“Have Tender Affection for One Another”
“In brotherly love have tender affection for one another.”—ROMANS 12:10.
1, 2. What relationship with their brothers did one modern-day missionary and the apostle Paul enjoy?
THROUGHOUT his 43 years of missionary service in the Far East, Don was known for the warmth he felt for those he served. As he now lay fighting his final illness, some of his former students traveled thousands of miles to his bedside to say, “Kamsahamnida, kamsahamnida!”—“Thank you, thank you!” in Korean. Don’s tender affection had touched their hearts.
2 This example involving Don is not unique. In the first century, the apostle Paul expressed deep affection for those he served. Paul gave of himself. Though he was a man of strong conviction, he was also gentle and caring, “as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” He wrote to the congregation in Thessalonica: “Having a tender affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the good news of God, but also our own souls, because you became beloved to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8) Later, when Paul told his Ephesian brothers that they would not see him again, “weeping broke out among them all, and they fell upon Paul’s neck and tenderly kissed him.” (Acts 20:25, 37) Clearly, the relationship between Paul and his brothers went far deeper than shared belief. They had tender affection for one another.
Tender Affection and Love
3. How are the Bible terms for affection and love related?
3 In the Scriptures, tender affection, fellow feeling, and compassion are all intimately linked with the noblest of Christian qualities—love. (1 Thessalonians 2:8; 2 Peter 1:7) Like the facets of a beautiful diamond, all these godly qualities balance and complement one another. They draw Christians closer not only to one another but also to their heavenly Father. Hence, the apostle Paul urged his fellow believers: “Let your love be without hypocrisy. . . . In brotherly love have tender affection for one another.”—Romans 12:9, 10.
4. What is meant by the expression “tender affection”?
4 The Greek word that Paul used for “tender affection” is made up of two parts, one meaning friendship and the other, natural affection. As one Bible scholar explains, this means that Christians “are to be marked by a devotion that is characteristic of a loving, close-knit, and mutually supportive family.” Is that how you feel about your Christian brothers and sisters? A warm atmosphere—a feeling of kinship—should permeate the Christian congregation. (Galatians 6:10) Thus, The New Testament in Modern English, by J. B. Phillips, renders Romans 12:10: “Let us have real warm affection for one another as between brothers.” And The Jerusalem Bible reads: “Love each other as much as brothers should.” Yes, love among Christians involves more than just logic and duty. “With unhypocritical brotherly affection,” we should “love one another intensely from the heart.”—1 Peter 1:22.
“Taught by God to Love One Another”
5, 6. (a) How has Jehovah used international conventions to teach his people about Christian affection? (b) How does the bond between brothers become stronger over a period of time?
5 Although in this world “the love of the greater number” is cooling off, Jehovah is teaching his modern-day people “to love one another.” (Matthew 24:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:9) International conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses provide outstanding occasions for this training. At these conventions, local Witnesses meet brothers from faraway lands, and many have opened their homes to foreign delegates. At one recent convention, some came from countries where people tend to be reserved when expressing their emotions. “When these delegates first arrived, they were very nervous and timid,” relates a Christian who helped with rooming. “But just six days later when they said good-bye, they and their hosts were embracing one another and weeping. They had basked in a kind of Christian love that they will never forget.” Showing hospitality to our brothers, regardless of their background, can bring out the best in both guest and host.—Romans 12:13.
6 As thrilling as such convention experiences are, an even more intimate relationship develops when Christians serve Jehovah together over a period of time. When we know our brothers well, we can more fully appreciate their endearing qualities—their truthfulness, trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness, generosity, consideration, compassion, and unselfishness. (Psalm 15:3-5; Proverbs 19:22) Mark, who served as a missionary in East Africa, said, “Working shoulder to shoulder with our brothers forges a bond that is unbreakable.”
7. What is required for us to enjoy Christian affection in the congregation?
7 To achieve and maintain such a bond within a congregation, members must draw close to one another. By regularly attending Christian meetings, we strengthen the attachment we have with our brothers and sisters. By being present and involved before, during, and after meetings, we encourage and incite one another “to love and fine works.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) “I fondly recall,” relates an elder in the United States, “that when I was a child, my family was always among the last to leave the Kingdom Hall, enjoying the friendly and meaningful conversation as long as possible.”
Do You Need to “Widen Out”?
8. (a) What did Paul mean when he urged the Corinthians to “widen out”? (b) What can we do to promote affection within the congregation?
8 To share fully in such affection, we may need to “widen out” in our hearts. To the congregation in Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote: “Our heart has widened out. You are not cramped for room within us.” Paul urged them to “widen out” in response. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13) Can you too “widen out” in your affections? You need not wait for others to reach out to you. In his letter to the Romans, Paul coupled the need for having tender affection with this advice: “In showing honor to one another take the lead.” (Romans 12:10) To show honor to others, you can take the initiative to greet them at meetings. You may also invite them to join you in the field ministry or in preparing for a meeting. Doing so paves the way for tender affection to grow.
9. What steps have some taken to become closer friends with fellow Christians? (Include any local examples.)
9 Families and individuals in the congregation can “widen out” by visiting one another, perhaps sharing a simple meal, and by participating in wholesome activities together. (Luke 10:42; 14:12-14) Hakop occasionally arranges picnics for small groups. “All ages are present, as well as single parents,” he relates. “Everyone carries home happy memories, and they feel closer to one another.” As Christians, we should strive to be not only fellow believers but also true friends.—3 John 14.
10. What can we do when relationships are strained?
10 At times, however, imperfections may pose a challenge to cultivating friendship and affection. What can we do? First, we can pray for good relations with our brothers. It is God’s will that his servants get along well, and he will answer such sincere prayers. (1 John 4:20, 21; 5:14, 15) We should also take action in harmony with our prayers. Ric, a traveling minister in East Africa, recalls a brother whose abrasive personality made him hard to get along with. “Instead of avoiding the brother, I resolved to get to know him better,” Ric explains. “It turned out that the brother’s father had been a strict disciplinarian. Once I understood how hard the brother had struggled to overcome this background and how far he had come, I admired him. We became good friends.”—1 Peter 4:8.
Open Your Heart!
11. (a) What is needed in order for affection to grow in the congregation? (b) Why can remaining emotionally distant from others be spiritually damaging?
11 Today, many people go through life without ever developing a close friendship with anyone. How sad! This need not—and should not—be the case in the Christian congregation. Genuine brotherly love is not mere polite conversation and courteous manners; nor is it gushing over others in boisterous displays of emotion. Rather, we should be willing to open our heart, as Paul did toward the Corinthians, and show our fellow believers that we are truly concerned about their welfare. Although not everyone is by nature gregarious or expressive, being overly withdrawn can be damaging. “One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing,” warns the Bible. “Against all practical wisdom he will break forth.”—Proverbs 18:1.
12. Why is good communication essential to close relationships in the congregation?
12 Honest communication is fundamental to true friendship. (John 15:15) We all need friends in whom we can confide our innermost thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, the better we know one another, the easier it is to accommodate one another’s needs. When we look out for one another’s interests in this way, we promote tender affection, and we will experience the truth of Jesus’ words: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35; Philippians 2:1-4.
13. What can we do to show that we have true affection for our brothers?
13 For our affection to do the most good, we need to express it. (Proverbs 27:5) When our affection is real, our face likely shows it, and it may move the heart of others to respond. “The brightness of the eyes makes the heart rejoice,” wrote the wise man. (Proverbs 15:30) Thoughtful acts also promote tender affection. Although no one can buy true affection, a gift given from the heart can be very meaningful. A card, a letter, and “a word spoken at the right time”—all of these can express deep affection. (Proverbs 25:11; 27:9) Once we have gained the friendship of others, we must maintain it by continuing to show unselfish affection. Especially in times of need, we will want to be there for our friends. The Bible says: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.”—Proverbs 17:17.
14. What can we do if someone seems not to respond to our affection?
14 Realistically, we cannot expect to be close to everyone in the congregation. There will naturally be some to whom we feel closer than we do to others. So if someone does not seem to warm up to you as you would like, do not quickly conclude that there is something wrong with you or with that person. And do not try to force a close relationship on that one. If you simply extend as much friendliness as the person will allow, you help keep the door open for closer relations in the future.
“I Have Approved You”
15. What effect does commendation, or the lack of it, have on others?
15 How Jesus must have rejoiced when at his baptism, he heard the words from heaven: “I have approved you”! (Mark 1:11) This expression of acceptance must have deepened Jesus’ conviction that his Father had affection for him. (John 5:20) Sadly, some never hear such commendation from those they respect and love. “Many younger ones like me do not have family members who share their Christian beliefs,” notes Ann. “At home we hear only criticism. This makes us very sad.” When they become part of the congregation, however, they feel the warmth of a supportive, caring spiritual family—fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters in the faith.—Mark 10:29, 30; Galatians 6:10.
16. Why is displaying a critical attitude toward others not helpful?
16 In some cultures, parents, older ones, and teachers rarely express wholehearted approval of younger ones, thinking that such praise might make them complacent or proud. Such thinking can even affect Christian families and the congregation. Commenting on a talk or other effort, older ones may say: “That was all right, but you can do better!” Or in some other way, they may even suggest displeasure with a younger one. In so doing, many believe that they are motivating younger ones to reach their full potential. But this approach often has the opposite effect, since young ones may withdraw or feel unable to measure up.
17. Why should we seek opportunities to commend others?
17 Commendation, however, should not be given only as a prelude to counsel. Sincere commendation promotes tender affection within the family and the congregation, thus encouraging younger ones to seek out experienced brothers and sisters for advice. So rather than letting culture dictate how we treat others, let us “put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” Commend as Jehovah does.—Ephesians 4:24.
18. (a) Young ones, how should you regard counsel from older ones? (b) Why are older ones careful about how they offer counsel?
18 On the other hand, young ones, do not conclude that if older ones offer you correction or advice, it means that they dislike you. (Ecclesiastes 7:9) On the contrary! They are likely moved by their concern and deep affection for you. Otherwise, why would they go to the trouble of speaking to you about the matter? Knowing the impact words can have, older ones—particularly congregation elders—often devote much time to thought and prayer before offering counsel, since they want only to do good.—1 Peter 5:5.
“Jehovah Is Very Tender in Affection”
19. Why can those who have suffered disappointments look to Jehovah for support?
19 Unpleasant experiences may have left some with the feeling that showing tender affection would lead only to further disappointment. It takes courage and strong faith for them to open their heart to others once again. But they should never forget that Jehovah “is not far off from each one of us.” He invites us to draw close to him. (Acts 17:27; James 4:8) He also understands our fear of being hurt, and he promises to stand by us and help us. The psalmist David assures us: “Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.”—Psalm 34:18.
20, 21. (a) How do we know that we can have a close relationship with Jehovah? (b) What is required to enjoy intimacy with Jehovah?
20 An intimate friendship with Jehovah is the most important relationship we can cultivate. But is such a bond really possible? Yes. The Bible reveals how very close righteous men and women felt to our heavenly Father. Their warm expressions have been preserved to give us confidence that we too can draw close to Jehovah.—Psalms 23, 34, 139; John 16:27; Romans 15:4.
21 Jehovah’s requirements for intimacy with him are within the reach of everyone. “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent?” asked David. “He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness and speaking the truth in his heart.” (Psalm 15:1, 2; 25:14) As we see that serving God produces good fruit and wins us his guidance and protection, we will come to know that “Jehovah is very tender in affection.”—James 5:11.
22. What kind of relationship does Jehovah want his people to enjoy?
22 How blessed we are that Jehovah desires to have such a personal relationship with imperfect humans! Should we not then display tender affection for one another? With Jehovah’s help, each one of us can contribute to and enjoy the tender affection that is characteristic of our Christian brotherhood. Under God’s Kingdom, everyone on earth will share in this affection forever.
Can You Explain?
• What kind of atmosphere should exist in the Christian congregation?
• How can each of us contribute to tender affection in the congregation?
• How does sincere commendation promote Christian affection?
• How does Jehovah’s tender affection support and sustain us?
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Love among Christians reflects more than just duty
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Can you “widen out” in your affection?
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Are you critical or encouraging?