“You must love your neighbor as yourself.”—MATTHEW 22:39.
1, 2. How do the Scriptures show the importance of love?
LOVE is Jehovah God’s main quality. (1 John 4:16) His first creation, Jesus Christ, spent billions of years in heaven with his Father and learned what a loving God Jehovah is. (Colossians 1:15) Jesus has shown the same type of love during his entire life, both in heaven and on earth. So we can be sure that Jehovah and Jesus will always rule in a loving way.
2 When someone asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment, Jesus 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. The second, like it, is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’”—Matthew 22:37-39.
3. Who is our “neighbor”?
3 It is important to show love in all our relationships. Jesus said that we must love Jehovah and also love our neighbor. But who is our “neighbor”? If we are married, our closest neighbor is our husband or wife. Our neighbor also includes our brothers and sisters in the congregation, as well as the people we meet in the ministry. In this article, we will learn how we can show love for our neighbor.
LOVE YOUR MARRIAGE MATE
4. How can a marriage be successful despite human imperfection?
4 Jehovah created Adam and Eve and brought them together. That was the first marriage. God wanted them to have a happy marriage and fill the earth with their children. (Genesis 1:27, 28) However, after they disobeyed Jehovah, their marriage was damaged, and sin and death were passed on to all of us. (Romans 5:12) Despite that, a marriage can be successful today. In the Bible, Jehovah, the Creator of marriage, has given the very best advice for husbands and wives.—Read 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
Jehovah expects the husband to be a loving head
5. How important is love in a marriage?
5 The Bible shows that warm and tender love is essential for happy relationships. This is certainly true in marriage. The apostle Paul described genuine love when he said: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. It does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) When we think about Paul’s words and apply them, we can have a happy marriage.
6, 7. (a) What does the Bible say about being a head? (b) How must a Christian husband treat his wife?
6 Jehovah decided who should be the head of the family. Paul explained: “I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn, the head of a woman is the man; in turn, the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) But Jehovah expects the husband to be a loving head, never mean or cruel. Jehovah himself is a kind and unselfish Head. As a result, Jesus respects God’s loving authority. He said: “I love the Father.” (John 14:31) Jesus would not feel that way if Jehovah were harsh with him.
7 Even though a husband is the head of his wife, the Bible tells him to honor her. (1 Peter 3:7) How can a husband do that? He can consider what she needs and respect her preferences. The Bible says: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and gave himself up for it.” (Ephesians 5:25) Yes, Jesus even gave his life for his followers. When a husband is a loving head like Jesus, it will be easier for a wife to love and respect him and honor his decisions.—Read Titus 2:3-5.
LOVE YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS
8. How should we feel about our brothers and sisters?
8 Today, millions of people all over the earth worship Jehovah. They are our brothers and sisters. How should we feel about them? The Bible says: “Let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10; read Romans 12:10.) The apostle Peter wrote that our “obedience to the truth” should result in genuine “brotherly affection.” Peter also told fellow Christians: “Above all things, have intense love for one another.”—1 Peter 1:22; 4:8.
9, 10. Why are God’s people united?
9 Our worldwide organization is unique. Why? Because we have deep and genuine love for our brothers and sisters. More important, because we love Jehovah and obey his laws, he supports us with the most powerful force in the universe, his holy spirit. God’s spirit helps us to be a truly united worldwide brotherhood.—Read 1 John 4:20, 21.
10 Paul emphasized the need for love among Christians when he wrote: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, humility, mildness, and patience. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely even if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Just as Jehovah freely forgave you, you must also do the same. But besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.” (Colossians 3:12-14) How thankful we are that love, “a perfect bond of union,” exists among us no matter where we come from!
Love and unity identify Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christ’s true followers, the people God is using to preach the good news of the Kingdom worldwide
11. What identifies God’s organization?
11 The genuine love and unity of Jehovah’s servants identify them as the ones who practice the true religion. Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35) And the apostle John wrote: “The children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Whoever does not practice righteousness does not originate with God, nor does the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (1 John 3:10, 11) Love and unity identify Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christ’s true followers, the people God is using to preach the good news of the Kingdom worldwide.—Matthew 24:14.
GATHERING “A GREAT CROWD”
12, 13. What are those of the “great crowd” doing today, and what will they soon experience?
12 Most of Jehovah’s servants today are part of “a great crowd” that comes from many different parts of the world, and they show their support for the Kingdom. They “are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” by showing faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. Those of the “great crowd” love Jehovah and his Son, and they worship Jehovah “day and night.”—Revelation 7:9, 14, 15.
13 Soon God will destroy this wicked world in the “great tribulation.” (Matthew 24:21; read Jeremiah 25:32, 33.) But Jehovah will protect and lead his servants into his new world because he loves them. As he promised nearly 2,000 years ago, “he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” Do you look forward to living in Paradise after wickedness, suffering, and death are gone?—Revelation 21:4.
14. How large has the great crowd become?
14 At the start of the last days in 1914, there were only a few thousand servants of God. Motivated by love for neighbor and with the help of God’s holy spirit, that small group of anointed brothers and sisters preached the good news of the Kingdom despite difficulties. What has been the result? Today a great crowd of people who have the hope of living forever on earth is being gathered. There are about 8,000,000 Witnesses in more than 115,400 congregations around the world, and the number keeps growing. For example, over 275,500 new Witnesses were baptized in the 2014 service year. That is about 5,300 baptized each week.
15. How do many hear about the good news today?
15 It is amazing to see how many have heard about the good news of the Kingdom. Today our publications are available in over 700 languages. The Watchtower is the most widely distributed magazine in the world. More than 52,000,000 copies are printed each month, and the magazine is published in 247 languages. And our Bible study book What Does the Bible Really Teach? has been translated into over 250 languages. So far, over 200,000,000 copies have been printed.
16. Why does Jehovah’s organization continue to grow?
16 Our organization keeps growing because we have faith in God and accept the Bible as his inspired Word. (1 Thessalonians 2:13) We continue to enjoy Jehovah’s blessing despite Satan’s hatred and opposition.—2 Corinthians 4:4.
ALWAYS LOVE OTHERS
17, 18. How does Jehovah expect us to feel toward those who do not worship him?
17 People respond in many different ways to our preaching. Some people listen to us, while others hate our message. How does Jehovah expect us to feel toward those who do not worship him? No matter how people react to our message, we follow the counsel found in the Bible. It says: “Let your words always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6) Whenever we defend our beliefs, we want to do so “with a mild temper and deep respect” because we love our neighbor.—1 Peter 3:15.
18 Even when people get angry and reject our message, we show love for our neighbor and imitate Jesus’ example. When Jesus “was being insulted, he did not insult in return. When he was suffering, he did not threaten.” Instead, Jesus trusted in Jehovah. (1 Peter 2:23) So at all times, we show humility and apply the counsel: “Do not pay back injury for injury or insult for insult. Instead, repay with a blessing.”—1 Peter 3:8, 9.
We must love our enemies no matter how they treat us
19. How should we treat our enemies?
19 Humility helps us to obey an important principle given by Jesus. He explained: “You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45) As God’s servants, we must love our enemies no matter how they treat us.
20. How do we know that love for God and neighbor will fill the entire earth? (See opening picture.)
20 At all times, we must show that we love Jehovah and our neighbor. Even if people oppose us and our message, we help them when they are in need. The apostle Paul wrote: “Do not owe anything to anyone except to love one another; for whoever loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. For the law code, ‘You must not commit adultery, you must not murder, you must not steal, you must not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there is, is summed up in this saying: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor; therefore, love is the law’s fulfillment.” (Romans 13:8-10) In this divided, violent, wicked world ruled by Satan, God’s servants show genuine love for their neighbor. (1 John 5:19) After Jehovah destroys Satan, his demons, and this wicked world, love will fill the entire earth. What a blessing it will be when all on earth love both Jehovah and their neighbor!