Christ’s Love Moves Us to Love
“Jesus, having loved his own that were in the world, loved them to the end.”—JOHN 13:1.
1, 2. (a) How does Jesus’ love stand out? (b) What facets of love will we discuss in this article?
JESUS set the perfect example of love. Everything about him—his speech, his conduct, his teaching, and his sacrificial death—demonstrated his love. To the very end of his life on earth, Jesus showed love toward those whom he met and especially toward his disciples.
2 Jesus’ outstanding example of love sets a high standard for his followers to uphold. It also motivates us to show similar love toward our spiritual brothers and sisters as well as toward all others. In this article, we will consider what congregation elders can learn from Jesus about showing love toward those who commit errors, even grave errors. We will also discuss how Jesus’ love moves Christians to take positive action in times of hardship, disaster, and illness.
3. Despite Peter’s serious failings, how did Jesus regard him?
3 On the night before Jesus’ death, his own apostle Peter denied him three times. (Mark 14:66-72) Yet, once Peter had returned, as Jesus foretold he would, Jesus forgave him. Jesus entrusted Peter with weighty responsibilities. (Luke 22:32; Acts 2:14; 8:14-17; 10:44, 45) What do we learn from Jesus’ attitude toward ones who have serious failings?
Display Christ’s Mental Attitude Toward Wrongdoers
4. What situation especially calls for displaying Christ’s mental attitude?
4 Among the many situations that call for displaying Christ’s mental attitude, one that can be particularly heartrending is dealing with serious wrongdoing, whether in the family or in the congregation. Sadly, as the last days of Satan’s system come to their climax, the spirit of the world is taking an ever greater moral toll. The world’s bad or indifferent moral attitudes can rub off on young and old alike, eroding their resolve to walk the narrow way. In the first century, some had to be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation, and others were reproved. It is similar today. (1 Cor. 5:11-13; 1 Tim. 5:20) Nevertheless, when elders who handle these matters show Christlike love, this can have a profound impact on the wrongdoer.
5. How should elders imitate Christ’s attitude toward wrongdoers?
5 Like Jesus, elders must uphold Jehovah’s righteous standards at all times. In doing so, they reflect Jehovah’s mildness, kindness, and love. When someone is truly repentant, “broken at heart” and “crushed in spirit” because of his error, it may not be difficult for elders to “readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness.” (Ps. 34:18; Gal. 6:1) But what about dealing with someone who is defiant and shows little or no remorse?
6. What must elders avoid when dealing with wrongdoers, and why?
6 When a wrongdoer rejects Scriptural counsel or tries to shift the blame for his wrong, elders and others may feel indignant. Knowing the damage the person has already caused, they may be tempted to express their own feelings about the individual’s actions and attitude. Yet, anger is damaging and does not reflect “the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16; read James 1:19, 20.) Jesus warned some in his day in no uncertain terms, but never once did he say anything that was hateful or was intended to cause pain. (1 Pet. 2:23) Rather, he left the way open for wrongdoers to repent and return to Jehovah’s favor. Indeed, one of the main reasons for Jesus’ coming into the world was “to save sinners.”—1 Tim. 1:15.
7, 8. What should guide elders in handling judicial matters?
7 How should Jesus’ example in this regard affect our attitude toward those who must be disciplined by the congregation? Remember that the Scriptural arrangement for judicial action within the congregation protects the flock and may move a disciplined wrongdoer to repentance. (2 Cor. 2:6-8) It is tragic that some are unrepentant and must be disfellowshipped, yet it is heartwarming to know that a large number of such ones later return to Jehovah and his congregation. When elders show a Christlike attitude, they help to smooth the way for the person to have a change of heart and eventually to return. In the future, some of these former wrongdoers may not remember all the Scriptural counsel that the elders gave them, but they will certainly remember that the elders respected their dignity and treated them with love.
8 Elders, therefore, must display “the fruitage of the spirit,” principally Christlike love, even under trying circumstances. (Gal. 5:22, 23) They should never rush to put a wrongdoer out of the congregation. They ought to show that they want erring ones to return to Jehovah. Thus, when a sinner later has a change of heart, as many do, he may be deeply grateful both to Jehovah and to the “gifts in men” who made it easier for him to return to the congregation.—Eph. 4:8, 11, 12.
Showing Christlike Love in the Time of the End
9. Give an example of Jesus’ showing love for his disciples in a practical way.
9 Luke records an outstanding instance of Jesus’ practical love. Knowing that, in time, Roman soldiers would besiege the doomed city of Jerusalem, preventing flight, Jesus lovingly warned his disciples: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near.” What should they do? Jesus gave clear and specific advance instructions. “Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her; because these are days for meting out justice, that all the things written may be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-22) After the Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem in 66 C.E., obedient ones acted on these instructions.
10, 11. How can considering the early Christians’ flight from Jerusalem help prepare us for the “great tribulation”?
10 During their flight from Jerusalem, Christians needed to show Christlike love for one another, even as Christ had shown love for them. They surely had to share whatever they had with one another. But Jesus’ prophecy reached far beyond the razing of that ancient city. He foretold: “There will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matt. 24:17, 18, 21) Before and during that “great tribulation” yet ahead, we too may face hardships and deprivations. Having Christ’s mental attitude will help us to get through them.
11 At that time, we will need to follow Jesus’ example, showing unselfish love. In this connection, Paul counseled: “Let each of us please his neighbor in what is good for his upbuilding. For even the Christ did not please himself . . . Now may the God who supplies endurance and comfort grant you to have among yourselves the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had.”—Rom. 15:2, 3, 5.
12. What kind of love do we need to develop now, and why?
12 Peter, a recipient of Jesus’ love, similarly urged Christians to cultivate “unhypocritical brotherly affection” and to display “obedience to the truth.” They are to “love one another intensely from the heart.” (1 Pet. 1:22) Today, we need more than ever to develop such Christlike qualities. Already, pressures on all of God’s people are intensifying. No one should put his confidence in any element of this old world, as the recent turmoil in the world’s financial system vividly demonstrates. (Read 1 John 2:15-17.) Rather, as the end of this system draws ever nearer, we need to draw closer to Jehovah and to one another, cultivating genuine friendships within the congregation. Paul counseled: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead.” (Rom. 12:10) And Peter emphasized the point further, saying: “Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”—1 Pet. 4:8.
13-15. How have some brothers shown Christlike love in the aftermath of disasters?
13 Around the world, Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for putting their Christlike love into action. Consider the Witnesses who responded to the call for help after storms and hurricanes devastated widespread areas of the southern United States in 2005. Moved by Jesus’ example, more than 20,000 volunteered, many leaving comfortable homes and secure jobs to help their afflicted brothers.
14 In one area, the storm surge reached as far as 50 miles [80 km] inland, propelling a wall of water up to 30 feet [10 m] high. When the water receded, a third of the homes and other buildings in its path were left totally ruined. Witness volunteers from several countries brought skills, tools, and building materials to the region and were willing to do whatever work was needed. Two fleshly sisters, widows, packed their belongings into a pickup truck and drove over 2,000 miles [3,000 km] to help. One of those sisters has remained in the area, still helping the local relief committee and serving as a regular pioneer.
15 More than 5,600 homes of Witnesses and others in the region have been rebuilt or repaired. How did local Witnesses feel about receiving this tremendous outpouring of love? One sister whose home was destroyed had moved into a tiny trailer with a leaky roof and a broken stove. The brothers built her a modest but comfortable house. Standing in front of her neat new home, she wept out of gratitude to Jehovah and to her brothers. In numerous other cases, displaced local Witnesses remained in their temporary accommodations for a year or more after their houses had been rebuilt. Why? In order to make their new home available to relief workers. What an example of displaying Christ’s mental attitude!
Showing Christ’s Attitude Toward the Sick
16, 17. In what ways can we reflect Christ’s mental attitude toward the sick?
16 Relatively few of us have had to deal with a major natural disaster. But practically everyone must face health problems, either his own or those of family members. Jesus’ mental attitude toward the sick serves as an example for us. His love moved him to feel pity for them. When crowds brought their ailing ones to him, “he cured all who were faring badly.”—Matt. 8:16; 14:14.
17 Today, Christians do not have Jesus’ miraculous power to heal, but they do share Jesus’ compassionate attitude toward the sick. How is that demonstrated? As one evidence, elders show that they have Christ’s mental attitude by making and monitoring arrangements to help sick ones in the congregation, following in principle the course of action mentioned at Matthew 25:39, 40.* (Read.)
18. How did two sisters display genuine love toward another, and with what results?
18 Of course, one does not have to be an elder to do good to others. Consider the case of 44-year-old Charlene, who had cancer and was told she had ten days to live. Seeing her need and the toll that caregiving was taking on her devoted husband, two spiritual sisters, Sharon and Nicolette, made themselves available full-time to help her through her final days. Those days stretched into six weeks, but the two sisters showed their love to the end. “It’s difficult when you know someone will not recover,” observes Sharon. “Yet, Jehovah made us strong. The experience drew us closer to him and to each other.” Charlene’s husband says: “I will always remember the kind and practical support of these two dear sisters. Their pure motive and positive attitude made this last trial easier for my faithful Charlene and gave me badly needed physical and emotional relief. I will be grateful to them forever. Their self-sacrifice strengthened my faith in Jehovah and my love for our whole association of brothers.”
19, 20. (a) What five aspects of Christ’s mental attitude have we considered? (b) What are you resolved to do?
19 In this series of three articles, we have considered five aspects of Jesus’ mental attitude and how we can adopt his pattern of thinking and course of action. Let us be “mild-tempered and lowly in heart,” as Jesus was. (Matt. 11:29) May we also strive to treat others kindly, even when their imperfections and weaknesses come to the fore. Let us courageously obey all of Jehovah’s requirements, even in the face of trials.
20 Finally, let us show Christlike love to all our brothers, as Christ himself did, “to the end.” Such love identifies us as Jesus’ true followers. (John 13:1, 34, 35) Yes, “let your brotherly love continue.” (Heb. 13:1) Do not hold back! Use your life to praise Jehovah and to help others! Jehovah will bless your sincere efforts.
See the article “Do More Than Say: ‘Keep Warm and Well Fed’” in the October 15, 1986, issue of The Watchtower.
Can You Explain?
• How can elders display Christ’s mental attitude toward wrongdoers?
• Why is imitating Christ’s love especially important in this time of the end?
• How can we reflect Christ’s mental attitude toward the sick?
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Elders want erring ones to return to Jehovah
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How did Christians leaving Jerusalem reflect Christ’s mental attitude?
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Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for putting Christlike love into action