“Stop judging by the outward appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”—JOHN 7:24.
SONG 101 Working Together in Unity
1. The Bible reveals what comforting truth about Jehovah?
WOULD you like people to judge you based on the color of your skin, the shape of your face, or the size of your body? Likely, you would not. How comforting it is to know, then, that Jehovah does not judge us by what human eyes can see! For example, when Samuel looked at the sons of Jesse, he did not see what Jehovah saw. Jehovah had told Samuel that one of Jesse’s sons would become king of Israel. But which one? When Samuel saw Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, he said: “Surely here before Jehovah stands his anointed one.” Eliab looked like a king. “But Jehovah said to Samuel: ‘Do not pay attention to his appearance and how tall he is, for I have rejected him.’” The lesson? Jehovah continued: “Man sees what appears to the eyes, but Jehovah sees into the heart.”—1 Sam. 16:1, 6, 7.
2. As indicated at John 7:24, why should we not judge a person by his appearance? Illustrate.
2 As imperfect humans, all of us have a tendency to judge others by their outward appearance. (Read John 7:24.) But we learn only a little about a person from what we see with our eyes. To illustrate, even a brilliant and experienced doctor can learn only so much by just looking at a patient. He must listen attentively if he is to learn about the patient’s medical history, his emotional makeup, or any symptoms he is having. The doctor may even order an X-ray to see the inside of the patient’s body. Otherwise, the doctor could misdiagnose the problem. Similarly, we cannot fully understand our brothers and sisters by simply looking at their outward appearance. We must try to look beneath the surface—at the inner person. Of course, we cannot read hearts, so we will never understand others as well as Jehovah does. But we can do our best to imitate Jehovah. How?
3. How will the Bible accounts in this article help us to imitate Jehovah?
3 How does Jehovah deal with his worshippers? He listens to them. He takes into account their background and situation. And he shows compassion for them. As we consider how Jehovah did that for Jonah, Elijah, Hagar, and Lot, let us see how we can imitate Jehovah when dealing with our brothers and sisters.
4. Why might we view Jonah negatively?
4 From our limited viewpoint, we could judge Jonah as unreliable, even disloyal. He received a direct command from Jehovah to proclaim judgment in Nineveh. But instead of obeying, Jonah boarded a ship traveling in the opposite direction, “away from Jehovah.” (Jonah 1:1-3) Would you have given Jonah another chance to handle the assignment? Possibly not. Yet, Jehovah saw reasons to do so.—Jonah 3:1, 2.
5 Jonah revealed the type of person he really was in his prayer. (Read Jonah 2:1, 2, 9.) That prayer—doubtless one of many Jonah offered—helps us to see him as far more than a man who ran away from an assignment. His words show that he was humble, thankful, and determined to obey Jehovah. No wonder Jehovah looked beyond Jonah’s actions, responded to his prayer, and continued to use him as a prophet!
6. Why is it worth the effort for us to listen attentively?
6 To listen attentively to others, we need to be humble and patient. It is worth the effort for at least three reasons. First, we will be less likely to jump to wrong conclusions about people. Second, we can discern feelings and motives in our brother, and that will help us to be more empathetic. And third, we may help the person to learn something about himself. Sometimes we do not really understand even our own emotions until we express those emotions in words. (Prov. 20:5) An elder in Asia admits: “I remember making the mistake of speaking before listening. I told a sister that she needed to improve the quality of her comments at the meeting. Later, I learned that she has difficulty reading and that it takes a lot of effort for her to give comments.” How important it is that each elder “hears the facts” before giving counsel!—Prov. 18:13.
7. What do you learn from the way Jehovah dealt with Elijah?
7 Some of our brothers and sisters find it difficult to talk about their feelings because of their background, culture, or personality. How can we make it easier for them to open their hearts to us? Remember the way Jehovah dealt with Elijah when he fled from Jezebel. It took many days before Elijah expressed himself completely to his heavenly Father. Jehovah listened attentively. He then encouraged Elijah and gave him constructive work to do. (1 Ki. 19:1-18) It may take time for our brothers and sisters to feel comfortable speaking to us, but only when they do will we be able to discern their true feelings. If we imitate Jehovah by being patient, we can earn their confidence. Then, when they are ready to share their feelings, we should listen attentively.
GET TO KNOW YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS
8. According to Genesis 16:7-13, how did Jehovah help Hagar?
8 Hagar, the maidservant of Sarai, acted foolishly after she was given as a wife to Abram. Hagar became pregnant and then began to look down on Sarai, who had no children of her own. The situation became so bad that Sarai chased Hagar away. (Gen. 16:4-6) From our imperfect viewpoint, Hagar might appear to be no more than a spiteful woman who got what she deserved. But Jehovah saw more in Hagar. He sent his angel to her. When the angel found her, he helped her to adjust her attitude and blessed her. Hagar sensed that Jehovah had been watching her and knew all about her situation. She was moved to call him “a God of sight, . . . the one who sees me.”—Read Genesis 16:7-13.
9. What did God take into account when he dealt with Hagar?
9 What did Jehovah see in Hagar? He was fully aware of her background and everything she had been through. (Prov. 15:3) Hagar was an Egyptian living in a Hebrew household. Did she sometimes feel like an outsider? Did she miss her family and her homeland? She was not Abram’s only wife. For a time, some faithful men had more than one wife. But that was not Jehovah’s original purpose. (Matt. 19:4-6) It is no surprise, then, that such an arrangement caused jealousy and resentment. While Jehovah did not excuse Hagar’s disrespect for Sarai, we can be sure that he took Hagar’s background and her situation into account.
10. How can we get to know our brothers and sisters better?
10 We can imitate Jehovah by trying to understand one another. Get to know your brothers and sisters better. Talk with them before and after meetings, work with them in the ministry, and if possible, invite them for a meal. When you do, you may learn that a sister who seems unfriendly is actually shy, a brother whom you thought to be materialistic is hospitable, or a family that often comes late to the meetings is enduring opposition. (Job 6:29) Of course, we should not become “meddlers in other people’s affairs.” (1 Tim. 5:13) However, it is good to know something about our brothers and sisters and the circumstances that have shaped their personality.
11. Why is it important for elders to know the sheep well?
11 Elders in particular need to know the background of brothers and sisters under their care. Consider the example of a brother named Artur who was serving as a circuit overseer. He and another elder visited a sister who seemed shy and withdrawn. “We learned that her husband died soon after they got married,” Artur says. “Despite the challenges, she raised two spiritually strong daughters. Now, though, her eyesight was failing, and she suffered from depression. Even so, her love for Jehovah and her faith in him remained strong. We realized that we had a lot to learn from this sister’s good example.” (Phil. 2:3) This circuit overseer was following Jehovah’s example. Jehovah knows his sheep and the pain they suffer. (Ex. 3:7) Elders who know the sheep well are in a better position to help them.
12. How did a sister named Yip Yee benefit from getting to know a sister in the congregation?
12 When you get to know the background of a fellow Christian whom you find irritating, you are more likely to feel empathy for that one. Consider an example. “A sister in my congregation was very loud when she spoke,” says Yip Yee, who lives in Asia. “I felt that she lacked good manners. But when I worked with her in the ministry, I learned that she used to help her parents sell fish in a market. She had to speak loudly to attract customers.” Yip Yee adds: “I learned that to understand my brothers and sisters, I need to know their background.” It takes effort to get to know your brothers better. Still, when you follow the Bible’s counsel to open your heart wide, you imitate Jehovah, who loves “all sorts of people.”—1 Tim. 2:3, 4; 2 Cor. 6:11-13.
13. As recorded at Genesis 19:15, 16, what did the angels do when Lot kept lingering, and why?
13 At a critical time in his life, Lot was slow to obey Jehovah’s instructions. Two angels visited Lot and told him to bring his family out of Sodom. Why? They said: “We are going to destroy this place.” (Gen. 19:12, 13) The next morning, Lot and his family were still at home. So the angels again warned Lot. But “he kept lingering.” We may judge Lot as being apathetic, even disobedient. However, Jehovah did not give up on him. “Because of Jehovah’s compassion for him,” the angels took the family by the hand and led them outside the city.—Read Genesis 19:15, 16.
14. Why might Jehovah have felt compassion for Lot?
14 Jehovah might have felt compassion for Lot for a number of reasons. Lot may have been reluctant to leave his home because he feared the people outside the city. There were other dangers too. Lot likely knew of the two kings who had fallen into pits of bitumen, or asphalt, in a nearby valley. (Gen. 14:8-12) As a husband and father, Lot must have worried about his family. In addition, Lot was wealthy, so he may have owned a fine house in Sodom. (Gen. 13:5, 6) Of course, none of those factors excused Lot for failing to obey Jehovah immediately. However, Jehovah looked beyond Lot’s mistake and viewed him as a “righteous man.”—2 Pet. 2:7, 8.
15. Rather than judge a person’s actions, what should we do?
15 Rather than judge another person’s actions, do your best to understand how he feels. Veronica, a sister in Europe, tried to do that. “One sister always seemed to be in a bad mood,” she relates. “She kept isolating herself from others. Sometimes, I was afraid to approach her. But I thought, ‘If I were in her situation, I would need a friend.’ So I decided to ask her how she was feeling. And she started to open up her heart! Now I understand a lot more about her.”
16. Why should we pray for help to cultivate empathy?
16 The only person who fully understands us is Jehovah. (Prov. 15:11) So ask him to help you to see in others what he sees and to understand how to show compassion for them. Prayer helped a sister named Anzhela to be more empathetic. A sister in her congregation had become difficult to get along with. Anzhela admits: “It would have been very easy to fall into the trap of criticizing the sister and to ‘wash my hands’ of her. But then I asked Jehovah to help me empathize with this sister.” Did Jehovah answer Anzhela’s prayer? She continues: “We went in the ministry together and talked afterward for hours. I listened to her with compassion. Now I have more love for her, and I’m determined to help her.”
17. What should we be determined to do?
17 You cannot pick which brothers and sisters deserve your tender compassion. All of them face problems as did Jonah, Elijah, Hagar, and Lot. In a number of cases, they have brought the problems on themselves. Realistically, all of us have done that at some point. It is reasonable, then, for Jehovah to ask us to show fellow feeling for one another. (1 Pet. 3:8) When we obey Jehovah, we add to the unity of our remarkable and diverse global family. So when dealing with one another, may we be determined to listen, learn, and show compassion.
SONG 87 Come! Be Refreshed
a As imperfect humans, we have a tendency to make quick assumptions about people and their motives. Jehovah, on the other hand, “sees into the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7) This article will discuss how he lovingly helped Jonah, Elijah, Hagar, and Lot. And it will help us to imitate Jehovah in the way we deal with our brothers and sisters.
b PICTURE DESCRIPTIONS: An older brother is disturbed by a younger brother’s late arrival at the meeting but later finds out that he was late because he was in an auto accident.
c PICTURE DESCRIPTIONS: Although the service group overseer at first thought that a sister was a loner and aloof, he later learned that she was just shy and uncomfortable around people she did not know well.
d PICTURE DESCRIPTIONS: When a sister got to know another sister better socially, she realized that the sister was not moody and uncaring as she had originally thought when they first met at the Kingdom Hall.