“Because of the increasing of lawlessness, the love of the greater number will grow cold.”—MATT. 24:12.
1, 2. (a) To whom did Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:12 initially apply? (b) How does the book of Acts indicate that most early Christians kept showing love? (See opening picture.)
ONE facet of the sign that Jesus gave regarding “the conclusion of the system of things” was that “the love of the greater number [would] grow cold.” (Matt. 24:3, 12) In the first century, the Jews, who claimed to be God’s people, allowed their love for God to grow cold.
2 On the other hand, most Christians at that time kept busy “declaring the good news about the Christ” and showing love for God, for fellow Christians, and for unbelievers. (Acts 2:44-47; 5:42) Nevertheless, some of Jesus’ followers in the first century did allow their love to grow cold.
3. What may have caused the love of some Christians to grow cold?
3 Speaking to first-century Christians living in Ephesus, the resurrected Jesus Christ said: “I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first.” (Rev. 2:4) What may have been one reason for this? These early disciples of Christ may have been influenced by the fleshly-minded world. (Eph. 2:2, 3) Like many cities today, first-century Ephesus was filled with vice. It was a fabulously wealthy city in which people placed much emphasis on luxuries, leisure, and comfortable living. Selfish pleasures evidently crowded out unselfish love. In addition, brazen conduct and gross immorality were rampant.
4. (a) In what ways has love grown cold in our day? (b) In what three areas could our love be tested?
4 Jesus’ prophecy about diminishing love extends to our day. People today have less and less love for God. Millions have turned their backs on him and look to human institutions to solve mankind’s problems. Hence, among people who do not worship Jehovah God, love continues to grow cold. Still, as conditions in the first-century congregation in Ephesus illustrate, true Christians today could become complacent and allow their love to falter. We will now consider three areas in which our love could be tested: (1) Love for Jehovah, (2) love for Bible truth, (3) and love for our brothers.
LOVE FOR JEHOVAH
5. Why must we have love for God?
5 Earlier on the same day that Jesus warned about the loss of love, he emphasized the most important love of all. He said: “‘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.” (Matt. 22:37, 38) Indeed, having deep love for God helps us to obey Jehovah’s commandments, to endure, and to hate what is bad. (Read Psalm 97:10.) However, Satan and his world strive to undermine our love for God.
6. What has resulted from the loss of love for God?
6 The world around us has a distorted view of love. Rather than direct love to the Creator, people are “lovers of themselves.” (2 Tim. 3:2) This world ruled by Satan fosters “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.” (1 John 2:16) The apostle Paul warned fellow Christians against pleasing the flesh, saying: “Setting the mind on the flesh means death . . . because setting the mind on the flesh means enmity with God.” (Rom. 8:6, 7) Indeed, those who have spent their lives on pursuing material things or gratifying sexual desires have ended up disappointed and deeply hurt.—1 Cor. 6:18; 1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
7. What dangers are faced by Christ’s followers today?
7 In some lands, outspoken atheists, agnostics, and evolutionists promote ideas designed to erode not just love for God but also belief in him. They have convinced many that a person must be either naive or unintelligent to believe in a Creator. At the same time, scientists are revered, which draws the attention of the people away from our Creator. (Rom. 1:25) If we give ear to such teachings, we could drift away from Jehovah, and our love could grow cold.—Heb. 3:12.
8. (a) Many of Jehovah’s people face what discouraging circumstances? (b) What assurance do we find in Psalm 136?
8 Succumbing to discouragement can also weaken our faith and cause our love for God to grow cold. In this wicked system controlled by Satan, all of us at times face discouraging circumstances. (1 John 5:19) Perhaps we are presently confronted with problems caused by old age, poor health, or economic pressures. Or we may be struggling with feelings of inadequacy, with unfulfilled expectations, or with personal failings. Yet, we should never allow such circumstances or feelings to convince us that Jehovah has left us. Instead, we should meditate on reassuring words about Jehovah’s enduring love for us. We find such words at Psalm 136:23, which states: “He remembered us when we were low, for his loyal love endures forever.” Indeed, Jehovah’s loyal love for his servants is constant. Therefore, we can be sure that he hears our “pleas for help” and responds to them.—Ps. 116:1; 136:24-26.
9. What gave Paul the strength to maintain his love for God?
9 Like the psalmist, Paul found strength in reflecting on Jehovah’s constant support. Paul wrote: “Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:6) That firm confidence in Jehovah’s loving care helped Paul to grapple with life’s problems. He did not allow negative circumstances to weigh him down. In fact, while he was a prisoner, Paul wrote several encouraging letters. (Eph. 4:1; Phil. 1:7; Philem. 1) Yes, even when he was sorely tried, Paul maintained his love for God. What gave him the strength to do so? He kept leaning on “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trials.” (2 Cor. 1:3, 4) How can we imitate Paul’s example and keep our love for Jehovah strong?
10. How can we keep our love for Jehovah strong?
10 One principal way to keep our love for Jehovah strong is stated by Paul himself. He wrote to fellow believers: “Pray constantly.” Later he wrote: “Persevere in prayer.” (1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 12:12) Communication through prayer is the foundation of a close relationship with God. (Ps. 86:3) When we take sufficient time to express to Jehovah our deepest thoughts and innermost feelings, we cannot help but be drawn closer to our heavenly Father, the “Hearer of prayer.” (Ps. 65:2) In addition, when we discern that Jehovah answers our prayers, our love for him grows. We come to realize ever more that “Jehovah is near to all those calling on him.” (Ps. 145:18) That confidence in Jehovah’s loving support will help us to cope with further tests of faith.
LOVE FOR BIBLE TRUTH
11, 12. How can we develop a deep love for Bible truth?
11 As Christians, we cherish and embrace truth. God’s Word is the ultimate source of truth. In prayer to his Father, Jesus said: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Therefore, love for truth starts with gaining an accurate knowledge of God’s Word. (Col. 1:10) However, more is involved than simply acquiring head knowledge. Note how the inspired writer of Psalm 119 helps us to understand what it means to love Bible truth. (Read Psalm 119:97-100.) Do we take the time to ponder, or dwell on, Scriptural passages throughout the day? Our appreciation for Bible truth will grow when we meditate on ways we benefit from applying it in our lives.
12 The psalmist went on to say: “How sweet your sayings are to my palate, more so than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103) Similarly, we can savor the tasty Bible-based spiritual food that we receive from God’s organization. We can allow it to linger on our figurative palate so that we can recall the “delightful words” of truth and use them to help others.—Eccl. 12:10.
13. What helped Jeremiah to love Scriptural truth, and how did it affect him?
13 The prophet Jeremiah loved Scriptural truth. Notice the effect that God’s words had on his heart. “Your words were found, and I ate them; and your word became to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart, for your name has been called on me, O Jehovah God of armies.” (Jer. 15:16) Jeremiah figuratively ate and digested God’s precious words by meditating on them. In that way he developed a heartfelt appreciation for the privilege of having God’s name called on him. Has our love for Bible truth moved us to recognize the unique privilege we have to bear God’s name and to proclaim his Kingdom in this time of the end?
14. How can we enhance our love for Bible truth?
14 Besides reading the Bible and our Bible-based publications, how else can we develop a deep love for Bible truth? We can enhance our love for Bible truth by regularly attending congregation meetings. The weekly study of the Bible with the help of The Watchtower is a principal means by which we are taught. To get the sense of the subject that is considered, we need to prepare well for each Watchtower Study. One way we can do so is by looking up each of the cited Bible texts. Nowadays, The Watchtower can be downloaded from the jw.org website or viewed on the JW Library app in many languages. Some electronic formats allow us to access quickly the cited texts from each study article. But whatever method we use, reading these scriptures carefully and meditating on them will deepen our love for Bible truth.—Read Psalm 1:2.
LOVE FOR OUR BROTHERS
15, 16. (a) According to John 13:34, 35, what obligation do we have? (b) How is the love we have for our brothers linked to our love for God and the Bible?
15 On his last night on earth, Jesus said to his disciples: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, 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.
16 Having love for our brothers and sisters is linked to the love we have for Jehovah. In fact, we cannot have one without the other. The apostle John wrote: “The one who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) Furthermore, our love for Jehovah and our brothers is linked to our love for the Bible. Why? Because love for Bible truth moves us to obey from the heart the Scriptural commandments to love God and to love our brothers.—1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 4:21.
17. What are some ways in which we can show love?
17 Read 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 10. What are some examples of practical ways in which we can show love in our congregation? An elderly brother or sister may be in need of transportation to Christian meetings. A widow may need help with some repairs on her home. (Jas. 1:27) Whether young or old, brothers and sisters who are discouraged or depressed or who face other trials need our attention, encouragement, and comfort. (Prov. 12:25; Col. 4:11) We give proof that we truly love our brothers when we show by words and deeds that we have deep concern for “those related to us in the faith.”—Gal. 6:10.
18. What will help us to overcome minor disagreements with fellow believers?
18 The Bible foretold that “the last days” of this wicked system of things would be marked by a spirit of selfishness and greed. (2 Tim. 3:1, 2) As Christians, we must therefore work hard to grow in our love for God, for Bible truth, and for one another. True, we may at times have minor disagreements with fellow believers. However, what a blessing it is for all in the congregation when love motivates us to settle any differences in a loving manner! (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:14) So may we never allow our love to grow cold! Rather, may we continue to have intense love for Jehovah, his Word, and our brothers.