“You, O Jehovah, are good and ready to forgive; and the loving-kindness to all those calling upon you is abundant.”—PS. 86:5.
1, 2. (a) Why do we appreciate friends who are loyal and forgiving? (b) We will address what questions?
HOW would you define a true friend? “To me, a true friend is someone who is always there for you and who forgives you when you fall short,” says a Christian sister named Ashley. All of us appreciate friends who are loyal and forgiving. They help us to feel secure and loved.—Prov. 17:17.
2 Jehovah is the most loyal and forgiving Friend we could have. It is as the psalmist put it: “You, O Jehovah, are good and ready to forgive; and the loving-kindness [or, “loyal love”] to all those calling upon you is abundant.” (Ps. 86:5) What does it mean to be loyal and forgiving? How does Jehovah display those beautiful qualities? And how can we imitate his example? The answers will help us to deepen our love for our best Friend, Jehovah. They will also help us to strengthen our friendships with one another.—1 John 4:7, 8.
JEHOVAH IS LOYAL
3. What does it mean to be loyal?
3 Loyalty is a warm quality that includes devotion, faithfulness, and unswerving allegiance. A loyal person is not fickle. Rather, he lovingly attaches himself to someone (or something), sticking closely to that person (or thing) even through difficult circumstances. Yes, Jehovah is the supremely “loyal One.”—Rev. 16:5.
4, 5. (a) How does Jehovah demonstrate loyalty? (b) How can we gain strength from reflecting on God’s acts of loyalty?
4 How does Jehovah demonstrate loyalty? He never abandons his faithful worshippers. One such worshipper, King David, testified to Jehovah’s loyalty. (Read 2 Samuel 22:26.) During David’s trials, Jehovah loyally guided, protected, and delivered him. (2 Sam. 22:1) David knew that Jehovah’s loyalty involves more than mere words. Why did Jehovah act loyally toward David? Because David himself was “someone loyal.” Jehovah cherishes the loyalty of his worshippers, and he repays it with loyalty toward them.—Prov. 2:6-8.
5 We can gain strength from reflecting on Jehovah’s acts of loyalty. “It really helps me when I read about how Jehovah dealt with David in times of distress,” says a faithful brother named Reed. “Even when David was on the run, living in and out of caves, Jehovah always sustained him. I find that very encouraging! It reminds me that no matter what the circumstance might be, no matter how bleak the situation might seem, Jehovah will be there for me as long as I remain loyal to him.” No doubt, you feel the same way.—Rom. 8:38, 39.
6. In what other ways does Jehovah demonstrate loyalty, and with what benefit to his worshippers?
6 In what other ways does Jehovah demonstrate loyalty? He remains true to his standards. “Even to one’s old age I am the same,” he assures us. (Isa. 46:4) He always makes decisions based on his unchanging standards of right and wrong. (Mal. 3:6) In addition, Jehovah demonstrates loyalty by remaining faithful to his word of promise. (Isa. 55:11) Jehovah’s loyalty thus benefits all of his faithful worshippers. How so? When we do our best to adhere to Jehovah’s standards, we can be confident that he will keep his promise to bless us.—Isa. 48:17, 18.
IMITATE JEHOVAH’S LOYALTY
7. What is one way that we can imitate God’s loyalty?
7 How can we imitate Jehovah’s loyalty? One way is by taking action in behalf of those who are facing difficult circumstances. (Prov. 3:27) For example, do you know of a fellow believer who is discouraged, perhaps because of health problems, family opposition, or personal failings? Why not take the initiative to offer that person some “good words, comforting words”? (Zech. 1:13)* Doing so, you are proving yourself to be a loyal and true friend, one “sticking closer than a brother.”—Prov. 18:24.
8. How can we imitate Jehovah’s loyalty, for example, in marriage?
8 We can also imitate Jehovah’s loyalty by remaining true to those whom we love. For example, if we are married, we know that we must stay faithful to our marriage mate. (Prov. 5:15-18) So we do not take even the first step down a path that could lead to adultery. (Matt. 5:28) In addition, we show loyalty to our fellow believers by shunning hurtful gossip or slander, refusing to spread such negative talk or even to listen to it.—Prov. 12:18.
9, 10. (a) To whom especially do we want to remain loyal? (b) Why will obeying Jehovah’s commands not always be easy?
9 Above all, we want to remain loyal to Jehovah. How do we do that? By striving to view things the way that he views them—loving what he loves and hating what he hates—and then conducting ourselves accordingly. (Read Psalm 97:10.) The more we bring our thoughts and feelings into harmony with Jehovah’s thoughts and feelings, the more we will be inclined to obey his commands.—Ps. 119:104.
10 Granted, it will not always be easy to obey Jehovah’s commands. We may have to struggle to remain loyal. For instance, some single Christians would like to be married, but they have yet to find a suitable mate among worshippers of Jehovah. (1 Cor. 7:39) A single sister might see that her unbelieving coworkers are always trying to introduce her to some potential mate. The sister might be battling feelings of loneliness. Still, she puts forth determined effort to maintain her integrity to Jehovah. Do we not appreciate such sterling examples of loyalty? Surely Jehovah will reward all who remain faithful to him despite difficulties.—Heb. 11:6.
JEHOVAH IS FORGIVING
11. What does it mean to be forgiving?
11 Among Jehovah’s most endearing qualities is his willingness to forgive. What does it mean to be forgiving? Basically, it involves pardoning an offender when there is a valid basis for doing so. That is not to say that a forgiving person condones the offense or denies that it happened. Rather, he chooses to let go of resentment. The Scriptures teach that Jehovah is “ready to forgive” those who show genuine repentance.—Ps. 86:5.
12. (a) How does Jehovah demonstrate forgiveness? (b) What does it mean to have one’s sins “blotted out”?
12 How does Jehovah demonstrate forgiveness? When Jehovah forgives, he does so “in a large way”; he forgives both completely and permanently. (Isa. 55:7) How do we know that Jehovah forgives completely? Consider the assurance found at Acts 3:19. (Read.) The apostle Peter urged his listeners to “repent . . . and turn around.” When a sinner genuinely repents, he deeply regrets his wrong course. He is also determined not to repeat his sin. (2 Cor. 7:10, 11) Moreover, true repentance moves a sinner to “turn around,” abandoning his wrong course and pursuing a course that is pleasing to God. If Peter’s listeners would manifest such genuine repentance, what would be the result? Peter said that they could get their sins “blotted out.” That expression comes from a Greek word that means to “wipe out, erase.” So when Jehovah forgives, he wipes the slate clean. He forgives completely.—Heb. 10:22; 1 John 1:7.
13. Of what do the words “their sin I shall remember no more” assure us?
13 How do we know that Jehovah’s forgiveness is permanent? Consider Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning the new covenant, made with anointed Christians, which makes true forgiveness possible for those who exercise faith in the ransom. (Read Jeremiah 31:34.) Jehovah says: “I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.” So Jehovah assures us that once he forgives, he will never in the future act against us because of those sins. He does not rehash our sins in order to accuse us or punish us again and again. Rather, Jehovah forgives those sins and puts them behind him—permanently.—Rom. 4:7, 8.
14. How can we gain comfort from meditating on Jehovah’s forgiveness? Give an example.
14 We can gain comfort from meditating on Jehovah’s forgiveness. Consider an example. Many years ago, a sister whom we will call Elaine was disfellowshipped. Several years later, she was reinstated. “Although I told myself and others that I believed that I was forgiven by Jehovah,” admits Elaine, “I always felt that somehow he was at a distance or that others were closer to him and that he was more real to them.” However, Elaine drew comfort from reading and meditating on some of the word pictures that the Bible uses to describe Jehovah’s forgiveness. “I felt Jehovah’s love and tenderness toward me in a way that I had never realized before,” Elaine adds. She was especially moved by this thought: “When Jehovah forgives our sins, we need not feel that we bear the stain of such sins for the rest of our life.”* Elaine says: “I realized that I had not believed that Jehovah could fully forgive me, and I thought that I would carry this burden for the rest of my life. I know that it will take time, but I am starting to feel that I really can draw closer to Jehovah, and I feel that a weight has been lifted off me.” What a loving and forgiving God we serve!—Ps. 103:9.
IMITATE JEHOVAH’S FORGIVENESS
15. How can we imitate Jehovah’s forgiveness?
15 We can imitate Jehovah’s forgiveness by choosing to be forgiving toward one another whenever there is a basis for doing so. (Read Luke 17:3, 4.) Recall that when Jehovah forgives, he forgets our sins in the sense that he does not thereafter hold them against us. When we forgive others, we too can forget by putting the matter behind us and not bringing it up again in the future.
16. (a) Does being forgiving mean that we condone offenses or let others take advantage of us? Explain. (b) To be forgiven by God, what must we do?
16 Being forgiving does not mean that we condone offenses or allow others to take unfair advantage of us. No. It basically means that we choose to let go of resentment. Significantly, though, in order to be forgiven by God, we must imitate Jehovah’s forgiveness in our dealings with others. (Matt. 6:14, 15) After all, empathy moves Jehovah to remember that “we are dust.” (Ps. 103:14) Really, then, should not empathy move us to make allowances for the shortcomings of others, forgiving them freely from the heart?—Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13.
17. What can help us if we have been hurt by a fellow believer?
17 Of course, it is not always easy to forgive. Even some anointed Christians in the first century apparently found it challenging to settle their differences. (Phil. 4:2) If we have been hurt by a fellow believer, what can help us? Consider Job. He was deeply hurt when his “friends”—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—hurled baseless accusations at him. (Job 10:1; 19:2) In the end, Jehovah reproved those false accusers. God directed them to go to Job and present an offering for their sins. (Job 42:7-9) But Jehovah also required that Job do something. What was it? Jehovah directed Job to pray in behalf of his former accusers. Job did as Jehovah asked, and Jehovah blessed him for his forgiving spirit. (Read Job 42:10, 12, 16, 17.) The lesson for us? A sincere prayer in behalf of someone who has offended us may help us to let go of resentment.
CONTINUE APPRECIATING JEHOVAH’S QUALITIES TO THE FULL
18, 19. How may we continue to deepen our appreciation for Jehovah’s endearing personality?
18 It has certainly been refreshing for us to consider various aspects of Jehovah’s loving personality. We have seen that he is approachable, impartial, generous, reasonable, loyal, and forgiving. Of course, we have only scratched the surface. We can have the joy of learning more about Jehovah throughout all eternity. (Eccl. 3:11) We agree with the apostle Paul, who wrote: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge”—not to mention love and the six qualities we have considered.—Rom. 11:33.
19 May all of us continue to deepen our appreciation for Jehovah’s endearing personality. We can do that by becoming acquainted with his qualities, reflecting on them, and then imitating them in our own life. (Eph. 5:1) As we do so, we will undoubtedly come to agree more and more with the psalmist who sang: “As for me, the drawing near to God is good for me.”—Ps. 73:28.
For helpful suggestions in this regard, see the articles “Have You Encouraged Anyone Lately?” in the January 15, 1995, issue of The Watchtower and “Incite to Love and Fine Works—How?” in the April 1, 1995, issue.