Love for God—The Force for Moral Good
REASONABLE people will readily admit that immorality needs to be restrained. As a minister of the United Church of Canada put it: “The consequences, when individuals and society ignore the moral law, are frightening; wars, inflation, Watergate, and anarchy.” As shown in the previous article, the major religions of this world have not proved to be a strong force for moral good. So if we individually want to live moral lives, we must look to another authority to provide such a force and then be willing to abide by that authority.
The influence of such a superior authority was evident in an incident in the life of Joseph, a Hebrew administrator for a court official in Egypt. When enticed by the official’s wife to have sexual relations with her, Joseph resisted, saying: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” (Genesis 39:7-9) Recognizing God’s authority and desiring to please him gave Joseph the moral strength to resist her advances.
Two hundred years later, the nation of Israel, descendants of Joseph’s father, Jacob, received the Ten Commandments as part of the Law given through Moses. Whereas disobedience incurred Jehovah God’s displeasure, obedience to this Law brought divine blessings. So these commandments served as a moral guide for the nation.
The Ten Commandments—A Force for Good
How strong a force were the Ten Commandments? Their influence is still felt even in this 20th century. In 1962 the then governor-general of New Zealand said: “I suppose some people think the Ten Commandments are out of date. But it may not be without significance that if we all faithfully observed them today, the ordinary law of the land would be superfluous.”
Nevertheless, in a conversation with a young Jewish ruler, Jesus Christ showed that something more than keeping the Ten Commandments was needed. The young man had asked: “What good must I do in order to get everlasting life?” When Jesus said that he should “observe the commandments continually,” listing some of the Ten, the ruler answered: “I have kept all these; what yet am I lacking?” Jesus replied: “Go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” The account continues: “When the young man heard this saying, he went away grieved, for he was holding many possessions.”—Matthew 19:16-22.
A comparison of this account with a similar one in Luke 10:25-28 helps us to discern the young ruler’s basic problem. We read: “A certain man versed in the Law rose up, to test him [Jesus] out, and said: ‘Teacher, by doing what shall I inherit everlasting life?’” Jesus helped him to reason on the matter, and as a result, the man was able to answer his own question, saying in substance: ‘Love Jehovah God with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus then concluded: “Keep on doing this and you will get life.”
Can you now see the problem of the young ruler mentioned previously? His love for God and for neighbor was eclipsed by his love for material possessions. How sad! In spite of his attempting to keep the Ten Commandments, he was in danger of losing everlasting life.
What Does Love for God Mean?
We live in a time when love for God and neighbor has been supplanted by love of self, material possessions, and sex. Why, even belief in God as a Creator has been replaced in many minds by belief in the unproved theory of evolution. What has brought all of this about?
For centuries, Christendom’s clergy used the non-Biblical doctrine of a fearful hellfire in an attempt to dominate the morals of the people. The Encyclopedia International states: “The strongest force for good with ordinary men through the Middle Ages was undoubtedly the fear of hell, which made even Kings and Emperors subservient to the Church, and was probably the only restraint upon their unbridled passions.” This hellfire doctrine created the impression that God was unloving, unmerciful, and vindictive. Even though the doctrine may have acted as a restraint to some people, it turned many others away from God, leaving them easy prey to unscriptural teachings and theories, such as that of evolution.
The Bible, however, does not teach that God tortures souls in hellfire. Instead, the apostle John tells us: “God is love.” “He is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins.” Moses wrote: “Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” (1 John 4:8; 1:9; Exodus 34:6) These are just a few of God’s wonderful qualities. They draw us to him. These qualities, especially his love, are what make us want to love him. “As for us, we love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) It is this love for God that is the greatest force for moral good; it can lead to everlasting life!
Genuine love for God is not just an abstract quality. It moves a person to act in another’s interest. The apostle Paul listed many ways that this love can be shown. To mention just a few: “Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5) Our displaying this love is an attempt to imitate our heavenly Father. Jesus said: “These two commands [loving God and neighbor] sum up the whole of the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:40, An American Translation) In other words, if we show this love, we will not steal from our neighbor or murder him or commit adultery with his wife. The apostle John agreed, saying: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.”—1 John 5:3.
Love of God a Force for Good
Note the effect that love for God had on early Christians, as shown by Tertullian, of the second century. He challenged his opponents to point out one Christian among their criminals. When they could not, he added: “We, then, alone are without crime.” The book The Old Roman World supports this view, saying: “We have testimony to their blameless lives, to their irreproachable morals.” Also, Christianity Today quotes church historian Roland Bainton: “From the end of the New Testament period to the decade 170-180 there is no evidence whatever of Christians in the army.” Love for God moved them to obey him by living moral lives. You may wonder, though, ‘Is there evidence of this beneficial moral force today?’
Indeed there is! Newspaper columnist Mike McManus wrote in the Herald & Review that he had never heard a sermon against premarital sex. A month later he reported that among the letters received in response was one from a 14-year-old, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who wrote: “Just the thought of contracting these diseases should be enough to deter most people [from premarital sex]. But the reason Witnesses refrain is that Jehovah commands us to flee from fornication.” (Italics ours.) Commenting on the letter, McManus asked: “How many 14-year-olds in your congregation could quote St. Paul so clearly (1 Cor. 6:18)?”
The same principle of obeying Jehovah’s commands, cited by that young girl, is applied by the Witnesses in other areas. The essence of some of God’s commands recorded in the Scriptures is: ‘Be honest in all things,’ ‘Avoid idols,’ ‘Abstain from blood and fornication,’ ‘Be truthful,’ ‘Train your children in God’s ways.’ (Hebrews 13:18; 1 John 5:21; Acts 15:29; Ephesians 4:25; 6:4) Have you noted Jehovah’s Witnesses in your neighborhood or place of work trying to obey these commands? Have you ever wondered why they do so, why they reject blood transfusions, why they refuse to go to war, why they visit you at your home, in short, why they are different? Their love for God is the answer.
Love Never Fails
Wanting to please God, Jehovah’s Witnesses take to heart the counsel: “Be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) When they learn what is the “will of God” for them, they want to do it. Their love for God is the force behind this desire. Do you feel that this is fanciful, impractical for our time? Ponder a moment on the following actual accounts.
Back in 1963, José, of São Paulo, Brazil, began living with Eugênia, who was already married. Two years later, they began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. From this study the couple learned that God requires that “marriage be honorable among all.” (Hebrews 13:4) They realized that they should get married, but Brazil had no divorce law by which Eugênia could be freed to marry José. However, in 1977, when a divorce law went into effect, she applied for divorce, and in 1980 they were able to marry, fulfilling God’s requirements. Their love for God had its reward.
Inire had tried all types of drugs in New York. He lived with his girlfriend, Ann. In need of money, he had her send pictures of herself to a well-known men’s magazine. She was offered a large sum of money to pose in the nude at a photo session. Meanwhile, Inire began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and later Ann joined in. Inire stopped using drugs. After three weeks they, on their own accord, decided to get married. Then, learning from the Bible that a Christian must dress modestly, Ann decided that she could not conscientiously agree to the photo session, no matter how much money was offered. (1 Timothy 2:9) What do you think prompted such changes? Ann says that when she realized that being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses was not just a matter of joining a religion but involved living a life devoted to God, she knew she had to make changes fast. Truly, love for God is a strong force for good.
Someone may feel, ‘Well, these are isolated cases.’ But they are not. Similar changes have occurred many times in places where Jehovah’s Witnesses are active. Why not look into this further? Prove for yourself that love for God as expressed in true religion is still the force for moral good.
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Concerning early Christians, the book “The Old Roman World” states: “We have testimony to their blameless lives, to their irreproachable morals.” What was the force behind their “irreproachable morals”?
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Love for God can help you to resist being tempted into wrongdoing