Love, the “Perfect Bond of Union”
“But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—COLOSSIANS 3:14.
1. Why is the command at Colossians 3:14 a challenging one today?
IN THE midst of a hate-filled, disunited world the command that comes to Jehovah’s Witnesses today from God’s written Word at Colossians 3:14 is indeed a challenging one. It seems almost an impossible one, for it commands them: “Besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.” Just the same, that inspired command is being carried out, to his glory.
2. What appears to be the uniting bond between the sects of Christendom, and of what does this make Christendom a part?
2 Undeniably, love as a perfect bond of union does not exist in Christendom, for she is divided up into hundreds of conflicting religious sects and denominations with differing religious beliefs and practices. Notably, the things that seem to serve as a uniting bond for the church systems of Christendom are their hatred and their opposition toward the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s dedicated, baptized people, his witnesses of today. (Isaiah 43:10, 12) By expressing such hatred and opposition, the religious organizations of Christendom make themselves part and parcel of the world that is under the suzerainty of Satan the Devil, “the god of this world.” (2 Corinthians 4:4, Authorized Version) This is just as the Founder of Christianity said that it would be. When giving his final discourse to his faithful apostles, after the departure of the traitorous Judas Iscariot, Jesus said: “These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”—John 15:17-19.
3. What question arises as to the target of the world’s hatred?
3 In the face of Jesus’ words, the question logically arises, What religious group is it today that the world, not excepting Christendom, hates and views with antagonism? Human history, particularly since World War I, helps any honest inquirer to identify them unmistakably.
4. To whom does Paul’s command at Colossians 3:14 apply, and who is the common spiritual Father of such ones?
4 From the opening words of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Jehovah’s Witnesses of today know that his command applies directly to them: “Clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.” We read: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through God’s will, and Timothy our brother to the holy ones and faithful brothers in union with Christ at Colossae: May you have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father.” (Colossians 1:1, 2) Well, now, who was the common heavenly Father of those first-century Christians in the city of Colossae, Asia Minor? It was the Father of their spiritual Leader, Jesus Christ, and his Father is the God who is “the Most High over all the earth” and “whose name is Jehovah.”—Psalm 83:18.
5. The ones to whom Paul addresses his letter must be worshipers of whom, and how was this illustrated by Jesus and the apostle John?
5 Ah, then, the ones to whom Paul addresses his letter must be worshipers of Jehovah God, just as Jesus Christ himself is! On the mountain of temptation Jesus refused the Devil’s offer of the whole world if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. Jesus promptly dismissed the Tempter and quoted the inspired command: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Matthew 4:8-11; Luke 4:8; Deuteronomy 6:4, 5, 13) In imitation of Jesus his disciples must worship the same God that he himself has always worshiped, Jehovah. (John 20:17) Conformably to this, when the apostle John fell down worshipfully before the angel that transmitted the Revelation to him, the angel objected, saying: “Worship God; for the bearing witness to Jesus is what inspires prophesying.”—Revelation 19:10; 1:1.
6. After what course of Christendom did the command at Revelation 18:4, 5 become more urgent, and who have acted upon that command, and with what result?
6 After the God-dishonoring record made for herself during World War I by Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, the divine command as set forth in Revelation 18:4, 5 became more urgent than at the time of the December 1880 issue of the Watch Tower magazine or earlier, namely: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues. For her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind.”a In obedience to that command those who wanted to be the “people” of Jehovah God got out of Babylon the Great and flocked together in behalf of Christian unity, to develop that love, which is a “perfect bond of union.” They took seriously to heart the words of the apostle at 1 Corinthians 14:33: “God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace.” So, as we look at the more than forty-three thousand congregations of the witnesses of Jehovah of today, we are impelled to voice the words of Psalm 133:
“Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the good oil upon the head, that is running down upon the beard, Aaron’s beard, that is running down to the collar of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon that is descending upon the mountains of Zion. For there Jehovah commanded the blessing to be, even life to time indefinite.”—Psalm 133:1-3.
7. Whose obligation is it today to maintain this unity, and for what purpose did God preserve his witnesses through World War I?
7 As with the congregation at Colossae during the first century of our so-called Christian Era, it is the obligation of the present-day witnesses of Jehovah to maintain this admirable unity of organization amid this disunited world. It is especially so since the end of “the appointed times of the nations” in that war-wracked year of 1914! (Luke 21:24) The first world war threatened the very existence of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a truly Christian organization. But for the sake of the preaching of ‘this good news of the kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations’ the Almighty God did not let the combined enemies in Christendom and in pagandom wipe out all of his anointed witnesses from the earth. (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10) In the first postwar year of 1919 C.E. Jehovah God freed them from their restraints and sent them forth to the preaching work among all the nations.
8. Since he has failed to break up this Christian unity by external means, how has Satan proceeded in order to try to do this?
8 Satan the Devil had failed to destroy Jehovah’s Witnesses by external means and agencies, and so he has since endeavored to break up their united structure in a subtle way, by boring from the inside, from within the organization. To this effect it was foretold in Revelation 12:17, in these words: “And the dragon grew wrathful at the woman, and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.”
The Personality With Which to Concern Oneself
9. Against what infection do Jehovah’s Witnesses need to guard themselves, and what does Psalm 91 have to say about this?
9 The hatefulness with which the wicked world is infected is spreading, just as Jesus Christ himself foretold in his prophecy on “the conclusion of the system of things,” saying: “And many false prophets will arise and mislead many; and because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off. But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matthew 24:3, 11-13) The spirit of hatred is very contagious, and so even the members of the visible organization of Jehovah God need to guard against being infected. How we can do this the inspired psalmist indicates, saying: “Anyone dwelling in the secret place of the Most High will procure himself lodging under the very shadow of the Almighty One. I will say to Jehovah: ‘You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God, in whom I will trust.’ You will not be afraid of anything dreadful by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in the gloom, nor of the destruction that despoils at midday. A thousand will fall at your very side and ten thousand at your right hand; to you it will not come near. Only with your eyes will you look on and see the retribution itself of the wicked ones.”—Psalm 91:1, 2, 5-8.
10. How shall we avoid having a personality that makes us look like those of the world, and how does God view us in contrast with the dead world?
10 Divine protection is assured us, but we must stay within the set conditions attached to it. If we avoid the spiritually death-dealing intimacy with the sick world, we shall not be clothing ourselves with the personality that will make us look like people of the world. We shall not be clothing ourselves with the hatefulness of the world. The diametrical opposite of hate is love, love of Jehovah and of his Christ and of our Christian brothers and sisters. The personality that exhibits this quality is the personality that the inspired apostle Paul tells us to put on as disciples of Jesus Christ. If we do this we shall be recommending ourselves to others as God’s ministers by a “love free from hypocrisy.” (2 Corinthians 6:4-10) This love originates with God, and our possessing it means that we have come into relationship with him through our turning our backs upon the world as far as being heart and soul in tune with it is concerned. God views the world as dead and those who are part of it as also dead; certainly they are not alive to him. In God’s view we dedicated, baptized disciples of Jesus Christ live; yes, we live as a part of His organization, in which love obtains. It is therefore no exaggerated statement that 1 John 3:14 makes when it tells us: “We know we have passed over from death to life, because we love the brothers. He who does not love remains in death.”
11. Into what brotherhood does love admit us?
11 We thus see that love admits us into a brotherhood in which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our older brother. This Christian quality is a vesture, or clothing, by means of which we should indicate or display just what we are, without hypocrisy. It is the crowning feature that God’s Word says we must cultivate and practice.
12. What steps must be taken to attain to that love, and must the things that comprise those steps thereafter be dropped?
12 Understandably there are certain steps that an obedient disciple needs to take in order to attain to the genuine kind of love. To those who have set before them the glorious prize of the divine nature in heaven, 2 Peter 1:5-8 says: “Yes, for this very reason, by your contributing in response all earnest effort, supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, to your self-control endurance, to your endurance godly devotion, to your godly devotion brotherly affection, to your brotherly affection love. For if these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The several things that are added must not be dropped after the crowning quality of love has been attained. No, but faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion and brotherly affection must remain as integral parts of our fully rounded out personality. They must abound along with love. In that case those who have such permanent personality traits will receive the prize at God’s hands in his due time.
13. How does Paul enlarge upon those preliminary steps at Colossians 3:12-14?
13 As an enlargement on the things that we need to do to ourselves in order to gain an appropriate reward, there may fittingly be mentioned here the qualities that the apostle Paul says we must wear as an expression of our personality. Before he points out what is the perfect bond of union, Paul says: “Accordingly, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Colossians 3:12-14.
A Contrast With Those Not United
14. What sort of persons were the members of the Christian congregation before their acting on the instructions of the apostles?
14 Those instructions of the apostles indicate the kind of persons that the members of the Christian congregation should be. Formerly they were part of the unlovable godless world with all its devilish qualities. So what sort of personalities were they then? At 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 the apostle Paul points this out, saying: “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves . . . will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean, but you have been sanctified, but you have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.”
15. Why do worldly persons not have the “bond of union” that persists?
15 It would be hard for worldly persons of the above description to have something of an unselfish, pure kind to serve as an unbreakable, perfect binder for them. Indeed, they have no “perfect bond of union.” Hence, human society outside in the old world is not holding together. For a while things of common self-interest may hold them together. But in course of time, when these things of common self-concern are taken away, worldlings lose interest in one another. Binding ties are dissolved. So, finally, they merely endure one another as unavoidable fellow humans in a community.
16. When free from things that temporarily unify, to what do worldly persons revert, and why?
16 Nationalism! Patriotism! Religious sectarianism! Racism! Such emotion-stirring things, when whipped up to a fever heat, will overwhelm involved ones with a sense of duty and obligation. But, after all, humans remain the same persons with whom self comes first. So, when off duty, when free to indulge themselves according to their individual likes and dislikes, they will betray themselves to be the same old self-serving persons. Although because of outstanding worldly services, or because of unswerving devotion to a world cause, persons who are conformed to this world may be lauded to the skies and may be pronounced deserving of heavenly honors and glorification, they cannot, according to the Bible standards, be counted worthy of a place in the heavenly Kingdom of Jehovah God to reign with Christ.
17. God’s Kingdom calls for what on the part of those who are seeking it first, and what is it that helps them in this behalf?
17 God’s Kingdom has no partnership with this world and its devotees. In the face of the colossal failure of the world under Satan to unify its adherents, God’s Kingdom under Christ calls for unified action and service on the part of those dedicated, baptized Christians who are seeking it first. This Kingdom is the product of God’s love. The very spirit of that celestial government is love, above all a love for God and a hatred for his chief enemy, Satan, and the world of which he is “the god.” Despite all the disruptive efforts on the part of Satan, this love that emanates from Jehovah God, the heavenly Father, continues to function as the “perfect bond of union” for all those who adhere to his visible earthly organization, yes, for all the family of God both in heaven and on earth.
a On page 6 this issue contained an article entitled “Babylon the Great.”
Do You Recall?
□ How are true Christians united, in contrast to Christendom?
□ How is Satan trying to break our Christian unity?
□ How can we ‘clothe ourselves with love’ despite the world’s hatefulness?
□ How can love bind us together more so than the binding ties in the world?
[Picture on page 15]
Christians are part of a loving brotherhood in which Jesus Christ is an older brother