Appreciation for Our Brothers
“With unhypocritical brotherly affection . . . , love one another intensely from the heart.”—1 PETER 1:22.
1. What convinced many people that Jehovah’s Witnesses practice true Christianity?
LOVE is the hallmark of true Christianity. During the last meal that Jesus shared with his apostles, he emphasized this, stating: “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) Many people first became convinced that Jehovah’s Witnesses are practicing true Christianity when they attended a meeting at the Kingdom Hall or went to a larger assembly. They observed love in action, and by this they knew that they were among Christ’s true disciples.
2. What did the apostle Paul say with regard to love, the distinctive sign of Christianity?
2 All of us rejoice that this distinctive sign of genuine Christianity is observable among Jehovah’s people today. Nevertheless, like the early Christians, we realize that we should constantly seek further ways of manifesting appreciation for our brothers. Paul wrote to the congregation in Thessalonica: “May the Lord cause you to increase, yes, make you abound, in love to one another.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12) How can we increase in our love for one another?
Love and Brotherly Affection
3. In addition to leading a clean life, what did the apostle Peter say was necessary for Christians?
3 In a general letter addressed to Christian congregations in Asia Minor, the apostle Peter wrote: “Now that you have purified your souls [or, lives] by your obedience to the truth with unhypocritical brotherly affection [phi·la·del·phiʹa] as the result, love [form of a·ga·paʹo] one another intensely from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22) Peter shows that it is not enough to purify our lives. Our obedience to the truth, including the new commandment, should result in unhypocritical brotherly affection and intense love for one another.
4. What questions should we ask, and what did Jesus say in this connection?
4 Are our love and appreciation for our brothers inclined to be expressed only to those we like? Do we tend to be generous toward these, closing our eyes to their shortcomings, while being quick to notice the faults and failings of others with whom we feel no natural affinity? Jesus said: “If you love [form of a·ga·paʹo] those loving you, what reward do you have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing?”—Matthew 5:46.
5. What distinction does a Bible scholar make between the Greek word meaning “love” and that meaning “affection”?
5 In his book New Testament Words, Professor William Barclay makes the following comments on the Greek word translated “affection” and that rendered “love”: “There is a lovely warmth about these words [phi·liʹa, meaning “affection,” and the related verb phi·leʹo]. They mean to look on someone with affectionate regard. . . . By far the commonest N[ew] T[estament] words for love are the noun agapē and the verb agapan. . . . Philia was a lovely word, but it was definitely a word of warmth and closeness and affection. . . . Agapē has to do with the mind: it is not simply an emotion which rises unbidden in our hearts; it is a principle by which we deliberately live. Agapē has supremely to do with the will. It is a conquest, a victory, and achievement. No one ever naturally loved his enemies. To love one’s enemies is a conquest of all our natural inclinations and emotions. This agapē . . . is in fact the power to love the unlovable, to love people whom we do not like.”
6. (a) What searching questions should we ask ourselves? (b) According to Peter, why can we not limit our brotherly affection to those to whom we are naturally attracted?
6 On the pretext that the Scriptures allow for our having warmer feelings for some brothers than for others, are we inclined to rationalize our feelings? (John 19:26; 20:2) Do we think we can express a cold, reasoned “love” to some because we have to, while we reserve warm brotherly affection for those to whom we are attracted? If so, we have missed the point of Peter’s exhortation. We have not sufficiently purified our souls by our obedience to the truth, for Peter says: “Now that by obedience to the truth you have purified your souls until you feel sincere affection towards your brother Christians, love one another whole-heartedly with all your strength.”—1 Peter 1:22, The New English Bible.
“Unhypocritical Brotherly Affection”
7, 8. What is the origin of the word translated “unhypocritical,” so why did Peter use this term?
7 The apostle Peter goes even further. He says that our brotherly affection must be unhypocritical. The word translated “unhypocritical” comes from the negative form of a Greek word that was used for stage actors who spoke with their faces covered by masks. This enabled them to impersonate several different characters during a play. The word then took on the figurative sense of hypocrisy, dissimulation, or pretense.
8 How do we feel deep down in our hearts toward some of the brothers and sisters in the congregation? Do we greet them at meetings with a forced smile, quickly looking away or passing on? Worse still, do we try to avoid having to greet them at all? If so, what can be said of our “obedience to the truth” that should have purified our souls to the point of our feeling sincere affection toward our fellow Christians? By using the word “unhypocritical,” Peter is saying that our affection for our brothers must not be put on for show. It must be genuine, heartfelt.
“Intensely From the Heart”
9, 10. What did Peter mean when he said that we should love one another “intensely,” or “outstretchedly”?
9 Peter adds: “Love one another intensely [literally, “outstretchedly”] from the heart.” It requires no stretching of the heart to show love to those for whom we have a natural liking and who reciprocate. But Peter tells us to love one another “outstretchedly.” When expressed among Christians, a·gaʹpe love is not merely an intellectual, reasoned love, such as we should have for our enemies. (Matthew 5:44) It is an intense love and requires effort. It involves stretching our hearts, widening them out so that they can enfold people we would not normally be attracted to.
10 In his Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Fritz Rienecker comments on the word translated “intensely,” or “outstretchedly,” in 1 Peter 1:22. He writes: “The fundamental idea is that of earnestness, zealousness (doing a thing not lightly . . . but as it were w[ith] straining) (Hort).” Straining means, among other things, “to stretch to maximum extension.” Loving one another intensely from the heart therefore means exerting ourselves to the utmost in our efforts to have brotherly affection for all our Christian companions. Are some of our brothers and sisters cramped for room in our tender affections? If so, we should widen out.
11, 12. (a) What counsel did the apostle Paul give to the Christians in Corinth? (b) How did Paul set a fine example in this regard?
11 The apostle Paul apparently felt the need for this in the congregation in Corinth. He wrote to the Christians there: “Our mouth has been opened to you, Corinthians, our heart has widened out. You are not cramped for room within us, but you are cramped for room in your own tender affections. So, as a recompense in return—I speak as to children—you, too, widen out.”—2 Corinthians 6:11-13.
12 How can we widen out our hearts to include all our brothers and sisters? Paul set a fine example in this respect. He obviously sought the best in his brothers, and he remembered them not for their failings but for their good qualities. The closing chapter of his letter to the Christians in Rome illustrates this. Let us examine Romans chapter 16 and see how it reflects Paul’s positive attitude toward his brothers and sisters.
13. How did Paul express his appreciation for Phoebe, and why?
13 Paul wrote his letter to the Romans from Corinth about the year 56 C.E., during his third missionary journey. He apparently entrusted the manuscript to a Christian woman named Phoebe, a member of the nearby Cenchreae congregation, who was traveling to Rome. (Read Ro 16 verses 1, 2.) Notice how warmly he recommends her to the brothers in Rome. In some way or other, she had defended many Christians, including Paul, perhaps during their travels via the busy seaport of Cenchreae. Being an imperfect sinner, like all other humans, Phoebe doubtless had her weaknesses. But rather than warning the Roman congregation against Phoebe’s shortcomings, Paul instructed them to “welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the holy ones.” What a fine, positive attitude!
14. What kind things did Paul say about Prisca and Aquila?
14 From Ro 16 verse 3 to verse 15, Paul sends greetings to over 20 Christians mentioned by name and to many others mentioned individually or collectively. (Read verses 3, 4.) Can you sense the brotherly affection Paul felt for Prisca (or, Priscilla; compare Acts 18:2) and Aquila? This couple had exposed themselves to dangers for Paul. Now he greeted these fellow workers with gratitude and sent them an expression of thanks on behalf of the Gentile congregations. How Aquila and Priscilla must have been encouraged by these heartfelt greetings!
15. How did Paul show his generosity and humility when greeting Andronicus and Junias?
15 Paul became a devoted Christian apparently within a year or two of Christ’s death. By the time he wrote his letter to the Romans, he had been used by Christ as a prominent apostle to the nations for many years. (Acts 9:15; Romans 1:1; 11:13) Yet, notice his generosity and humility. (Read Ro 16 verse 7.) He greeted Andronicus and Junias as “men of note among the apostles [sent ones]” and admitted that they had been serving Christ longer than he had. No trace of petty jealousy there!
16. (a) In what loving terms did Paul speak of other Christians living in Rome? (b) Why can we be sure that these greetings were examples of “unhypocritical brotherly affection”?
16 We know little or nothing of such early Christians as Epaenetus, Ampliatus, and Stachys. (Read Ro 16 verses 5, 8, 9.) But simply by the way Paul greeted all three of them, we can be certain that they were faithful men. They had so endeared themselves to Paul that he called each of them “my beloved.” Paul also had kind words for Apelles and Rufus, referring to them respectively as “the approved one in Christ,” and “the chosen one in the Lord.” (Read Ro 16 verses 10, 13.) What fine compliments to pay these two Christians! And knowing Paul’s frankness, we can be sure that they were not mere formality. (Compare 2 Corinthians 10:18.) Incidentally, Paul did not forget to greet the mother of Rufus.
17. How did Paul express deep appreciation for his sisters?
17 That brings us to Paul’s appreciation for his sisters. In addition to Rufus’ mother, Paul mentioned no less than six other Christian women. We have already seen how kindly he spoke of Phoebe and Prisca. But notice with what warm brotherly affection he greeted Mary, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis. (Read Ro 16 verses 6, 12.) One can feel that his heart went out to these hardworking sisters who had “performed many labors” for their brothers. How upbuilding it is to see Paul’s heartfelt appreciation for his brothers and sisters, in spite of their imperfections!
Not Suspicious of Our Brothers’ Motives
18. How can we endeavor to imitate Paul, but what may be necessary?
18 Why not imitate Paul and try to find something nice to say about every brother and sister in the congregation? For some, you will have no problem at all. For others, it may take a little searching. Why not try to spend some time with them in order to get to know them better? You will surely discover lovable qualities in them, and, who knows, they may get to appreciate you more than in the past.
19. Why should we not suspect our brothers’ motives, and how does Jehovah set us a fine example of love?
19 We should not suspect our brothers’ motives. All of them love Jehovah; otherwise they would not have dedicated their lives to him. And what is it that protects them from going back into the world, following its easygoing ways? It is their love for Jehovah, his righteousness, and his Kingdom under Christ. (Matthew 6:33) But they are all, in various ways, having to put up a hard fight to remain faithful. Jehovah loves them for this. (Proverbs 27:11) He accepts them as his servants in spite of their faults and failings. This being the case, who are we to refuse to take them into our tender affections?—Romans 12:9, 10; 14:4.
20. (a) According to Paul’s letter to the Romans, of whom alone should we be suspicious, and whose lead can we safely follow in this regard? (b) Otherwise, how should we consider all our brothers?
20 The only ones of whom Paul warns us to be suspicious are “those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling,” and those who act “contrary to the teaching that you have learned.” Paul tells us to keep our eyes on such ones and avoid them. (Romans 16:17) The congregation elders will have tried to help these. (Jude 22, 23) So we can rely on the elders to inform us if certain ones need to be avoided. Otherwise, we should consider all our brothers as being deserving of unhypocritical brotherly affection, and we should learn to love them intensely from the heart.
21, 22. (a) What lies ahead of us? (b) What situations may arise, so what is it high time to do? (c) What will be considered in the next article?
21 Satan, his demons, and his entire worldly system of things are against us. Har–Magedon is ahead of us. It will be triggered by the attack of Gog of Magog. (Ezekiel, chapters 38, 39) At that time, we will need our brothers more than ever. We may find ourselves in need of help by the very ones we do not particularly appreciate. Or these very ones may be in dire need of our help. Now is the time to widen out and increase our appreciation for all our brothers.
22 Appreciation for our brothers includes, of course, proper respect for the congregation elders. In this regard, the elders themselves should be fine examples by showing proper appreciation not only for all the brothers but also for their fellow elders. This aspect of the subject will be considered in the following article.
Points for Review
□ What is the distinctive sign of true Christianity?
□ Why are both love and brotherly affection necessary?
□ How can we love one another “intensely,” or “outstretchedly”?
□ In Romans chapter 16, how did Paul show appreciation for his brothers and sisters?
□ Why should we not be suspicious of our brothers’ motives?
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Try to discover lovable qualities in those to whom you are not naturally attracted