Have You Found the Key?
WHY is love so important for Christians? Because of the kind of God they worship. The apostle John described him in these words: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Just as many parents hope that their children will follow in their footsteps, so Jehovah God wants Christians to try to be like him. Thus, the apostle Paul urged: “Become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love.”—Ephesians 5:1, 2.
Love also balances the other Christian qualities. In the days of Jesus, the Jews—particularly their leaders—were diligent students of the Bible. But consider what Jesus said to them: “You are searching the Scriptures, because you think that by means of them you will have everlasting life; . . . but I well know that you do not have the love of God in you.” (John 5:39, 42; Luke 11:42) If they had had love as well as knowledge, they would have recognized Jesus as the Messiah. As it was, most of them lost out on the opportunity to be among the first members of the Christian congregation.
Remember, too, the Roman Catholic conquistadores who carried their religion to the New World. They must have had a strong faith and a fierce zeal to accomplish what they did. But it was certainly not tempered by love. Otherwise, they would never have robbed, tortured, raped, and killed the native inhabitants of the American continents.
Thus, love is the key Christian quality. Who should be the object of this love? Jesus tells us: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’”—Matthew 22:37-39.
In fact, a Christian’s love goes even further. Jesus also said: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44, 45) In other words, a Christian’s love embraces almost everyone! But what does this mean in practice?
If We Really Love God
For one thing, if we really want to love God, we will need to get to know him better. God himself has made that possible by providing the Bible, which is, in effect, a letter from him to us. When we receive a letter from a loved one, most of us read it immediately no matter how busy we are. Should it be any different with reading the Bible? Of course not. True, for many, life today is full of distractions, and most seem to prefer watching television to serious reading. But real Christians do not let that stop them from reading God’s Word. Thus, they are like the psalmist who wrote: “My soul has kept your reminders [which today are found in the Bible], and I love them exceedingly.”—Psalm 119:167.
In the Bible, God tells us how he wants us to act. Just as parents set standards of conduct for their children, Jehovah has set standards that he expects us to maintain—standards that are not negotiable. For example, the Bible tells us: “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) That is quite a list! But anyone who really loves God will be happy to take notice of it. Why? Because as the apostle John pointed out: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.”—1 John 5:3.
Unfortunately, many of the practices condemned in the Bible are becoming acceptable today, even among “Christian” people. A report issued in Canada by a Protestant denomination recommended considering the acceptance of homosexuals for ordination as ministers, asserted that sex without marriage may be acceptable under certain circumstances, and suggested that marital fidelity need not exclude adultery. No doubt the authors of that report wanted to appear broad-minded and caring. But were they showing love, either toward God or toward those they were encouraging in such immoral ways? Hardly, since Paul said that practicers of such things would not inherit God’s Kingdom. How much more loving it is to hold fearlessly to God’s standards, helping weak ones to do the same, rather than sentimentally encouraging them to follow an easier course that will eventually lead to disaster!
Moved to Share With Others
When we read the Bible, we also learn of the wonderful things God has purposed for mankind. We learn that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) We also learn of God’s purpose to rid the earth of wickedness and bring in a peaceful, paradisaic system of things by means of his Kingdom under this same Jesus. (Matthew 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:3, 4) As the Bible promises: “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more . . . But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:10, 11.
In fact, the Bible’s message is exactly what the human race needs. That is why it is sad to read of Christendom’s missionaries who are so distracted by the poverty and injustice that they see in poorer lands that they get involved in politics and even in revolution. Revolution will not solve the problems of those countries. Do such missionaries really love God? If so, would they not show faith in his promises and point their flocks toward his Kingdom? Shepherds who really love their flocks would surely show them how obedience to God’s law can help even now, rather than getting them involved in political schemes that can only end in frustration.
The truth is, the Bible’s message is so wonderful that no loving person could possibly keep it to himself. That is why love moves real Christians to share what they know with others. In Christendom the work of talking to others about the Bible is usually left to a small, paid, professional class—the clergy. This has had bad results. As a Lutheran pastor admitted in the magazine Christianity Today: “The Church is weak today because spiritual leaders have failed to train a body of believers to do the same kind of work they do. Or because believers have failed to recognize and accept such a ministry.”
Real Christians do “recognize and accept such a ministry.” They take seriously these words of the apostle Paul: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised.” (Hebrews 10:23) Their motive? The same as that which impelled a group of Christians in the first century who were warmly commended by the apostle Paul: “The latter are publicizing the Christ out of love.”—Philippians 1:16.
Love for Fellow Christians
Yes, love is the key to real Christianity in that it affects every aspect of the lives of real Christians. They thus become quite different from the people around them. Why? The apostle John said about this world: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) The wicked one is Satan the Devil, and the world reflects his values in much of its activity. Satan’s influence is seen in the rampant dishonesty, immorality, injustice, racial tension, and economic unfairness that exist today. A Christian, worshiping a loving God and imitating him by cultivating the quality of love, has to be different!
Now, this is not easy to do alone. Hence, the Bible also encourages us to seek out those who have a similar appreciation for the quality of love. Thus, Christians can help one another. That is why the apostle Paul wrote these encouraging words: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, . . . encouraging one another.”—Hebrews 10:23-25.
If you would like to respond to that encouragement, Jehovah’s Witnesses would be delighted to introduce you to a group of people who are trying hard to manifest godly love in their lives. There is undoubtedly such a group in your community, and God’s spirit is upon them because, in the final analysis, that is the source of true, Christian love. “The fruitage of the spirit is love.” (Galatians 5:22) Associating with them will help you to give heed to the apostle Peter’s encouragement: “Have love for the whole association of brothers.”—1 Peter 2:17.
How tragic it would be to find oneself among those who, after trying hard to serve God, hear the fateful words of Jesus: “I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23) If we cultivate love, the key to real Christianity, that will not happen to us. Love will motivate us to read the Bible, live according to its standards, seek out other Christians to associate with, and speak to others about the good things the Bible contains. Yes, love will move us to do what God wants us to do. And, as Jesus said, it is “the one doing the will of [his] Father who is in the heavens” who will inherit God’s promises. The apostle John added: “He that does the will of God remains forever.”—Matthew 7:21; 1 John 2:17.
Yes, cultivate love. Let it motivate you to do God’s will. Thus, you will prove yourself a real Christian, since Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) And you will enjoy the eternal rewards that God has promised for those who love him.
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