“Let your brotherly love continue.”—HEBREWS 13:1.
1, 2. Why did Paul write a letter to the Hebrew Christians?
IN THE year 61, the congregations throughout Israel enjoyed relative peace. Although the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome, he hoped to be released soon. His traveling partner Timothy had just been freed from prison, and together they hoped to visit the brothers in Judea. (Hebrews 13:23) In just five years though, Christians in Judea, and especially those living in Jerusalem, would have to act quickly. Why? Earlier, Jesus had told his followers that as soon as they saw Jerusalem surrounded by soldiers, they would need to flee.—Luke 21:20-24.
2 It had been 28 years since Jesus gave his followers that warning. During that time, the Christians in Israel remained faithful despite much persecution and many trials. (Hebrews 10:32-34) But Paul wanted to prepare them for what would happen in the future. They were about to experience one of the biggest tests of their faith. (Matthew 24:20, 21; Hebrews 12:4) They would need endurance and faith like never before in order to obey Jesus’ words to flee, and their lives would depend on it. (Read Hebrews 10:36-39.) So Jehovah inspired Paul to write to those dear brothers and sisters. That letter, now called the book of Hebrews, was designed to strengthen them for what would happen.
3. Why should we be interested in the book of Hebrews?
3 As God’s people today, we should be interested in the book of Hebrews. Why? Because our situation is similar to that of the Christians in Judea. We live in “critical times hard to deal with,” and many have faithfully endured serious trials or persecution. (2 Timothy 3:1, 12) But most of us enjoy peaceful circumstances and do not experience direct persecution. So, like the Christians in Paul’s time, we need to be alert. Why? Very soon, we will experience the biggest test of our faith!—Read Luke 21:34-36.
4. What is the yeartext for 2016, and why is it appropriate?
4 What will help us to prepare for this future event? In the book of Hebrews, Paul stated many things that will help to strengthen our faith. One very important reminder is found at Hebrews 13:1. It encourages us: “Let your brotherly love continue.” That verse has been selected to be the yeartext for 2016.
Our yeartext for 2016: “Let your brotherly love continue.”—Hebrews 13:1
WHAT IS BROTHERLY LOVE?
5. What is brotherly love?
5 What is brotherly love? The original Greek word Paul used literally means “affection for a brother.” Brotherly love is a strong, warm feeling between family members or close friends. (John 11:36) We do not pretend to be brothers and sisters. We are brothers and sisters. (Matthew 23:8) Paul says: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another, take the lead.” (Romans 12:10) Those words show how strong our affection is for our brothers. This brotherly love, along with love based on Christian principles, helps God’s people to be close friends with one another and to be united.
6. How do true Christians understand the meaning of brotherly love?
6 The expression “brotherly love” is mostly found in Christian literature. For Jews in the past, the word “brother” usually referred to a relative and sometimes to a person outside the family. But it would never include someone who was not Jewish. However, as true Christians, our “brother” is any true Christian, no matter what country he or she comes from. (Romans 10:12) Jehovah has taught us to love one another as brothers. (1 Thessalonians 4:9) But why is it important to continue to show brotherly love?
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO CONTINUE TO SHOW BROTHERLY LOVE?
7. (a) What is the most important reason for us to show brotherly love? (b) Give another reason why it is important to strengthen our affection for one another.
7 The most important reason to show brotherly love is that Jehovah tells us to do so. We cannot really love Jehovah if we refuse to love our brothers. (1 John 4:7, 20, 21) Another reason is that we need one another, especially during difficult times. When Paul wrote his letter to the Hebrew Christians, he knew that soon some would have to leave their homes and personal things. Jesus had described how difficult that time would be. (Mark 13:14-18; Luke 21:21-23) So before that time came, those Christians would need to strengthen their love for one another.—Romans 12:9.
We need to strengthen our brotherly love now because it will help us to endure whatever trials we may have in the future
8. What do we need to do now before the start of the great tribulation?
8 The greatest tribulation in mankind’s history is coming soon. (Mark 13:19; Revelation 7:1-3) We will need to obey the counsel: “Go, my people, enter your inner rooms, and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for a brief moment until the wrath has passed by.” (Isaiah 26:20) Those “inner rooms” may refer to our congregations. That is where we worship Jehovah with our brothers and sisters. But we must do more than just meet together regularly. Paul reminded the Hebrew Christians that they should encourage one another to show love and to do good for one another. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) We need to strengthen our brotherly love now because it will help us to endure whatever trials we may have in the future.
9. (a) What opportunities do we have to show brotherly love today? (b) Give examples of how Jehovah’s people have shown brotherly love.
9 We have many opportunities to show brotherly love even today, before the great tribulation begins. Many of our brothers suffer because of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, or other natural disasters. Some brothers endure persecution. (Matthew 24:6-9) And there are daily economic difficulties as a result of living in this corrupt world. (Revelation 6:5, 6) However, the more problems our brothers have, the more opportunities we have to show how much we love them. Even though this world does not show love, we need to continue showing brotherly love. (Matthew 24:12)—See endnote.
HOW CAN WE LET OUR BROTHERLY LOVE CONTINUE?
10. What will we now examine?
10 Despite the problems we have, how can we make sure that we continue to show brotherly love? How can we prove that we have this type of affection for our brothers? After saying “let your brotherly love continue,” the apostle Paul listed several ways that Christians can do this. Let us now examine six of them.
11, 12. What does it mean to show hospitality? (See opening picture.)
11 “Do not forget hospitality.” (Read Hebrews 13:2.) What does the word “hospitality” mean? The word Paul used literally means “kindness to strangers.” Perhaps that expression reminds us of Abraham and Lot. Those two men showed kindness to visitors they did not know. Eventually, Abraham and Lot learned that those strangers were actually angels. (Genesis 18:2-5; 19:1-3) These examples encouraged the Hebrew Christians to show brotherly love by being hospitable.
12 How can we show hospitality to others? We can invite our brothers and sisters to our home for a meal or for some encouragement. Even though we may not know our circuit overseer and his wife very well, we can invite them when they visit our congregation. (3 John 5-8) We do not need to make a big meal or spend a lot of money. Our goal is to encourage our brothers, not to impress them with what we have. And we should not invite only those who can repay us in some way. (Luke 10:42; 14:12-14) What is most important is that we are never so busy that we forget to show hospitality!
13, 14. How can we “keep in mind those in prison”?
13 “Keep in mind those in prison.” (Read Hebrews 13:3.) When Paul wrote this, he was referring to the brothers who were in prison for their faith. Paul commended the congregation because they had shown “sympathy for those in prison.” (Hebrews 10:34) Some brothers helped Paul during the four years he was in prison, but others lived far away. How could they help Paul? They could keep praying intensely for him.—Philippians 1:12-14; Hebrews 13:18, 19.
We can pray for the brothers, sisters, and even children who are in prison in Eritrea
14 Today, many Witnesses are in prison for their faith. Brothers and sisters who live close by can help them with practical things. But many of us live far from those in prison. How can we help them and not forget them? Brotherly love will motivate us to pray intensely for them. For example, we can pray for the brothers, sisters, and even children who are in prison in Eritrea, including our brothers Paulos Eyassu, Isaac Mogos, and Negede Teklemariam, who are still in prison after 20 years.
15. How can we honor our marriage?
15 “Let marriage be honorable among all.” (Read Hebrews 13:4.) We can also show brotherly love by being morally clean. (1 Timothy 5:1, 2) For example, if we were to commit sexual immorality with a brother or a sister, we would harm that person and that person’s family. The trust we have among our brothers would be damaged. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8) Think, too, about how a wife would feel if she discovered that her husband watches pornography. Would she feel that her husband loves her and respects the marriage arrangement?—Matthew 5:28.
16. How does contentment help us to show brotherly love?
16 Be “content with the present things.” (Read Hebrews 13:5.) Trust in Jehovah will help us to be content, that is, to be satisfied with what we have. How does this help us to show brotherly love? When we are content, we will remember that our Christian brothers and sisters are much more important than money or things. (1 Timothy 6:6-8) We will not complain about our brothers or about our situation in life. And we will not be jealous of others or greedy. Instead, when we are content, we will be generous.—1 Timothy 6:17-19.
17. How does being “of good courage” help us to show brotherly love?
17 “Be of good courage.” (Read Hebrews 13:6.) Trust in Jehovah gives us the courage to endure difficult trials. This courage helps us to have a positive attitude. And when we are positive, we can show our brotherly love by encouraging and comforting our brothers and sisters. (1 Thessalonians 5:14, 15) Even during the great tribulation, we can be courageous, knowing that our deliverance is near.—Luke 21:25-28.
We can be courageous, knowing that our deliverance is near
18. How can we strengthen our brotherly love for our elders?
18 “Remember those who are taking the lead.” (Read Hebrews 13:7, 17.) The elders in our congregation use their personal time to work hard for us. When we think about all that they do, our love and appreciation for them grows. We would never want them to lose their joy or become frustrated because of something we do. Instead, we want to obey willingly. This way we “give them extraordinary consideration in love because of their work.”—1 Thessalonians 5:13.
KEEP ON DOING IT MORE FULLY
19, 20. How can we continue to show brotherly love in a greater way?
19 Jehovah’s people are known for their brotherly love. The same was true in Paul’s day. But Paul encouraged the brothers to show love in an even greater way. He said: “Go on doing so in fuller measure.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9, 10) Clearly, there is always room for improvement!
20 So as we look at our yeartext in our Kingdom Hall during this year, let us meditate on these questions: Can I be more hospitable? How can I help our brothers in prison? Do I honor God’s arrangement of marriage? What will help me to be truly content? How can I trust in Jehovah more? How can I be more obedient to those who are taking the lead? If we work to improve in these six areas, the yeartext will not be just a sign on the wall; it will remind us to obey Paul’s words: “Let your brotherly love continue.”—Hebrews 13:1.
 (paragraph 9) For examples of how Jehovah’s Witnesses show brotherly love in times of disaster, see the July 15, 2002, Watchtower, pages 8-9, and Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, chapter 19.