“These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you.”—JOHN 15:17, 18.
SONG 129 We Will Keep Enduring
1. According to Matthew 24:9, why should we not be surprised if the world hates us?
JEHOVAH created us to love and to be loved. So when someone hates us, we feel hurt and perhaps even afraid. For example, a sister named Georgina, who lives in Europe, says: “When I was 14, my mother hated me for serving Jehovah. I felt rejected and began doubting that I was a good person.”* A brother named Danylo writes: “When soldiers hit me, insulted me, and threatened me because I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I felt frightened and humiliated.” Such hatred hurts, but it does not surprise us. Jesus foretold that we would be hated.—Read Matthew 24:9.
2-3. Why are Jesus’ followers hated?
2 The world hates Jesus’ followers. Why? Because like Jesus, we are “no part of the world.” (John 15:17-19) As a result, while we respect human governments, we refuse to worship them or the emblems that represent them. We give Jehovah our exclusive devotion. We uphold God’s right to rule mankind—a right that Satan and his “offspring” vigorously challenge. (Gen. 3:1-5, 15) We preach that God’s Kingdom is mankind’s only hope and that the Kingdom will soon crush all those who oppose it. (Dan. 2:44; Rev. 19:19-21) That message is good news to the meek but bad news to the wicked.—Ps. 37:10, 11.
3 We are also hated because we live by God’s righteous standards. These standards contrast sharply with the world’s degraded morals. For example, many people now openly approve of grossly immoral practices similar to the ones for which God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah! (Jude 7) Because we hold to the Bible’s standards regarding such practices, many people ridicule us and call us intolerant.—1 Pet. 4:3, 4.
4. What qualities strengthen us when people hate us?
4 What can help us to endure when people hate us and insult us? We need to have strong faith that Jehovah will help us. Like a shield, our faith can “extinguish all the wicked one’s burning arrows.” (Eph. 6:16) But we need more than faith. We also need love. Why? Because love “does not become provoked.” It bears and endures all hurtful things. (1 Cor. 13:4-7, 13) Let us now see how love for Jehovah, love for our fellow worshippers, and even love for our enemies help us to endure hatred.
LOVE FOR JEHOVAH HELPS US TO ENDURE HATRED
5. How did Jesus’ love for his Father strengthen him?
5 On the night before his enemies put him to death, Jesus said to his loyal followers: “I love the Father, [so] I am doing just as the Father has commanded me to do.” (John 14:31) Jesus’ love for Jehovah strengthened him to face the trials that lay ahead. Our love for Jehovah can do the same for us.
6. According to Romans 5:3-5, how do Jehovah’s servants feel about enduring the world’s hatred?
6 Love for God has always helped Jehovah’s servants to endure persecution. For instance, when the apostles were commanded by the powerful Jewish supreme court to stop preaching, love for God moved them to “obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29; 1 John 5:3) Such unbreakable love also strengthens our brothers today, many of whom are standing firm against cruel and powerful governments. Instead of being discouraged, we count it a privilege to endure the world’s hatred.—Acts 5:41; read Romans 5:3-5.
7. How should we react when family members oppose us?
7 Perhaps one of our biggest tests comes from members of our own family. When we begin to show interest in the truth, some family members may think that we have been misled. Others may think that we have lost our mind. (Compare Mark 3:21.) They may even violently oppose us. This negative reaction should not surprise us. Jesus said: “A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matt. 10:36) Of course, regardless of how our relatives view us, we refuse to treat them as our enemies. On the contrary, as our love for Jehovah grows, so does our love for people. (Matt. 22:37-39) But we will never compromise our standards by ignoring Bible laws and principles just to please another human.
8-9. What helped one sister to stand firm despite severe opposition?
8 Georgina, quoted earlier, managed to stand firm despite severe opposition from her mother. Georgina explains: “My mother and I began studying the Bible with the Witnesses. But six months later when I wanted to attend meetings, my mother’s attitude changed drastically. I discovered that she was in contact with apostates, and she used their arguments when she talked to me. She would also insult me, pull my hair, choke me, and throw away my literature. After I turned 15, I got baptized. My mother tried to stop me from serving Jehovah by putting me in a home with other teens, some of whom took drugs and committed crimes. Opposition is especially hard to deal with when it comes from someone who should love you and care for you.”
9 How did Georgina cope? She says: “The day my mother turned against me, I had just finished reading the entire Bible. I was now fully convinced that I had found the truth, and I felt very close to Jehovah. I often prayed to him, and he heard me. When I was living in that home, a sister invited me to her house, and we studied the Bible together. All the while, I was strengthened by the brothers and sisters at the Kingdom Hall. They made me part of their families. I saw firsthand that Jehovah is stronger than our opposers, no matter who they are.”
10. What confidence can we have in Jehovah our God?
10 The apostle Paul wrote that nothing can “separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38, 39) Even though we may suffer for a time, Jehovah will always be at our side to comfort and strengthen us. And as Georgina’s experience shows, Jehovah also helps us by means of our precious spiritual family.
LOVE FOR FELLOW WORSHIPPERS HELPS US TO ENDURE HATRED
11. How would the love Jesus described at John 15:12, 13 help his disciples? Give an example.
11 On the night before he died, Jesus reminded his disciples to love one another. (Read John 15:12, 13.) He knew that self-sacrificing love would help them to stay united and to endure the world’s hatred. Consider the example of the congregation in Thessalonica. From the time it was formed, its members were persecuted. Yet, the brothers and sisters there became examples of integrity and love. (1 Thess. 1:3, 6, 7) Paul encouraged them to continue showing love, even “in fuller measure.” (1 Thess. 4:9, 10) Love would move them to console the depressed and support the weak. (1 Thess. 5:14) They followed Paul’s instructions, for in his second letter, written about a year later, Paul could say to them: “The love of each and every one of you is increasing toward one another.” (2 Thess. 1:3-5) Their love helped them to endure hardship and persecution.
12. During a time of war, how did brothers and sisters in one country show love for one another?
12 Consider the experience of Danylo, mentioned earlier, and his wife. When their town became engulfed in war, they continued to attend the meetings, to preach as best they could, and to share what food they had with their brothers and sisters. Then one day, Danylo was approached by armed soldiers. “They demanded that I renounce my faith,” says Danylo. “When I refused, they beat me and pretended to shoot me, firing over my head. Before leaving, they threatened to return to rape my wife. But our brothers quickly put us on a train to another town. I will never forget the love of those dear brothers. And when we arrived at the new town, the local brothers gave us food and helped me to find a job and a home! As a result, we were able to provide refuge for other Witnesses fleeing the war zone.” Such experiences show that Christian love can help us to endure hatred.
LOVE FOR OUR ENEMIES HELPS US TO ENDURE HATRED
13. How does holy spirit help us to endure in our service to Jehovah even when people hate us?
13 Jesus told his followers to love their enemies. (Matt. 5:44, 45) Is that easy to do? By no means! But it is possible with the help of God’s holy spirit. The fruitage of God’s spirit includes love as well as patience, kindness, mildness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22, 23) These qualities help us to endure hatred. Many opposers have had a change of heart because a believing husband, wife, child, or neighbor displayed those godly qualities. Many opposers have even become our dear brothers and sisters. So if you find it hard to love those who hate you just because you are serving Jehovah, pray for holy spirit. (Luke 11:13) And be fully convinced that God’s way is always best.—Prov. 3:5-7.
14-15. How did Romans 12:17-21 help Yasmeen to show love to her husband despite his bitter opposition?
14 Consider the example of Yasmeen, who lives in the Middle East. When she became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, her husband thought she had been deceived, and he tried to stop her from serving God. He insulted her and urged relatives as well as a clergyman and a sorcerer to threaten her and accuse her of breaking up her family. Her husband even shouted abuses at the brothers during a congregation meeting! Yasmeen often wept because she was treated so unkindly.
15 At the Kingdom Hall, Yasmeen’s spiritual family comforted and strengthened her. The elders urged her to apply the words found at Romans 12:17-21. (Read.) “It was hard,” says Yasmeen. “But I asked Jehovah to help me, and I did my best to apply what the Bible says. So when my husband spitefully threw dirt in the kitchen, I cleaned it up. When he insulted me, I replied mildly. And when he was sick, I cared for him.”
16-17. What do you learn from Yasmeen’s example?
16 Yasmeen was rewarded for showing love to her husband. She says: “My husband started to trust me more because he knew I would always tell the truth. He began to listen to me respectfully when we talked about religion, and he agreed to make peace at home. Now he tells me to enjoy the congregation meetings. Our family life has improved dramatically, and we enjoy genuine tranquility. My hope is that my husband will open his heart to the truth and join me in serving Jehovah.”
17 Yasmeen’s example shows that love “bears all things, . . . hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4, 7) Hatred can be powerful and hurtful, but love is much stronger. It wins hearts. And it brings joy to Jehovah’s heart. But even if opposers continue to hate us, we can still be happy. How so?
HAPPY WHEN HATED
18. Why can we be happy when hated?
18 Jesus said: “Happy are you whenever men hate you.” (Luke 6:22) We do not choose to be hated. We are not trying to be martyrs. So why can we be happy when hated? Consider three reasons. First, when we endure, we gain God’s approval. (1 Pet. 4:13, 14) Second, our faith is refined and becomes stronger. (1 Pet. 1:7) And third, we will receive a priceless reward—everlasting life.—Rom. 2:6, 7.
19. Why were the apostles happy after being flogged?
19 Soon after Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles experienced the happiness he spoke about. After being flogged and ordered to stop preaching, they rejoiced. Why? “Because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of [Jesus’] name.” (Acts 5:40-42) They loved their Master more than they feared the hatred of their enemies. And they showed their love by proclaiming the good news “without letup.” Many of our brothers today continue to serve faithfully despite difficulties. They know that Jehovah will not forget their work and their love for his name.—Heb. 6:10.
20. What will we consider in the following article?
20 The world will hate us for as long as this system lasts. (John 15:19) But we do not need to be fearful. As we will see in the next article, Jehovah “will strengthen . . . and protect” his loyal ones. (2 Thess. 3:3) So let us continue to love Jehovah, love our brothers and sisters, and love even our enemies. When we follow this counsel, we will remain united and spiritually strong, we will bring honor to Jehovah, and we will prove that love is far more powerful than hate.
SONG 106 Cultivating the Quality of Love
In this article, we will see how love for Jehovah, love for our fellow believers, and even love for our enemies help us to endure the world’s hatred. We will also see why Jesus said that we can be happy when we are hated.
Names have been changed.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: After soldiers threatened Danylo, the brothers helped him and his wife to relocate, and they were warmly received.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Yasmeen’s husband opposed her, but the elders gave her good advice. She proved to be a good wife and cared for him when he was sick.