Take a Personal Interest in Others
“Keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.”—PHILIPPIANS 2:4.
1, 2. What are some reasons for taking a personal interest in others?
WE HAVE good reasons for taking a personal interest in others. For instance, fellow humans should interest us because we differ from one another. The genetic material of our body cells carries a blueprint of our hereditary makeup. So distinctive is it that crime-detection agencies have added genetic “fingerprinting” to their range of identification techniques.
2 There are other reasons why we differ and are interesting as individuals. From conception, we are subject to the influence of our environment. There is much evidence that unborn babies react to what goes on outside the womb. Then, after we enter the world as independent breathers, or souls, our parents’ attitudes and ways affect us. As we grow up, we may be an only child or be joined by brothers and sisters and have some share in caring for them. Such association or lack of it has a bearing on how we develop. What we read, are taught in school, and watch on television also influence our thinking and actions.
3. In harmony with Philippians 2:4, what interest should we especially have in others?
3 So, then, the way we differ promotes some interest in one another. But the apostle Paul had in mind a higher reason for interest in others. Thus, he urged fellow Christians to be ‘keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just their own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.’ (Philippians 2:4) Instead of seeking our own advantage, we should especially be interested in others spiritually. What, then, are some ways in which we take such a personal interest in others?
Spiritual Interest and Personality Differences
4. According to Ephesians 4:22-24, what changes enhance our spiritual interest in others?
4 Our spiritual interest in others is enhanced when we personally apply knowledge of Scriptural truth and learn to pattern ourselves according to Jesus Christ’s example. (1 Peter 2:21) As true Christians, we ‘put away the old personality which conforms to our former course of conduct’ and work at replacing this with “the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) Thus, selfish attitudes are progressively replaced by kind, considerate concern for others.—Isaiah 65:25.
5. Why are there different personalities in the Christian congregation, prompting what question?
5 Remarkable though changes in personality have been among Jehovah’s people, sinful tendencies still remain. Even Paul acknowledged: “When I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me.” (Romans 7:21) Of course, other inherited and acquired characteristics exist, and these identify us. Some have an artistic flair, others an analytical approach. Whereas some are quiet and reserved, others are gregarious and outgoing. How, then, is the unity of the Christian congregation to be maintained amid such personality differences?
6. How should we view personality differences, and how would you illustrate this?
6 If we are to show spiritual interest in others and preserve Christian unity, we must be realistic and understanding. Since God does not require perfection of us, we should not demand it of our Christian associates. Moreover, Jehovah does not expect all of his servants to be exactly the same. In the Christian congregation, all of us have a place and can use our inherited, God-given abilities to further his work. (1 Corinthians 12:12-26) If we keep busy laboring under the direction of the Head of the congregation, Jesus Christ, we will not have time to look at one another in a critical way. (1 Corinthians 4:1-4) As a craftsman knows, each tool is designed to do certain work. Can a hammer make the fine hole that a drill does? Will a plane used to shape wood effectively drive a screw into it? No, for each tool has its proper use.
7. As we share together in Kingdom service, what should we keep uppermost in mind?
7 How true the words of the Kingdom song “Joyful Service”! It urges: “Let us serve with joyfulness our God and King, as our gifts and talents to his work we bring.” True, we may not have outstanding ability. Yet, we keep uppermost in mind the work assigned to us as Jehovah’s Witnesses and devote ourselves to it wholeheartedly. As the song adds: “Tho’ but small our service, yet thereby we prove our heart’s full devotion and express our love.”—Sing Praises to Jehovah, song 130.
Consider Others Superior
8. How is unity promoted by applying what Paul said at Philippians 2:1-3?
8 Unity is also promoted by considering others superior to oneself. Paul wrote: “If, then, there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any sharing of spirit, if any tender affections and compassions, make my joy full in that you are of the same mind and have the same love, being joined together in soul, holding the one thought in mind.” Notice that the apostle adds: “Doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.”—Philippians 2:1-3.
9. What does it mean to be contentious and egotistical, and how can we avoid these traits?
9 Not considering others superior, a contentious person exhibits “an often perverse and wearisome tendency to quarrels and disputes.” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary) This trait may manifest itself in “debates about words.” (1 Timothy 6:4) Surely, the spirit behind the words and the thoughts they convey should be of prime concern. So avoid being a stickler for certain expressions used orally or in written material. And what if a different view about some belief is presented to you? Loyally adhere to the Scriptural information provided by God through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) After all, that is how we learned the truth in the first place. Recognizing this helps us to avoid being egotistical, that is, having an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
Develop Personal Interest in Others
10. What application of Philippians 2:4 should be made in the congregation?
10 Remember that Paul urged us to ‘keep an eye, not in personal interest upon just our own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.’ (Philippians 2:4) What does this mean? Just as being observant of our surroundings may help us in the field ministry, so taking an interest in the welfare of others in the congregation will furnish us opportunities to cement the bond of love that unites us. Particularly do elders have a responsibility to show concern for fellow believers, for a proverb states: “You ought to know positively the appearance of your flock.” (Proverbs 27:23) Of course, all of us can and should be attentive to the needs of our fellow believers.—1 Peter 2:17.
11. Why do we need to be attentive when talking to our spiritual brothers and sisters?
11 Another way to promote unity and develop interest in others is to take time to communicate well with your spiritual brothers and sisters. Find out what they are thinking. This can be done when you visit their homes, before and after meetings at the Kingdom Hall, and between sessions of our assemblies. And listen carefully when they speak. This may mean that we will hear about the difficulties they face, but then we may be able to help carry their burdens and thus fulfill the law of the Christ. (Galatians 6:2) Yet, something more than talking with our brothers will safeguard the unity of the congregation. What is that?
Manifest Fellow Feeling
12. Why should we manifest fellow feeling?
12 Fellow feeling also promotes Christian unity. With life’s mounting pressures, all of us need to manifest this quality. May we never become so intent on what we have in mind that we fail to consider the feelings of others. As an example: Just as one program participant arrived for the Service Meeting, an elder spoke to him quickly about a matter to be announced. To the elder’s surprise and shame, the participant looked at him, smiled, and said: “First, Brother, good evening!” The matter to be announced was discussed after they exchanged friendly greetings and the brother was put at ease. What a lesson that elder learned! Do not be too quick, thus ignoring the courtesies that make your relationship with others pleasant.
13. Fellow feeling moves elders to do what in dealing with their Christian associates?
13 Fellow feeling moves elders to display compassion and other fine traits. At times, these men must be gentle, “as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7) Helping some individuals calls for much patience and loving support. Those who have ‘left the love they had at first’ may need to be incited to greater activity and may need help to appreciate the urgency of our times. (Revelation 2:4; 2 Timothy 4:2; Hebrews 6:11, 12) Like Paul, elders have “tender affection” for Christian associates, exhorting and consoling them ‘to the end that they should go on walking worthily of God.’—1 Thessalonians 2:8, 11, 12.
14. What evidence did Paul give that he had fellow feeling?
14 Paul left elders a fine example of how to show loving concern for the welfare of spiritual brothers and sisters. He wrote: “Besides those things of an external kind, there is what rushes in on me from day to day, the anxiety for all the congregations.” Because Paul had such concern, he could ask: “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is stumbled, and I am not incensed?” If you are an elder, do you have such fellow feeling?—2 Corinthians 11:28, 29.
Gaining Your Brother
15. When serious difficulties arise between brothers, what counsel of Jesus at Matthew 18:15 should be followed, and what should be the aim?
15 Showing fellow feeling promotes unity among Jehovah’s servants. On rare occasions, however, personal differences may arise. When matters of a serious nature are involved, Christians are to follow Jesus’ counsel recorded at Matthew 18:15-17. Note the first step. It is to talk with your brother privately in order to “lay bare his fault.” What should be your aim? Why, ‘gaining your brother’! Said Jesus: “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Happily, speaking together privately is usually all that is needed to restore peaceful relations between you and your fellow worshiper of Jehovah.
16. What should be done if you observe that your brother has something against you?
16 If you observe that your brother has something against you, follow Jesus’ counsel to “make your peace with your brother.” (Matthew 5:24) Talk the problem over in a calm, kind manner, trying to understand each other’s viewpoint. In this way, the matter can usually be resolved and the peace of the congregation can be maintained.
17, 18. What counsel did Peter give to Christian wives living in religiously divided households?
17 One of the most difficult situations in which to apply Scriptural principles is within a religiously divided household. Many Christians labor faithfully while coping with frustrations and difficulties caused by a lack of spiritual unity in their marriage. How can they be helped?
18 Because of taking a personal interest in others, elders gladly provide spiritual help for those living in religiously divided households. For instance, attention may be directed to Peter’s counsel about the conduct of Christian wives in this situation. He tells them to be in subjection to their husbands, even if these are unbelievers and “not obedient to the word.” Why be in subjection? “In order that . . . they may be won [or, gained] without a word through the conduct of their wives.” (1 Peter 3:1; Kingdom Interlinear) But how effective is it to apply this counsel?
19. Give an example to illustrate the benefit of applying 1 Peter 3:1.
19 A woman named Vera admits that when she first became a Christian, she constantly talked to her husband about Bible truth, and he became fed up with it. “Following Scriptural advice received from an elder,” she adds, “I decided that it was better to be tactful and wait for favorable opportunities to present themselves.” Basically, Vera applied 1 Peter 3:1, although she took some initiative to prompt her husband, Barry, to discuss Bible principles. He later explained: “Over the years, I noticed that Awake! [companion journal of The Watchtower] appeared in unusual places about the house. It contained items that were practical and sometimes ahead of the news.” As a result, after 20 years of disunity, Barry and Vera are happy to be united in Jehovah’s service.
20. What help can elders give Christian husbands in religiously divided households?
20 A believing husband faces great difficulties if his wife is opposed to true Christianity and influences their children against him. Taking a personal interest in such a man, elders can draw attention to helpful Bible principles. For instance, it can be pointed out that despite his wife’s opposition, he is the family head and should give his children Scriptural instruction. (Ephesians 6:4) He can be urged to dwell with his wife “according to knowledge,” showing interest in what she does and helping her with household duties and the care of the children. (1 Peter 3:7) Above all, the believing husband and father should be encouraged to keep the lines of communication open so that he learns what is in the heart of each member of his family. The elders may also encourage him to keep on trying to help his wife with words “seasoned with salt,” tactfully presenting Scriptural truth to her on appropriate occasions.—Colossians 4:6.
21. How might an unbelieving wife be helped to take an interest in the truth?
21 Showing interest in relatives of Christians in religiously divided households sometimes sparks a response to the Kingdom message. To illustrate: One Christian man was discouraged because his wife had bitterly opposed him for several years. An elder offered to call and help with a Bible discussion. Arriving at the home, the elder greeted the wife pleasantly and asked: “Would you care to sit in with us?” That friendly invitation so impressed the woman that she gladly joined in the discussion. Soon she accepted the truth and began to preach to others.
22. Why take personal interest in one another?
22 As Jehovah’s Witnesses, then, let us “do all things for the sake of the good news.” (1 Corinthians 9:23) Indeed, “as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) May we take personal interest in one another so that love will flourish in our worldwide brotherhood.
How Would You Answer?
◻ Why, especially, should we be interested in others?
◻ How can we develop personal interest in fellow believers?
◻ How may elders express fellow feeling?
◻ What may result from our taking personal interest in unbelievers?
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As each tool is designed to do a certain work, all in the Christian congregation can use God-given abilities to further God’s work
To promote Christian unity, take a personal interest in others
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Paul left elders a fine example of how to show loving concern for fellow believers