“Follow Me Continually”
“To this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 PETER 2:21.
1, 2. Why is Jesus’ perfect example as a teacher not too lofty for us to imitate?
JESUS CHRIST was by far the greatest Teacher ever to walk the earth. Furthermore, he was perfect, never sinning during his whole life course as a man. (1 Peter 2:22) Does that mean, though, that Jesus’ example as a teacher is too lofty for us imperfect humans to imitate? Not at all.
2 As we saw in the preceding article, the foundation of Jesus’ teaching was love. And love is something that all of us can cultivate. God’s Word often urges us to grow and improve in our love for others. (Philippians 1:9; Colossians 3:14) Jehovah never expects from his creatures what they are unable to do. In fact, since “God is love” and has made us in his own image, it can be said that he designed us to show love. (1 John 4:8; Genesis 1:27) So when we read the apostle Peter’s words recorded in our theme text, we may respond with confidence. We can follow Christ’s footsteps closely. In fact, we can obey Jesus’ own command: “Follow me continually.” (Luke 9:23) Let us consider how we may imitate the love Christ showed, first for the truths he taught, then for the people he taught.
Building Love for Truths We Learn
3. Why do some find it difficult to study, but what exhortation is found at Proverbs 2:1-5?
3 To love the truths that we teach others, we must love learning such truths ourselves. In today’s world, that sort of love does not always come easily. Such factors as deficient schooling and bad habits developed in youth leave many with an abiding dislike of studying. It is essential, however, that we learn from Jehovah. Proverbs 2:1-5 says: “My son, if you will receive my sayings and treasure up my own commandments with yourself, so as to pay attention to wisdom with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment; if, moreover, you call out for understanding itself and you give forth your voice for discernment itself, if you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God.”
4. What does it mean to “incline” the heart, and what viewpoint will help us to do so?
4 Notice that in verses 1 through 4, we are repeatedly urged to put forth effort not only to “receive” and “treasure up” but also to “keep seeking” and “keep searching.” What, though, is to motivate us to do all of this? Well, note the phrase “incline your heart to discernment.” One reference work says that this exhortation “is not an appeal for attention only; it is a demand for a certain attitude: an eager receptivity toward the teachings.” And what can make us receptive and eager to learn what Jehovah teaches us? Our viewpoint. We need to view “the very knowledge of God” as “silver” and as “hid treasures.”
5, 6. (a) What might happen in time, and how can we prevent that? (b) Why should we keep adding to the treasures of knowledge we have found in the Bible?
5 It is not hard to acquire such a viewpoint. For example, the “knowledge of God” that you have taken in likely includes the truth that Jehovah purposes that faithful mankind live forever in Paradise on earth. (Psalm 37:28, 29) When you first learned that truth, you no doubt viewed it as a genuine treasure, a piece of knowledge that filled your mind and heart with hope and joy. What about now? Over time, has appreciation for your treasure become faded or tarnished? Try, then, to do two things. First, renew your appreciation, that is, refresh your mind regularly as to why you value each truth that Jehovah has taught you, even those you learned many years ago.
6 Second, keep adding to your treasure. After all, if you happened to dig up a precious gem, would you simply pocket it and walk away contented? Or would you dig to see if there were more? God’s Word is full of gems and nuggets of truth. No matter how many you have found, you can find more. (Romans 11:33) As you unearth a nugget of truth, ask yourself: ‘What makes it a treasure? Does it give me deeper insight into Jehovah’s personality or his purposes? Does it offer some practical guidance that can help me to follow in Jesus’ footsteps?’ Meditating on such questions will help you to build up your love for the truths Jehovah has taught you.
Showing Love for Truths We Teach
7, 8. What are some ways in which we can show others that we love the truths we have learned from the Bible? Give an example.
7 As we teach others, how can we show that we love the truths we have learned from God’s Word? Following Jesus’ example, we rely heavily on the Bible in our preaching and teaching. In recent times, God’s people around the world have been encouraged to make greater use of the Bible in their public ministry. As you apply that suggestion, seek ways to let the householder know that you yourself value what you are sharing from the Bible.—Matthew 13:52.
8 For example, in the wake of last year’s terrorist attack in New York City, one Christian sister was sharing Psalm 46:1, 11 with the people she met in her ministry. She first asked people how they were coping in the aftermath of the tragedy. She listened carefully to their response, acknowledged it, then said: “May I share a scripture with you that has really comforted me during this difficult time?” Very few refused, and many excellent discussions resulted. In talking with young people, the same sister often says: “I have been teaching the Bible for 50 years now, and do you know what? I have never come across a single problem that this book can’t help to solve.” By using a sincere, enthusiastic approach, we show people that we value and love what we have learned from God’s Word.—Psalm 119:97, 105.
9, 10. Why is it important to use the Bible when replying to questions about our beliefs?
9 When people ask us questions about our beliefs, we have a choice opportunity to show that we love God’s Word. Following Jesus’ example, we do not simply base our answers on our own ideas. (Proverbs 3:5, 6) Rather, we make use of the Bible in replying. Do you fear that someone might ask you a question that you will not be able to answer? Consider two positive steps you can take.
10 Do what you can to be prepared. The apostle Peter wrote: “Sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) Are you ready to defend your beliefs? For example, if someone wants to know why you do not take part in some unscriptural custom or practice, do not be satisfied with saying, “It’s against my religion.” Such an answer may suggest that you let others make your decisions for you and that you must therefore be a member of a cult. It might be better to say, “God’s Word, the Bible, forbids it” or, “It would displease my God.” Then give a reasonable explanation as to why.—Romans 12:1.
11. What research tool may help us to be ready to answer questions about the truths of God’s Word?
11 If you feel unprepared, why not spend some time studying the book Reasoning From the Scriptures if it is available in your language?a Pick out a few subjects that seem likely to arise, and commit some Scriptural points to memory. Keep your Reasoning book and your Bible handy. Do not hesitate to use them both, saying that you have a research tool that you like to use to help find the Bible’s answer to questions.
12. How might we respond if we do not know the answer to a Bible question?
12 Try not to worry unduly. No imperfect human has all the answers. So when asked a Bible question that you cannot answer, you can always reply to this effect: “Thank you for raising such an interesting question. To be honest, I don’t know the answer, but I’m sure the Bible addresses the matter. I love doing Bible research, so I’ll look into your question and get back to you.” Such a candid, modest approach may well pave the way for further discussions.—Proverbs 11:2.
Love for the People We Teach
13. Why should we maintain a positive outlook regarding those to whom we preach?
13 Jesus showed love for the people he taught. How may we imitate him in this regard? Never should we develop a callous attitude toward the people around us. Granted, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” is looming ever nearer, and many among mankind’s billions will be destroyed. (Revelation 16:14; Jeremiah 25:33) Yet, we do not know who will live and who will die. That judgment lies in the future and belongs to the one Jehovah has appointed, Jesus Christ. Until the judgment is passed, we view each individual as having the potential to become a servant of Jehovah.—Matthew 19:24-26; 25:31-33; Acts 17:31.
14. (a) How might we examine ourselves as to whether we are empathetic toward people? (b) In what practical ways may we show empathy and personal interest in others?
14 Like Jesus, then, we seek to empathize with people. We may ask ourselves: ‘Do I feel for people who have been deceived by the clever lies and deceptions of this world’s religious, political, and commercial elements? If they seem apathetic toward the message we bring them, do I seek to understand why they feel as they do? Do I recognize that I, or others currently serving Jehovah faithfully, once felt similarly? Have I adapted my approach accordingly? Or do I dismiss these people as being beyond hope?’ (Revelation 12:9) When people sense our genuine empathy, they are more likely to respond to our message. (1 Peter 3:8) Empathy may also move us to take more of an interest in the people we meet in our ministry. We might take note of their questions and concerns. When we return, we may show them that we have been thinking about remarks they made on a previous visit. And if they have some pressing need at the moment, we may be in a position to offer some practical help.
15. Why should we look for the good in people, and how might we do so?
15 Like Jesus, we look for the good in people. Perhaps a single parent is making an admirable effort to raise her children. A man is struggling to support his family. An elderly person shows an interest in spiritual matters. Do we notice such factors in the people we meet and commend them accordingly? In doing so, we stress the common ground between us and may open the way for giving a witness about the Kingdom.—Acts 26:2, 3.
Humility Essential in Showing Love
16. Why is it important to remain mild and respectful toward those to whom we preach?
16 Love for the people we teach will move us to heed the Bible’s wise warning: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) Jesus had great knowledge, yet he was never overbearing. So as you share your beliefs, avoid an argumentative tone or an air of superiority. Our goal is to reach hearts and attract people to the truths we so love. (Colossians 4:6) Remember, when Peter counseled Christians to be ready to make a defense, he included the reminder that we should do so “together with a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) If we are mild and respectful, we are more likely to draw people to the God we serve.
17, 18. (a) How should we respond to critical attitudes about our qualifications as ministers? (b) Why is a knowledge of ancient Biblical languages not essential for Bible students?
17 There is no need to impress people with our knowledge or education. If some in your territory refuse to listen to anyone who does not have certain university degrees or titles, do not let their attitude discourage you. Jesus paid no heed to the objection that he had not attended the prestigious rabbinic schools of his day; nor did he bow to popular prejudices by trying to impress people with his vast learning.—John 7:15.
18 Humility and love are far more important to Christian ministers than is any amount of secular education. The Great Educator, Jehovah, qualifies us for the ministry. (2 Corinthians 3:5, 6) And regardless of what some of Christendom’s clergy say, we do not need to learn ancient Biblical languages in order to become teachers of God’s Word. Jehovah inspired the Bible to be written in such clear, concrete terms that virtually everyone can grasp its precious truths. Those truths remain intact even when translated into hundreds upon hundreds of languages. So a knowledge of ancient languages, while occasionally useful, is not essential. Furthermore, pride in having linguistic ability can cause one to lose a trait that is essential to true Christians—teachableness.—1 Timothy 6:4.
19. In what sense is our Christian ministry a service?
19 There can be no doubt that our Christian ministry is a work that requires a humble attitude. We regularly expose ourselves to opposition, indifference, even persecution. (John 15:20) Yet, by faithfully carrying out our ministry, we are performing a vital service. If we keep humbly serving others in this work, we are imitating the love Jesus Christ showed toward people. Consider: If we had to preach to a thousand indifferent or opposed people in order to reach a single sheeplike individual, would that not be worth the effort? Certainly! So by persisting in the work, never giving up, we are faithfully serving the sheeplike ones we have yet to reach. No doubt Jehovah and Jesus will make sure that many more such precious individuals will be found and helped before the end comes.—Haggai 2:7.
20. What are some ways in which we may teach by example?
20 Teaching by example is another way to show our willingness to serve others. For instance, we want to teach people that serving Jehovah, “the happy God,” is the best, most fulfilling way of life possible. (1 Timothy 1:11) As they observe our conduct and our dealings with our neighbors, schoolmates, and workmates, can they see that we are happy and fulfilled? Similarly, we teach Bible students that the Christian congregation is an oasis of love in a cold, fierce world. Can our students readily see that we love all in the congregation and work hard at preserving peace with one another?—1 Peter 4:8.
21, 22. (a) Self-examination regarding our ministry can lead us to take advantage of what opportunities? (b) What will be discussed in articles in the next issue of The Watchtower?
21 A willing attitude toward our ministry may, at times, motivate us to reexamine ourselves. Doing so honestly, many find that they are in a position to expand their service by taking up the full-time ministry or by moving to serve where the need is greater. Others have decided to learn a foreign language to serve a growing immigrant community right in their home territory. If such options are open to you, give them careful and prayerful consideration. A life of service brings great joy, satisfaction, and peace of mind.—Ecclesiastes 5:12.
22 By all means, let us continue to imitate Jesus Christ by building up our love for the truths we teach and for the people we teach. Developing and manifesting love in these two respects will help us to lay a fine foundation for being Christlike teachers. How, though, can we build upon that foundation? In the next issue of The Watchtower, a series of articles will discuss some of the specific teaching methods that Jesus used.
a Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
How Would You Answer?
• What assurance do we have that Jesus’ example as a teacher is not too lofty for us to imitate?
• How may we show that we love the truths we have learned from the Bible?
• Why is it important to remain humble as we grow in knowledge?
• What are some ways in which we may show love for the people we endeavor to teach?
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Do what you can to be prepared
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If you treasure the “knowledge of God,” you can use the Bible effectively
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We show love for people by sharing the good news with them