“Let us continue loving one another, because love is from God.”—1 JOHN 4:7.
SONG 105 “God Is Love”
1. How does God’s love make you feel?
“GOD is love,” wrote the apostle John. (1 John 4:8) That simple statement reminds us of a fundamental truth: God, the Source of life, is also the Source of love. Jehovah loves us! His love makes us feel secure, happy, and satisfied.
2. According to Matthew 22:37-40, what are the two greatest commandments, and why may we have difficulty obeying the second one?
2 For Christians, showing love is not optional. It is a commandment. (Read Matthew 22:37-40.) When we come to know Jehovah well, we may find it easy to obey the first commandment. After all, Jehovah is perfect; he is thoughtful and gentle in the way he treats us. But we may have difficulty obeying the second commandment. Why? Because our brothers and sisters—who are among our closest neighbors—are imperfect. At times, they may say and do things that we feel are uncaring and unkind. Jehovah knew that we would face this challenge, so he inspired some of the writers of the Bible to include specific counsel on why and how we should show love to one another. One of those writers was John.—1 John 3:11, 12.
3. What did John stress?
3 In his writings, John stresses that Christians must show love. In fact, in his account of Jesus’ life, John uses the words “love” and “loved” more often than the other three Gospel writers combined. John was about one hundred years old when he wrote his Gospel account and his three letters. Those inspired writings reveal that love must influence everything a Christian does. (1 John 4:10, 11) However, it took time for John to learn that lesson.
4. Did John always show love to others?
4 When John was a young man, he did not always show love. For example, on one occasion, Jesus and his disciples were traveling to Jerusalem through Samaria. A certain Samaritan village refused to show them hospitality. What was John’s response? He asked about calling down fire from heaven and destroying all the inhabitants of the village! (Luke 9:52-56) On another occasion, John failed to show love to his fellow apostles. He and his brother James apparently coaxed their mother into asking Jesus to give them prominent positions alongside him in the Kingdom. When the other apostles found out what James and John had done, they were furious! (Matt. 20:20, 21, 24) Nevertheless, despite all of John’s flaws, Jesus loved him.—John 21:7.
5. What will we examine in this article?
5 In this article, we will examine John’s example and some of the things he wrote about love. As we do, we will learn how we can show love to our brothers and sisters. We will also learn about an important way in which a family head can prove that he loves his family.
LOVE IS EXPRESSED BY ACTIONS
6. How has Jehovah revealed his love for us?
6 We often think of love as a warm feeling expressed by kind words. But for love to be real, it must also be backed by actions. (Compare James 2:17, 26.) For example, Jehovah loves us. (1 John 4:19) And he expresses his love through the beautiful words recorded in the Bible. (Ps. 25:10; Rom. 8:38, 39) However, we are convinced that God loves us not just because of what he says but also because of what he does. John wrote: “By this the love of God was revealed in our case, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might gain life through him.” (1 John 4:9) Jehovah allowed his beloved Son to suffer and die for us. (John 3:16) Can there be any doubt that Jehovah really loves us?
7. What did Jesus do to prove his love for us?
7 Jesus assured his disciples that he had affection for them. (John 13:1; 15:15) He proved the depth of his love for them and for us not just by what he said but also by what he did. “No one has love greater than this,” said Jesus, “that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) When we think about what Jehovah and Jesus have done for us, how should we be affected?
8. What does 1 John 3:18 say we should do?
8 We prove that we love Jehovah and Jesus by obeying them. (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3) And Jesus specifically commanded us to love one another. (John 13:34, 35) We must not only express our love for our brothers and sisters in words but also show that we love them by what we do. (Read 1 John 3:18.) What specifically can we do to prove that we love them?
LOVE YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS
9. What did love move John to do?
9 John could have stayed with his father and made money working in the family fishing business. But instead he devoted the remainder of his long life to helping others learn the truth about Jehovah and Jesus. The life John chose was not an easy one. He suffered persecution, and near the end of the first century when he was an old man, he was exiled. (Acts 3:1; 4:1-3; 5:18; Rev. 1:9) Even while confined for preaching about Jesus, John proved that he was thinking of others. For example, while on the island of Patmos, he recorded the revelation that he received and had it sent to the congregations so that they would know what “must shortly take place.” (Rev. 1:1) Then, likely after he was released from Patmos, John wrote his Gospel account of Jesus’ life and ministry. He also wrote three letters in order to encourage and strengthen his brothers and sisters. How can you imitate John’s self-sacrificing life course?
10. How can you prove that you love people?
10 You can prove that you love people by what you choose to do with your life. Satan’s system would have you spend all your time and energy on yourself, trying to make money or to make a name for yourself. Instead, self-sacrificing Kingdom proclaimers all over the world spend as much time as they can preaching the good news and helping people to draw close to Jehovah. Some are even able to preach and teach full-time.
11. How do many faithful publishers prove that they love Jehovah and their brothers and sisters?
11 Many loyal Christians must work at secular jobs full-time so that they can support themselves and their families. Even so, these faithful publishers support God’s organization in any way they can. For instance, some are able to provide disaster relief, others can work on construction projects, and everyone has the opportunity to donate funds to the worldwide work. They do these things because they love God and their fellow man. Each week, we prove that we love our brothers and sisters by attending congregation meetings and participating in them. Although we may be tired, we are present at those meetings. Although we may be nervous, we comment. And although we all have problems of our own, we encourage others before or after the meeting. (Heb. 10:24, 25) How grateful we are for the work done by our fellow publishers!
12. What is another way that John proved his love for his brothers and sisters?
12 John proved his love for his brothers and sisters not only by commending them but also by imparting counsel to them. For instance, in his letters, John commended his brothers and sisters for their faith and good works, but he also gave them direct counsel about sin. (1 John 1:8–2:1, 13, 14) Similarly, we need to commend our brothers and sisters for the good things they do. But if someone is developing a bad attitude or habit, we can show love by tactfully telling him what he needs to hear. It takes courage to give counsel to a friend, but the Bible says that true friends sharpen, or correct, one another.—Prov. 27:17.
13. What should we avoid doing?
13 Sometimes, we prove our love for our brothers and sisters by what we do not do. For example, we do not get easily offended by what they say. Consider an incident that happened toward the end of Jesus’ life on earth. He told his disciples that to gain life they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood. (John 6:53-57) That speech was so shocking that many of his disciples abandoned him—but not so his real friends, including John. They loyally stuck with him. They did not understand what Jesus said, and they were likely surprised by it. However, Jesus’ loyal friends did not assume that what he said was wrong and become offended by it. Instead, they trusted him, knowing that he spoke the truth. (John 6:60, 66-69) How important it is that we do not become easily offended by what our friends say! Rather, we allow them the opportunity to explain misunderstandings.—Prov. 18:13; Eccl. 7:9.
14. Why should we not allow hatred to fester in our heart?
14 John also urged us not to hate our brothers or sisters. If we fail to heed that counsel, we leave ourselves open to being manipulated by Satan. (1 John 2:11; 3:15) This happened to some at the end of the first century C.E. Satan was doing all that he could to promote hatred and divide God’s people. By the time John wrote his letters, men who showed the same spirit as Satan had slipped into the congregation. For instance, Diotrephes was creating serious divisions in one congregation. (3 John 9, 10) He was disrespectful to traveling representatives of the governing body. He even tried to throw out of the congregation those who were hospitable to people whom he disliked. How arrogant! Satan is still desperately trying to divide and conquer God’s people today. May we never allow hatred to drive us apart.
LOVE YOUR FAMILY
15. What must a family head remember?
15 One important way that a family head proves that he loves his family is by providing for their material needs. (1 Tim. 5:8) He must remember, however, that material things cannot satisfy his family’s spiritual needs. (Matt. 5:3) Note the example that Jesus set for family heads. According to John’s Gospel, while Jesus was dying on a torture stake, he was still thinking of his family. John was standing with Jesus’ mother, Mary, at the location where Jesus was being executed. Despite being in severe agony, Jesus arranged for John to care for Mary. (John 19:26, 27) Jesus had siblings who would no doubt care for Mary’s physical needs, but it appears that none of them had yet become his disciples. So Jesus wanted to make sure that Mary was cared for physically as well as spiritually.
16. What load of responsibility did John carry?
16 John carried a heavy load of responsibility. As one of the apostles, he took the lead in the preaching work. He may also have been married, so he would have had to balance caring for his family’s material needs with providing for their spiritual needs. (1 Cor. 9:5) What is the lesson for family heads today?
17. Why is it important for a family head to care for his family’s spiritual needs?
17 A brother who is a family head may have a number of weighty responsibilities. For instance, he must be diligent in his secular work so that his conduct reflects well on Jehovah. (Eph. 6:5, 6; Titus 2:9, 10) And he may have responsibilities in the congregation, such as shepherding and taking the lead in the preaching work. At the same time, it is important that he regularly study the Bible with his wife and children. They will deeply appreciate his efforts to keep them physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.—Eph. 5:28, 29; 6:4.
“REMAIN IN MY LOVE”
18. Of what was John sure?
18 John had a long, eventful life. He faced all types of challenges that could have weakened his faith. But he always did his best to observe Jesus’ commandments, including the order to love his brothers and sisters. As a result, John was sure that Jehovah and Jesus loved him and that they would give him the strength to overcome any trial. (John 14:15-17; 15:10; 1 John 4:16) Nothing that Satan or his system did could stop John from feeling, expressing, and showing love.
19. What does 1 John 4:7 encourage us to do, and why?
19 Like John, we live in a world dominated by Satan, the hateful god of this system. (1 John 3:1, 10) While he wants us to stop loving our brothers and sisters, he cannot make that happen unless we allow him to do so. May we be determined to love our brothers and sisters, to express that love by what we say, and to prove that love by what we do. Then we will have the satisfaction of being part of Jehovah’s family, and life will truly be worth living.—Read 1 John 4:7.
SONG 88 Make Me Know Your Ways
The apostle John is believed to be “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” (John 21:7) So even as a young man, he must have had many admirable qualities. Years later, Jehovah used him to write extensively about love. This article will review some of John’s writings and will discuss what we can learn from his example.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A busy family head shares in disaster relief work, supports the worldwide work with his donations, and invites others to join him and his wife and children in family worship.