Keep Growing in Brotherly Love
“Go on walking in love, just as the Christ also loved you.”—EPH. 5:2.
1. What important characteristic of his followers did Jesus point to?
PREACHING the good news of God’s Kingdom from house to house is a trademark of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Still, Christ Jesus chose a different facet of Christianity to identify his genuine disciples. He said: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:34, 35.
2, 3. What effect does our brotherly love have on those who attend our Christian meetings?
2 The love of the true Christian brotherhood has no equal in human society. Just as a magnet draws iron, so love draws Jehovah’s servants together in unity and attracts sincere ones to true worship. For example, take Marcelino, a man in Cameroon who lost his eyesight at work. After his accident, the rumor spread that he had become blind because he was a witch. Instead of giving him comfort, his pastor and other members of his church expelled him from the congregation. When one of Jehovah’s Witnesses invited him to a meeting, Marcelino hesitated. He did not want to face more rejection.
3 Marcelino was surprised by what happened at the Kingdom Hall. He was warmly welcomed, and he gained comfort from the Bible teachings he heard. He began attending all congregation meetings, progressed in his Bible study, and was baptized in 2006. Now he is sharing the truth with his family and neighbors and has started several Bible studies. Marcelino wants the individuals studying the Bible with him to feel the same love he has experienced among God’s people.
4. Why should we take to heart Paul’s admonition to “go on walking in love”?
4 Appealing as it is, our brotherly love cannot be taken for granted. Think of a campfire burning at night, drawing people to its warm, flickering flames. Unless those enjoying the fire supply it with fuel, it will go out. Likewise, the wonderful bond of love in the congregation will weaken unless we as individual Christians work to strengthen it. How can we do so? The apostle Paul answers: “Go on walking in love, just as the Christ also loved you and delivered himself up for you as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling odor.” (Eph. 5:2) The question that we want to consider is, In what ways can I go on walking in love?
“You, Too, Widen Out”
5, 6. Why did Paul urge the Corinthian Christians to “widen out”?
5 To the Christians in ancient Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote: “Our mouth has been opened to you, Corinthians, our heart has widened out. You are not cramped for room within us, but you are cramped for room in your own tender affections. So, as a recompense in return—I speak as to children—you, too, widen out.” (2 Cor. 6:11-13) Why did Paul urge the Corinthians to widen out in their love?
6 Consider how the congregation in ancient Corinth got its start. Paul came to Corinth in the fall of 50 C.E. Although his preaching work there began with difficulty, the apostle did not give up. In a short time, many in that city put faith in the good news. For “a year and six months,” Paul spent himself teaching and strengthening the new congregation. Clearly, he had deep love for the Corinthian Christians. (Acts 18:5, 6, 9-11) They had every reason to love and respect him in return. However, some in the congregation drew away from him. Perhaps a few did not like his frank counsel. (1 Cor. 5:1-5; 6:1-10) Others may have listened to the slander of the “superfine apostles.” (2 Cor. 11:5, 6) Paul wanted the genuine love of all his brothers and sisters. So he entreated them to “widen out” by drawing close to him and other fellow believers.
7. How can we “widen out” in displaying brotherly love?
7 What about us? How can we “widen out” in displaying brotherly love? Individuals in the same age bracket or of the same ethnic background may naturally be attracted to one another. And those with similar preferences in recreation often spend much time together. But if the interests that we share with some Christians separate us from others, we need to “widen out.” It would be wise to ask ourselves: ‘Do I seldom share in the ministry or social activities with brothers and sisters outside my intimate group? At the Kingdom Hall, do I limit my contact with those newly associated because I believe that they have to earn my friendship over time? Do I greet both older and younger ones in the congregation?’
8, 9. How can Paul’s counsel recorded at Romans 15:7 help us to greet one another in a way that enhances our brotherly love?
8 In the matter of greeting one another, Paul’s words to the Romans can help us develop the proper view of our fellow worshippers. (Read Romans 15:7.) The Greek word there rendered “welcome” means “to receive kindly or hospitably, admit to one’s society and friendship.” When a hospitable host in Bible times received friends into his home, he let them know how happy he was to see them. Christ has figuratively welcomed us in that way, and we are exhorted to imitate him in welcoming fellow worshippers.
9 As we greet our brothers at the Kingdom Hall and other places, we can pay attention to those whom we have not seen or with whom we have not spoken recently. Why not spend a few minutes conversing with them? At the next meeting, we can do the same with others. In a short while, we will have had delightful conversations with just about all our brothers and sisters. There is no need to worry if we do not get to speak with everyone on the same day. No one should take offense if we are not able to greet them at every meeting.
10. What priceless opportunity is available to all in the congregation, and how can we take full advantage of it?
10 Greeting others is the first step in welcoming them. It is a step that can lead to enjoyable discussions and lasting friendships. For example, when those attending conventions and assemblies introduce themselves to others and begin talking, they look forward to seeing one another again. Kingdom Hall construction volunteers as well as those sharing in relief work often become good friends because they get to know one another’s fine qualities through the experiences they share. The opportunities for forming lasting friendships abound in Jehovah’s organization. If we “widen out,” our circle of friends will grow, intensifying the love that unites us in true worship.
Make Time for Others
11. As shown at Mark 10:13-16, what example did Jesus set?
11 All Christians can strive to be approachable, as Jesus was. Consider how Jesus responded when his disciples tried to prevent parents from bringing their children to him. “Let the young children come to me,” he said. “Do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to suchlike ones.” Then “he took the children into his arms and began blessing them, laying his hands upon them.” (Mark 10:13-16) Imagine how thrilled those young ones must have been to be shown such loving attention by the Great Teacher!
12. What can hinder us from conversing with others?
12 Each Christian should ask himself, ‘Do I make myself available to others or do I often appear to be too busy?’ Habits that are not wrong in themselves can sometimes raise barricades to conversation. If we frequently use a cellular telephone or use earphones to listen to recordings in the presence of others, for example, we may send the message that we prefer not to have their company. If others often see us engrossed in looking at a handheld computer, they might conclude that we do not care to speak to them. Of course, there is “a time to keep quiet.” But when we are around people, it is often the “time to speak.” (Eccl. 3:7) Some might say, “I prefer to keep to myself” or “I don’t feel like talking in the morning.” Nonetheless, engaging in friendly conversation even when we are not inclined to do so is evidence of love that “does not look for its own interests.”—1 Cor. 13:5.
13. What view of Christian brothers and sisters did Paul encourage Timothy to have?
13 Paul encouraged young Timothy to have respect for all members of the congregation. (Read 1 Timothy 5:1, 2.) We too should treat older Christians as if they were our mothers and fathers and the younger ones as our siblings, that is, children of our own parents. When we have that attitude, none of our dear brothers and sisters will feel like strangers in our presence.
14. What are some benefits of having upbuilding conversations with others?
14 As we engage others in upbuilding conversation, we contribute to their spirituality and emotional well-being. A brother working at a branch office fondly remembers several older Bethelites who regularly took time to speak with him in his early days at Bethel. Their encouraging words made him feel that he really was part of the Bethel family. Now he tries to imitate them by conversing with his fellow Bethelites.
Humility Helps Us to Make Peace
15. What shows that we are not immune to disagreements?
15 Euodia and Syntyche, two Christian sisters in ancient Philippi, apparently had some difficulty in resolving a problem that arose between them. (Phil. 4:2, 3) A heated dispute between Paul and Barnabas became public knowledge and resulted in their going separate ways for a while. (Acts 15:37-39) These accounts show that true worshippers are not immune to disagreements. Jehovah provides us with help to resolve conflicts and restore friendships. But he requires something of us.
16, 17. (a) How important is humility in resolving personal conflicts? (b) How does the account of Jacob’s approach to Esau illustrate the value of humility?
16 Imagine that you and a friend are going to take a trip by automobile. Before you can begin your journey, you must put a key into the ignition and start the car’s engine. The process of resolving personal differences is also started with a key. The key is humility. (Read James 4:10.) As shown by the following Scriptural example, that key allows those at odds with each other to begin applying Bible principles.
17 Twenty years had passed since Esau became bitter over losing his birthright to his twin brother, Jacob, and wanted to kill him. The twins were about to meet again after all that time, “and Jacob became very much afraid and grew anxious.” He felt that there was a strong possibility that Esau would assault him. But at that meeting, Jacob did something Esau did not expect. He “proceeded to bow down to the earth” as he approached his brother. What happened next? “Esau went running to meet him, and he began to embrace him and fall upon his neck and kiss him, and they burst into tears.” The danger of a fight was averted. Jacob’s humility helped to overcome whatever hatred Esau might have harbored.—Gen. 27:41; 32:3-8; 33:3, 4.
18, 19. (a) When personal conflicts arise, why is it essential that we take the initiative to apply Scriptural counsel? (b) Why should we not give up if the other person does not at first respond in a positive way?
18 The Bible contains excellent counsel on resolving conflicts. (Matt. 5:23, 24; 18:15-17; Eph. 4:26, 27)* Unless we humbly apply that counsel, however, making peace will be difficult. Waiting for the other person to show humility is not the solution when we too are holding the key in our hand.
19 If our initial attempts to make peace seem unfruitful for some reason, we should not give up hope. The other person may need time to sort out his feelings. Joseph’s brothers dealt treacherously with Joseph. It was a long time before they faced him as prime minister of Egypt. Finally, however, they had a change of heart and begged for forgiveness. Joseph pardoned them, and Jacob’s sons became a nation that had the privilege of bearing the name of Jehovah. (Gen. 50:15-21) By maintaining peace with our brothers and sisters, we contribute to the unity and joy of the congregation.—Read Colossians 3:12-14.
Let Us Love “in Deed and Truth”
20, 21. What lesson can we learn from Jesus’ washing the feet of his apostles?
20 Shortly before his death, Jesus told his apostles: “I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also.” (John 13:15) He had just finished washing the feet of the 12. What Jesus did was neither a mere ritual nor just an act of kindness. Before relating the account of the washing of feet, John wrote: “Jesus, having loved his own that were in the world, loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) It was his love for the disciples that moved Jesus to render a service usually performed by a slave. Now they must humbly do loving things for one another. Yes, genuine brotherly love should move us to display care and concern for all our Christian brothers and sisters.
21 The apostle Peter, who had his feet washed by the Son of God, grasped the meaning of what Jesus did. He wrote: “Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth with unhypocritical brotherly affection as the result, love one another intensely from the heart.” (1 Pet. 1:22) The apostle John, whose feet were also washed by the Lord, wrote: “Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18) May our hearts move us to confirm our brotherly love by action.
See the book Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will, pages 144-150.
Do You Remember?
• In what ways can we “widen out” in our love for one another?
• What will help us to make time for others?
• What role does humility play in making peace?
• What should move us to care for fellow believers?
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Warmly welcome fellow believers
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Do not miss opportunities to make time for others