“In brotherly love have tender affection for one another.”—ROM. 12:10.
SONG 109 Love Intensely From the Heart
1. In what ways do we see a lack of natural affection today?
THE Bible foretold that in the last days, people would lack “natural affection.” (2 Tim. 3:1, 3) We see this prophecy being fulfilled today. For example, millions of families have been divided by divorce, leaving the parents angry with each other and the children feeling that they are unloved. Even families who stay in the same house may become virtual strangers. “Mom, dad, and the kids are all disconnected from each other and connected to a computer screen, tablet, smartphone, or video game console,” says one family counselor. “Although these families live under the same roof, they barely know each other.”
2-3. (a) According to Romans 12:10, for whom should we have tender affection? (b) What will we consider in this article?
2 We do not want to be molded by the world’s loveless spirit. (Rom. 12:2) Instead, we need to cultivate tender affection not only for our family members but also for those who are related to us in the faith. (Read Romans 12:10.) What is tender affection? It is a term that specifically describes the warm friendship between close family members. That is the kind of love we should cultivate for our spiritual family, our Christian brothers and sisters. When we show tender affection, we help maintain the unity that is a vital part of true worship.—Mic. 2:12.
3 To help us cultivate and show tender affection, let us see what we can learn from Bible examples.
JEHOVAH—“VERY TENDER IN AFFECTION”
4. How does James 5:11 help us to appreciate the depth of Jehovah’s love?
4 The Bible reveals Jehovah’s beautiful qualities. For example, it says that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) That description alone draws us to him. But the Bible also says that Jehovah “is very tender in affection.” (Read James 5:11.) What a warm way of expressing the depth of feeling that Jehovah has for us!
5. How does Jehovah show mercy, and how can we imitate him?
5 Note that James 5:11 links Jehovah’s tender affection to another quality that draws us to him—his mercy. (Ex. 34:6) One way in which Jehovah shows us mercy is by forgiving us for the mistakes we make. (Ps. 51:1) In the Bible, mercy involves much more than forgiveness. Mercy is an intense feeling that springs from inside a person when he or she sees someone in distress and is moved to try to help the person. Jehovah describes the intense desire he has to help us as being greater than the feelings that a mother has for her child. (Isa. 49:15) When we are in distress, Jehovah’s mercy moves him to help us. (Ps. 37:39; 1 Cor. 10:13) We can show mercy to our brothers and sisters by forgiving them and not holding a grudge when they disappoint us. (Eph. 4:32) But a primary way we can show mercy is by supporting our brothers and sisters through the hardships they face. When love moves us to be merciful toward others, we imitate Jehovah, the supreme example of tender affection.—Eph. 5:1.
JONATHAN AND DAVID—“BOUND TOGETHER IN CLOSE FRIENDSHIP”
6. How did Jonathan and David show tender affection for each other?
6 The Bible contains accounts of imperfect humans who showed tender affection. Consider the example of Jonathan and David. The Bible says: “Jonathan and David became bound together in close friendship, and Jonathan began to love him as himself.” (1 Sam. 18:1) David was anointed to succeed Saul as king. After that, Saul became resentful of David and tried to kill him. But Saul’s son Jonathan did not join his father in this murderous campaign against David. Jonathan and David promised to remain friends and always to support each other.—1 Sam. 20:42.
7. What is one factor that could have prevented Jonathan and David from becoming friends?
7 The tender affection between Jonathan and David is all the more remarkable when we consider some factors that could have prevented them from becoming friends. For example, Jonathan was some 30 years older than David. Jonathan could have concluded that he had nothing in common with this much younger and less experienced man. Yet, Jonathan did not view or treat David as an inferior.
8. Why, do you think, was Jonathan such a good friend to David?
8 Jonathan could have been jealous of David. As King Saul’s son, Jonathan could have insisted that he was the rightful heir to the throne. (1 Sam. 20:31) But Jonathan was humble, and he was loyal to Jehovah. So he fully supported Jehovah’s choice of David as future king. He was also loyal to David, even when this incurred the wrath of Saul.—1 Sam. 20:32-34.
9. Did Jonathan view David as a rival? Explain.
9 Jonathan had tender affection for David, so he did not view him as a rival. Jonathan was a skilled archer and a courageous warrior. He and his father, Saul, had a reputation for being “swifter than the eagles” and “mightier than the lions.” (2 Sam. 1:22, 23) Therefore, Jonathan could have boasted about his own heroic exploits. However, Jonathan was not competitive or resentful. On the contrary, Jonathan admired David for his courage and reliance on Jehovah. In fact, it was after David killed Goliath that Jonathan began to love David as himself. How can we show such tender affection for our brothers and sisters?
HOW CAN WE SHOW TENDER AFFECTION TODAY?
10. What does it mean to “love one another intensely from the heart”?
10 The Bible tells us to “love one another intensely from the heart.” (1 Pet. 1:22) Jehovah sets the example for us. His love is so intense that if we are loyal to him, nothing can break that bond. (Rom. 8:38, 39) The Greek word rendered “intensely” conveys the idea of stretching outward—even straining. At times, we may need to “stretch” and “strain” in order to have tender affection for a fellow believer. When others upset us, we need to continue “putting up with one another in love, earnestly endeavoring to maintain the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3) When we work to maintain the “bond of peace,” we will look beyond our brothers’ faults. We will try our best to view our brothers as Jehovah does.—1 Sam. 16:7; Ps. 130:3.
11. Why might cultivating tender affection be difficult at times?
11 It is not always easy to show tender affection for our brothers and sisters, especially when we are aware of their faults. Apparently, this was a challenge for some first-century Christians. For example, Euodia and Syntyche likely had no problem working “side by side with [Paul] for the good news.” But for some reason they had difficulty getting along with each other. So Paul urged them “to be of the same mind in the Lord.”—Phil. 4:2, 3.
12. How can we cultivate tender affection for our brothers and sisters?
12 How can we cultivate tender affection for our brothers and sisters today? When we get to know fellow believers better, we may find it easier to understand them and to develop tender affection for them. Age and background need not be a barrier. Remember, Jonathan was about 30 years older than David; yet he developed a close friendship with him. Could you take an interest in someone who is older—or younger—than you? By doing so, you can show that you “have love for the whole association of brothers.”—1 Pet. 2:17.
13. Why might we not feel equally close to everyone in the congregation?
13 Does having tender affection for fellow believers mean that we will feel equally close to everyone in the congregation? No, that would not be realistic. It is not necessarily wrong to be drawn more to some than to others because of having similar interests. Jesus referred to all his apostles as “friends,” but he had a special affection for John. (John 13:23; 15:15; 20:2) However, Jesus did not show favoritism to John. For instance, when John and his brother James asked for a prominent position in God’s Kingdom, Jesus told them: “To sit down at my right hand or at my left is not mine to give.” (Mark 10:35-40) In imitation of Jesus, we should not show favoritism to our close friends. (Jas. 2:3, 4) Doing so would promote a divisive spirit—something that has no place in the Christian congregation.—Jude 17-19.
14. According to Philippians 2:3, what will help us avoid a spirit of competition?
14 When we show tender affection for one another, we protect the congregation from a spirit of competition. Recall that Jonathan did not try to compete with David, viewing him as a rival to the throne. All of us can imitate Jonathan’s example. Do not view your fellow workers as rivals because of their abilities, “but with humility consider others superior to you.” (Read Philippians 2:3.) Keep in mind that each person in the congregation has something to contribute. By keeping a humble view of ourselves, we see the good in our brothers and sisters and benefit from their faithful example.—1 Cor. 12:21-25.
15. What do you learn from the experience of Tanya and her family?
15 When we face unexpected trials, Jehovah comforts us through the tender affection and practical help that we receive from our brothers and sisters. Consider what happened to one family after attending the Saturday program at one of the 2019 “Love Never Fails!” International Conventions in the United States. “We were driving back to our hotel,” relates Tanya, a mother of three, “when another vehicle lost control and veered into our lane and crashed into us. No one was hurt, but we got out of the car and stood on the freeway, stunned. Someone on the side of the road was waving us over to the safety of his car. It was one of our brothers who had also just left the convention. And he wasn’t the only one who stopped. Five delegates from Sweden also stopped. The sisters gave my daughter and me the warmest hugs, which we desperately needed! I assured them that we would be OK, but they would not leave us. They stayed with us even after the paramedics arrived, and they made sure we had everything we needed. Through every step of this ordeal, we felt Jehovah’s love. This experience intensified our love for our brothers and sisters, and it deepened our love and appreciation for Jehovah.” Can you recall a time when you were in need and a fellow believer showed you tender affection?
16. What reasons do we have for showing tender affection for one another?
16 Consider what results when we show tender affection for one another. We comfort our brothers and sisters in their time of need. We strengthen the unity among God’s people. We prove that we are Jesus’ disciples, and this attracts honesthearted ones to true worship. Above all, we glorify “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort,” Jehovah. (2 Cor. 1:3) May all of us continue cultivating and showing tender affection!
SONG 130 Be Forgiving
Jesus said that his disciples would be recognized by the love they have among themselves. All of us try to live up to that requirement. We can strengthen our love for our brothers by cultivating tender affection—the kind of love that is shown by close family members. This article will help us develop and maintain tender affection for those who are related to us in the faith.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A younger elder who benefits from the experience of an older elder is warmly welcomed in the older brother’s home. They and their wives show gracious hospitality to one another.