do the shopping for elderly or infirm Christians. It may prompt us to read the Bible and Christian publications to them, if necessary. Yes, and there may be opportunities to help them with housework, to accompany them in God’s service, and to have pleasant association with them at other times. In various ways, love will motivate us to do good to others—young or old—without being asked to do so.
PRACTICE LOVE FOR FAMILY AND NEIGHBORS
18. To show love, do we need rules covering every aspect of life?
18 The apostle Paul wrote: “Do not you people be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another.” (Rom. 13:8) Indeed, Christians do owe others love. But to exercise this quality we do not need rules covering every aspect of life. Loving words and deeds are suggested to us by human conscience and by godly wisdom based on the Scriptures. (Rom. 2:14, 15) Generally, then, as Christians we know whether we have been loving in a certain situation. Nevertheless, it is one thing to know we should show love and quite another to practice it.
19. What will help us to show love within the family, and in what ways may it be displayed?
19 Within the family, we may at times be inclined to be short-tempered, unloving. Why? Because we know family members well and may have less patience with them than we do with others. Yet, the same basic Bible principles apply within the household as in our dealings with other individuals, such as those in the local Christian congregation. Certainly, we can and should prayerfully seek Jehovah’s aid in practicing love for members of our family. In this we will be helped if we remember that Jehovah God is pleased when husbands show love for their wives “as their own bodies,” when women love their husbands and children, and when children display love for their parents, obeying them. (Eph. 5:28; 6:1-3; Titus 2:4) Even grown children can show love for their aged parents, not by ignoring them but by caring for them spiritually and materially as the need may exist. Godly devotion includes shouldering this responsibility. And, of course, it is a display of love when Christian husbands make sure that their families are cared for in spiritual and material ways.—Compare Proverbs 19:26; 1 Timothy 5:4, 8.
20. How can love of neighbor be shown, especially by Christians?
20 Love of neighbor can be shown by acts of human kindness in varying circumstances. The residents of Malta treated the apostle Paul and other shipwreck victims with “extraordinary human kindness.” (Acts 28:1, 2) The consciences of those pagan islanders prompted them to act that way. How much more should the Scripturally trained consciences of Christians move them to show neighbor love! It is that love of neighbor that especially moves us to share the “good news” with them. We could do nothing finer or more loving than aid them to gain a good standing with Jehovah.—1 Tim. 1:8-11.
ABOVE ALL, SHOW LOVE FOR GOD
21, 22. (a) What is a principal way of showing our love for Jehovah? (b) So what questions can we ask ourselves and what determination should be ours as “lovers of Jehovah”?
21 Truly, one of the greatest expressions of love for fellow humans consists of teaching them the “good news,” thus aiding them to attain a good standing with Jehovah God. And for the Christian, this activity is a principal way of showing love for the One who deserves it the most—our loving God, Jehovah. His Son said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole strength and with your whole mind.”—Luke 10:27.
22 Are we ‘continuing steadfast as seeing the invisible One’? (Heb. 11:27) Do we bear his peerless name, Jehovah, as his faithful witnesses? Is it our heartfelt delight to speak of him and his purposes? In fact, is that not a basic reason for our existence as the congregation of his people? Indeed, it is! Under the influence of his holy spirit, we can continue to pursue the “surpassing way” of love with fellow humans. But, above all else, may we fearlessly declare the praises of our God, loving what is good and rejoicing in him as integrity-keeping “lovers of Jehovah.”—Ps. 97:10-12.
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Jesus’ humble act shows we should lovingly serve others
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Physical creation is a manifestation of God’s love
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Seek Jehovah’s aid in showing love within the family circle