Questions From Readers
◼ Since the Christian way of life is said to be rewarding even now, why did Paul write: “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied”?
True Christianity certainly is a good and satisfying way of life. But the apostle Paul’s comment at 1 Corinthians 15:19 indicated that a person who endured suffering for his hope merited pity if that hope was baseless.
There is ample reason to conclude that the way of life produced by practicing true Christianity is a good one. Consider some proof of that. A genuine Christian is part of a congregation of clean, wholesome and loving people who are interested in him, willing to offer both spiritual and material help. Because of following God’s counsel, the Christian is protected from many physical dangers and diseases, such as those linked with immorality, overdrinking, smoking and drug abuse. (Romans 1:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:18, 19) He does not drift aimlessly, unsure of life’s meaning or direction; rather, he appreciates his relationship with his Creator and gains satisfaction in doing God’s will. His following Bible-based principles contributes to a more secure and successful family. Because of his honesty, the Christian may be sought after as an employee and may be less likely to be laid off work or fired.
Even this abbreviated list shows that the Christian way of life truly is rich and rewarding.
At times, though, a Christian will experience opposition, persecution or even violence. (2 Timothy 3:12) Jesus foretold that it would be thus. (Matthew 24:9, 10; Mark 8:34; 10:30; Luke 21:12; John 16:2) The Christians in ancient Corinth knew this. They were aware that Paul, who had “persecuted the congregation of God,” now was the object of persecution. He wrote them: “When being reviled, we bless; when being persecuted, we bear up.” (1 Corinthians 15:9; 4:12; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27) He reasoned, however: “Why are we also in peril every hour? Daily I face death. . . . If, like men, I have fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, of what good is it to me? If the dead are not to be raised up, ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.’”—1 Corinthians 15:30-32.
The persecution Christians faced, then, was related to their hope. If this hope had been a mere delusion, their undergoing persecution would have been pointless. So Paul could say: “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.”—1 Corinthians 15:19.
But he knew that Christ definitely had been resurrected. After being raised up, Jesus appeared to hundreds of witnesses, including Paul himself. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) Hence, he urged the Corinthians: “Consequently, my beloved brothers, become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 15:58.
Paul was convinced that neither he nor other Christians who suffered in behalf of Christ were to be pitied. He lived a full, memorable, even enviable, life. As was true with him, so it can be with us, that “godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.”—1 Timothy 4:8.
▪ Do Jesus’ words that “the love of the greater number will cool off” mean that this will occur among true worshipers now?
With good reason we believe that Jesus was not foretelling a large-scale loss of love among Jehovah’s people.
The apostles had asked for ‘the sign of Jesus’ presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.’ Jesus foretold wars, earthquakes, food shortages and persecution of Christians. He added: “Because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off.”—Matthew 24:3-12.
Much of that prophecy found a fulfillment between then (33 C.E.) and the great tribulation on Jerusalem that the Romans caused in 70 C.E. (Compare Luke 19:41-44; 21:5-28.) During that interval, did the love of most anointed Christians cool off? No. Those who fell away from Christianity during that generation evidently were in the minority. Most Christians experiencing persecution from the Jews kept up “declaring the good news of the word,” displaying love for God, for unbelievers and for fellow Christians. (Acts 8:1-25; 9:36-42) But love did cool off among the Jews, who claimed to be true worshipers. The greater number of them ignored Jesus’ warning, revolted against Rome and resorted to a violent defense of their nation.
Jesus’ prophecy extends beyond the first century and has its major fulfillment today. (Revelation 6:2-8) As with the Jews back then, people have less and less effective love. Millions have turned atheistic. Even in Christendom people tend to show less neighbor love, and church attendances and knowledge of the Bible generally are declining. Many who seem to be religious try to rectify human problems through political causes. So it apparently is among such claimed worshipers of God that love is cooling off.
True Christians, though, must not become complacent. Since some Christians in the first century lost their first love or were distracted from it by problems, we could find our love cooling off. (2 Timothy 2:16-19; Revelation 2:4) While, if that happened, we would be exceptions to most of Jehovah’s people, the fact that it could happen to us individually emphasizes our need to ‘endure to the end’ so as to be saved.—Matthew 24:13.