How Can We Respond Unselfishly to God’s Love?
“If this is how God loved us, then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.”—1 JOHN 4:11.
1, 2. What is required for us to respond unselfishly to demonstrations of God’s love?
JEHOVAH is the very personification of love. Indeed, in the previous article, we saw how bountiful the manifestations of his love actually are. We also noted how Moses, David, and Jesus Christ responded unselfishly to those demonstrations of love. Should not each one of Jehovah’s Witnesses want to do the same? Surely!
2 What is required if we are to respond unselfishly to expressions of God’s love? For one thing, we must give him the first place in our lives, loving him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:29, 30) That means being God-oriented, having a warm personal relationship with Jehovah. Do we desire to talk to our heavenly Father in prayer? Are we praying incessantly and persevering in prayer? Or do we hurry through our prayers, at times even being too busy to pray? (Romans 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) Do we direct attention to Jehovah, giving him and his organization credit for what we may have accomplished? (1 Corinthians 3:7; 4:7) Indeed, do we feel as did the psalmist? Concerning God, he said: “Seven times in the day I have praised you.”—Psalm 119:164.
3. When we get together socially, how may we show that we are responding unselfishly to God’s love?
3 Whether we are responding unselfishly to God’s love or not may well be revealed when we get together for a good time socially. Does our conversation then revolve around secular matters or spiritual things? It is not that we need to have a serious Bible study every time we get together with fellow Christians. But surely we can find some interesting things of a spiritual nature to include in our conversation. What about relating field experiences, discussing our favorite Bible text, telling how we learned the truth, or citing evidences of God’s loving care and blessing?
4. How should we view matters if we are disappointed as regards some privilege of service?
4 Another circumstance that may reveal the degree of our appreciation for God’s love is when we are overlooked with respect to some privilege of service in Jehovah’s organization. How do we react? If we are chiefly concerned with honoring Jehovah, we will agree that most likely God will be honored equally well by whoever has the particular privilege of service. (Compare Luke 9:48.) But if we are unduly concerned with our own advantage or name, we will be distressed that we have been overlooked, as we may think. We should remember that Jehovah loves us and may even know that at present we cannot carry the weight of a certain theocratic responsibility. He may be blessing us richly in other ways, and such manifestations of his love should help us to keep our spiritual balance.—Proverbs 10:22.
Loving Righteousness, Hating Lawlessness
5. Manifestations of God’s love should have what effect on our conduct?
5 Manifestations of God’s love toward us should motivate us to imitate Christ in loving righteousness and hating lawlessness. (Hebrews 1:9) True, we cannot do this perfectly, as Jesus did. Yet, we can make it our goal to be as holy, honest, and law-abiding as possible in our imperfect condition. To do this, we must not only develop a love for righteous and good things but also cultivate a hatred, an aversion, a loathing, for what is wicked. As the apostle Paul expressed it: “Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9) “Abhor” is a very strong word, meaning “to regard with extreme repugnance.”—Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary.
6. What will help us to guard against temptations put in our way by the world, our sinful flesh, and the Devil?
6 What will help us to guard against temptations thrust in our way by the world, our own sinful flesh, and the Devil? Loyalty to Jehovah God. He appeals to us: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Proverbs 27:11) Yes, loyalty to Jehovah will motivate us to take the wise course of hating what he hates. Further, no matter how pleasurable or exciting the breaking of one of God’s laws may seem to be, we must keep telling ourselves that doing so is just not worth it. (Galatians 6:7, 8) The human heart is treacherous, devious, deceitful, even as we are reminded at Jeremiah 17:9. The Christian heart likes good, beautiful, pure things. But at times sinful tendencies incline it to desire also what is bad. Like the hearts of the Israelites who worshiped Jehovah and yet kept their idolatrous “high places,” so our own heart may be selfish and tricky. (1 Kings 22:43; Deuteronomy 12:2) Our imperfect heart may try to find excuses to put us in the way of temptation. It may try to minimize the seriousness of the wrongdoing with which we are tempted. Or our heart may try to convince us that any punishment will merely be temporary.
7. Why must we guard against craving what is bad?
7 Out of appreciation for God’s love, we must guard against craving what is bad, such as leaning toward sexual immorality, whether we are single or married. Time and again, what started out as a seemingly harmless flirtation has resulted in two Christians’ becoming so emotionally involved with each other that they have practiced sin and have been disfellowshipped. Even elders, who should be irreprehensible examples to the flock, have come to grief in these matters!—Compare 1 Kings 15:4, 5.
8. What warning example does the apostle Paul give us, and how may such a problem be illustrated?
8 Consider the apostle Paul, who was blessed with supernatural visions and powers and with the gift of divine inspiration. To succeed in his struggle against sinful tendencies, he had to pummel—yes, severely beat—his body. Do we dare content ourselves with doing any less? (Romans 7:15-25; 1 Corinthians 9:27) It is as though we were in a small rowboat on a swiftly flowing river and were being pulled toward its falls. To avert disaster, we must strenuously row upstream against the strong current. We may not seem to be making much progress, but as long as we keep exerting ourselves vigorously, we will not go over the falls to our destruction. Surely, manifestations of Jehovah God’s love toward us should cause us to exert ourselves vigorously to be loyal to him by hating lawlessness and loving righteousness.
Display Brotherly Love
9. What counsel does the apostle John give as to loving our brothers?
9 The manifestations of God’s love should also motivate us to love our brothers as Jesus Christ loves his disciples. (John 13:1) Most fittingly, the apostle John states: “The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins. Beloved ones, if this is how God loved us, then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.” (1 John 4:10, 11) In fact, Jesus said that the way his true followers can be identified is by the love they have among themselves.—John 13:34, 35.
10, 11. What are some of the ways in which we can demonstrate brotherly love?
10 We know that Christians should show brotherly love. But it is not amiss to remind ourselves of the various ways in which we can show this Christlike love for one another. Such love will help us to ignore differences as regards race, nationality, education, culture, and economic level. Moreover, brotherly love will move us to come together in meetings. If we truly love our brothers, we will not let inclement weather or a slight physical indisposition deprive us of the joy of associating with them and sharing in an interchange of encouragement. (Romans 1:11, 12) More than that, brotherly love will make us prepare well for our meetings and take an active part in them so that we can incite one another to love and fine works.—Hebrews 10:23-25.
11 What about helping our brothers in the field ministry? It has been observed that elders and ministerial servants often engage in the house-to-house ministry with one another or by themselves when they could, with a little planning, invite Kingdom publishers needing help in the ministry to accompany them. Showing love in this way will make the field service of elders and ministerial servants doubly rewarding. And what about taking a new publisher along on a home Bible study?—Romans 15:1, 2.
12. How are we to understand 1 John 3:16-18?
12 Love will also cause us to come to the aid of our brothers who may be in real material need. The apostle John wrote: “By this we have come to know love, because that one surrendered his soul for us; and we are under obligation to surrender our souls for our brothers. But whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:16-18) We may not now be asked to surrender our souls in their behalf, but at times we do have opportunities to express love for them in other ways, not merely in word or with the tongue but also with deeds. There is nothing wrong with loving our brothers in word, but we do not want to limit our love to this when they are in need of material things. Jesus’ statement that “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving” applies also to providing material help.—Acts 20:35.
13. (a) What are some of the basic truths we learned with the help of Jehovah’s visible organization? (b) What valid point did Charles Taze Russell make?
13 We have the opportunity to show love for our brothers who take the lead in the congregation or in connection with Jehovah’s visible organization worldwide. This includes being loyal to “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Let us face the fact that no matter how much Bible reading we have done, we would never have learned the truth on our own. We would not have discovered the truth regarding Jehovah, his purposes and attributes, the meaning and importance of his name, the Kingdom, Jesus’ ransom, the difference between God’s organization and Satan’s, nor why God has permitted wickedness. It is just as the Watch Tower Society’s first president, Charles Taze Russell, wrote in 1914: “Are we not a blessed, happy people? Is not our God faithful? If any one knows anything better, let him take it. If any of you ever find anything better, we hope you will tell us. We know of nothing better nor half as good as what we have found in the Word of God. . . . No tongue or pen can tell the peace, the joy and the blessing which a clear knowledge of the true God has brought into our heart and life. The Story of God’s Wisdom, Justice, Power and Love fully satisfies the cravings of both our head and our heart. We are seeking no further. There is nothing more to be desired than to get this wonderful Story more clearly before our mind.” (The Watch Tower, December 15, 1914, pages 377-8) How true those well-penned words!
Ministering to Those on the Outside
14. How should expressions of God’s love motivate us to act toward those on the outside?
14 The expressions of God’s love that we have enjoyed should motivate us to show neighbor love to those outside the congregation. How may we do this? Circumstances may indicate that we can help our neighbors in a material way. But, what is much more important, we can show neighbor love by bringing others the good news of God’s Kingdom and assisting lovers of righteousness to become disciples of Jesus Christ. Do we regularly engage in this public ministry, or are we neglecting it? Has it become a mere routine or token form of service? Or are we truly motivated by neighbor love? Do we manifest empathy? Are we patient, waiting for people to respond? Do we encourage householders to express themselves? Yes, instead of doing all the talking, let us allow love of neighbor to move us to listen and to have rewarding Bible discussions with people we meet in our ministry.
15. (a) Why is “informal witnessing” a better term than “incidental witnessing”? (b) Why take advantage of opportunities to witness informally?
15 Are we as alert as we might be to take advantage of opportunities to witness informally? It should be noted that this is not merely incidental witnessing, suggesting activity that is not planned or is of little importance. Informal witnessing is very important, and love for fellow humans will impel us to make opportunities to participate in it. How fruitful such witnessing often is! For instance, while attending a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in northern Italy, a brother went to a garage to get an automobile headlight replaced. While waiting, he witnessed to those around him and gave them handbills inviting them to the public Bible talk on Sunday. At an international convention in Rome a year later, a brother he did not recognize greeted him warmly. Who was this brother? Why, he was one of those men to whom he had given a handbill at the garage the year before! The man had gone to hear the public talk and had turned in his name for a Bible study. Now both he and his wife are dedicated Witnesses of Jehovah. There is no question that informal witnessing can be very rewarding!
Keep On Responding to God’s Love
16. What questions may we do well to ask ourselves?
16 Jehovah has truly been bounteous in manifesting love for his creatures. As we have noted, the Scriptures give us fine examples of those who have responded unselfishly to manifestations of God’s love. Most fittingly, the inspired psalmist exclaimed: “O let people give thanks to Jehovah for his loving-kindness and for his wonderful works to the sons of men.” (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31) Dare we accept God’s undeserved kindness and miss its purpose? Never may that happen! (2 Corinthians 6:1) So let each of us individually ask ourselves: ‘Do I really appreciate expressions of God’s love that I have already enjoyed and confidently hope to enjoy further in the future? Are they motivating me to love Jehovah with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? Am I truly God-oriented? Do I love righteousness and hate lawlessness? Am I showing brotherly love? And how closely am I trying to walk in Jesus’ footsteps as regards my ministry?’
17. What will result if we respond unselfishly to manifestations of Jehovah God’s love?
17 Truly, there are many ways to show our sincere gratitude for all the manifestations of God’s love that we have experienced. By taking full advantage of opportunities to display such appreciation, we will make our heavenly Father’s heart glad, be a blessing to others, and receive joy, peace, and contentment ourselves. May we therefore continue to respond unselfishly to manifestations of God’s love.
How Would You Respond?
□ What is required to respond unselfishly to God’s love?
□ How can we guard against temptations?
□ What are some ways to show brotherly love?
□ How should manifestations of Jehovah’s love motivate us to act toward our neighbors?
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We must struggle against sinful tendencies to avoid disaster
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Elders show brotherly love by accompanying others in the Kingdom ministry
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Charles Taze Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, called attention to the peace, joy, and blessing that only God can provide