“You must love your neighbor as yourself.”—MATT. 22:39.
1, 2. How do the Scriptures show the importance of love?
LOVE is Jehovah God’s dominant quality. (1 John 4:16) His first creation was Jesus, who existed with him in heaven for many aeons and learned God’s loving ways. (Col. 1:15) By his entire course, including his life on earth, Jesus showed that he fully understands what a loving God Jehovah is, and he imitates that love. Thus, we can be confident that the rulership exercised by Jehovah and Jesus will forever be guided by the quality of love.
2 When asked which was the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus stated: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’”—Matt. 22:37-39.
3. Who is our “neighbor”?
3 Notice that Jesus placed love of neighbor second only to love of Jehovah. This shows how important it is to display love in all our relationships. But who is our “neighbor”? If we are married, our closest neighbor is our marriage mate. Also close to us are those who make up the Christian congregation, that is, fellow worshippers of the true God. Others are the individuals whom we meet in the ministry. How is love for neighbor to be demonstrated by those who worship Jehovah and follow the teachings of his Son?
SHOWING LOVE FOR OUR MARRIAGE MATE
4. Why can marriage be successful despite human imperfection?
4 Jehovah performed the first marriage by creating Adam and Eve and bringing them together. He purposed for them to have a happy, enduring union and to fill the earth with their offspring. (Gen. 1:27, 28) However, rebellion against Jehovah’s sovereignty marred the first marriage and brought sin and death to all mankind. (Rom. 5:12) Nevertheless, the Scriptures tell us how we can succeed in marriage. They contain the very best counsel on this subject because they originate with Jehovah, the Originator of marriage.—Read 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
5. How important is love in a marriage?
5 God’s Word shows that love—warm personal attachment or deep affection—is essential for humans to enjoy happy relationships. This is certainly true in marriage. In words directed to the congregation, the apostle Paul said: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. It does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8) Reflecting on and applying such inspired words will surely increase the joys of marriage.
6, 7. (a) What does the Bible say about headship? (b) How must a Christian husband treat his wife?
6 Because of the headship principle that exists throughout God’s arrangement of things, love is especially important. Paul explained: “I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn, the head of a woman is the man; in turn, the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Cor. 11:3) But headship is not to be exercised in a domineering way. For example, Jehovah exercises his headship over Christ in a kind, unselfish way, and Jesus responds to it. He appreciates God’s loving headship, for he declared: “I love the Father.” (John 14:31) It is unlikely that Jesus would have felt that way had Jehovah been harsh or dictatorial in his dealings with his beloved Son.
7 Although a husband is the head of his wife, the Bible instructs him to ‘assign her honor.’ (1 Pet. 3:7) One way husbands can honor their wives is by taking into consideration their needs and giving them first choice in some matters. Indeed, God’s Word states: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and gave himself up for it.” (Eph. 5:25) Yes, Jesus even gave his life for his followers. When a husband imitates the loving way in which Jesus exercises headship, it is much easier for a wife to love and respect him and be in subjection to him.—Read Titus 2:3-5.
HAVE LOVE FOR FELLOW WORSHIPPERS
8. How should worshippers of Jehovah view fellow Christians?
8 Throughout the earth, there are millions who worship Jehovah and bear witness to his name and purpose. How should each worshipper of Jehovah view his fellow Witnesses? God’s Word answers: “Let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Gal. 6:10; read Romans 12:10.) The apostle Peter wrote: “Now that you have purified yourselves by your obedience to the truth with unhypocritical brotherly affection as the result, love one another intensely from the heart.” Peter also told fellow believers: “Above all things, have intense love for one another.”—1 Pet. 1:22; 4:8.
9, 10. Why do God’s people have unity among themselves?
9 Because we have intense love for our fellow servants of Jehovah, we make up a unique worldwide organization. Moreover, because we love Jehovah and obey his laws, he supports us with the most powerful force in the universe, his holy spirit, or active force. This enables us to enjoy wonderful unity as a truly international brotherhood.—Read 1 John 4:20, 21.
10 Highlighting the need for love among Christians, Paul wrote: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, humility, mildness, and patience. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely even if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Just as Jehovah freely forgave you, you must also do the same. But besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.” (Col. 3:12-14) How thankful we are that love—“a perfect bond of union”—prevails among us regardless of our background or national origin!
11. How do love and unity identify Jehovah’s organization?
11 Genuine love and unity identify Jehovah’s servants as the ones who practice the true religion, for Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35) And the apostle John wrote: “The children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Whoever does not practice righteousness does not originate with God, nor does the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (1 John 3:10, 11) Love that results in extraordinary unity marks Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christ’s true followers, the ones whom God is using to serve his purpose to have the good news of the Kingdom preached in all the inhabited earth.—Matt. 24:14.
GATHERING “A GREAT CROWD”
12, 13. What is the “great crowd” now doing, and what will its members soon experience?
12 The vast majority of Jehovah’s servants are part of “a great crowd . . . out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” They are “standing before the throne [of God] and before the Lamb [Jesus Christ].” Who are they? “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” for they exercise faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. Members of the growing “great crowd” love Jehovah and his Son and “are rendering [God] sacred service day and night.”—Rev. 7:9, 14, 15.
13 Soon God will destroy this wicked world in the “great tribulation.” (Matt. 24:21; read Jeremiah 25:32, 33.) But because of his love for his servants, Jehovah will preserve them as a group and will usher them into his new world. As foretold nearly 2,000 years ago, God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” Do you yearn to live in Paradise after “the former things have passed away”?—Rev. 21:4.
14. How large has the great crowd become?
14 When the last days began in 1914, there were only a few thousand servants of Jehovah worldwide. Motivated by love for neighbor, and with the backing of God’s spirit, a small remnant of anointed Christians persevered in the Kingdom-preaching work. As a result, today a great crowd with an earthly hope is being gathered. Our ranks have grown to about 8,000,000 Witnesses associated with more than 115,400 congregations throughout the earth, and we continue to grow in number. For example, over 275,500 new Witnesses were baptized during the 2014 service year—an average of some 5,300 each week.
15. Describe the scope of the Kingdom-preaching work that is now being done.
15 The scope of the preaching work is remarkable. Our Bible-based literature is now published in over 700 languages. The Watchtower is the most widely distributed magazine in the world. Over 52,000,000 copies are printed each month, and the magazine is published in 247 languages. Upwards of 200,000,000 copies of our Bible study book What Does the Bible Really Teach? have been printed in more than 250 languages.
16. What accounts for the spiritual prosperity of the earthly part of Jehovah’s organization?
16 The remarkable growth that we see today is the result of our faith in God and full acceptance of the Bible—Jehovah’s miraculously inspired Word. (1 Thess. 2:13) Especially outstanding is the spiritual prosperity of Jehovah’s people—despite the hatred and opposition of Satan, “the god of this system of things.”—2 Cor. 4:4.
ALWAYS SHOW LOVE FOR OTHERS
17, 18. What attitude should God’s servants have toward unbelievers?
17 What attitude is required of Jehovah’s servants toward those who do not worship the only true God? In our preaching work, we meet with varied responses—some favorable, some hostile. Regardless of how people react, however, God’s Word shows the standard that his servants must maintain. It states: “Let your words always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should answer each person.” (Col. 4:6) When we make a defense before everyone who demands of us a reason for our hope, we do so “with a mild temper and deep respect” because we are motivated by neighbor love.—1 Pet. 3:15.
18 We show love of neighbor even if our message is rejected by an angry householder who berates us. We imitate Jesus: “When he was being insulted, he did not insult in return. When he was suffering, he did not threaten, but he entrusted himself to the One [Jehovah] who judges righteously.” (1 Pet. 2:23) Whether we are with fellow believers or others, we show humility and apply the counsel: “Do not pay back injury for injury or insult for insult. Instead, repay with a blessing.”—1 Pet. 3:8, 9.
19. What principle did Jesus give regarding opposers?
19 By maintaining a humble attitude, Jehovah’s people obey an important principle given by Jesus. In his Sermon on the Mount, he declared: “You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:43-45) Yes, as God’s servants, we must learn to ‘love our enemies,’ regardless of their attitude toward us.
20. Why will love of God and neighbor permeate the new world? (See opening image.)
20 In all areas of life, Jehovah’s people must show by their attitude and actions that they love Jehovah and their neighbor. For instance, even if some do not respond favorably to the Kingdom message, we show neighbor love when they are in need. The apostle Paul wrote: “Do not owe anything to anyone except to love one another; for whoever loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. For the law code, ‘You must not commit adultery, you must not murder, you must not steal, you must not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there is, is summed up in this saying: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor; therefore, love is the law’s fulfillment.” (Rom. 13:8-10) As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we show genuine love in this disunited, violent, wicked world that is under Satan’s control. (1 John 5:19) Surely, love will dominate every activity on earth in the new world after Satan, his demons, and rebellious humans have been removed from the scene. What a blessing it will be when all inhabitants of the earth love God and their neighbor!