“We should love, not in word or with the tongue, but in deed and truth.”—1 JOHN 3:18.
1. What is the highest form of love, and how would you describe it? (See opening picture.)
JEHOVAH is the Source of love. (1 John 4:7) The highest form of love is based on right principles. In the Bible, this type of love is described by the Greek word a·gaʹpe. This love can include affection and warm feelings for someone, but it involves more than simply feelings. It is shown by unselfish actions for the benefit of others. It is love that motivates us to do good things for others. This kind of love gives us joy and meaning in life.
2, 3. How has Jehovah shown unselfish love for humans?
2 Jehovah showed love for humans even before he created Adam and Eve. He made the earth so that it would have everything we would need to survive. More than that, he made it into a home where we could really enjoy life. Jehovah did not do this for himself. He did it for us. Once our home was ready, he created humans and gave them the hope of living forever on a paradise earth.
3 Later, Jehovah expressed his unselfish love for humans in the greatest way possible. Although Adam and Eve had rebelled, Jehovah was so sure that some of their descendants would love him that he arranged for the ransom sacrifice of his Son to save them. (Genesis 3:15; 1 John 4:10) From the moment Jehovah promised the ransom, it was as if that sacrifice had already been made. Then, 4,000 years later, Jehovah gave his only-begotten Son for humans. (John 3:16) We are very grateful for Jehovah’s love!
Show love even when it is not easy
4. How do we know that imperfect humans can show unselfish love?
4 Can we show unselfish love, even though we are imperfect? Yes, we can. Jehovah created us in his image, that is, with the ability to imitate him. It is not always easy for us to show unselfish love, but it is possible. Abel showed love for God when he unselfishly offered the best of what he had. (Genesis 4:3, 4) Noah showed unselfish love when he continued to preach God’s message for many years even though the people did not listen. (2 Peter 2:5) And Abraham showed that his love for God was stronger than anything else by being willing to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. (James 2:21) Like those faithful men, we also want to show love even when it is not easy.
WHAT IS GENUINE LOVE?
5. In what ways can we show genuine love?
5 The Bible tells us that we show genuine love “not in word or with the tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18) Does this mean that we cannot express love by what we say? No. (1 Thessalonians 4:18) It means that it is not always enough simply to say “I love you.” We need to show that we mean it. For example, if our brothers or sisters do not have enough food or clothing, they need more than kind words. (James 2:15, 16) In a similar way, because we love Jehovah and our neighbor, we not only pray for more people to preach with us but also work hard in the preaching work ourselves.—Matthew 9:38.
6, 7. (a) What is “love free from hypocrisy”? (b) What are some examples of fake love?
6 The apostle John said that we must love “in deed and truth.” So our love must be “without hypocrisy,” or “free from hypocrisy.” (Romans 12:9; 2 Corinthians 6:6) At times a person might pretend to show love. But is his love real and sincere? What are his motives? There is no such thing as love with hypocrisy. Fake love is worthless.
7 Let us consider some examples of fake love. When Satan talked to Eve in the garden of Eden, what he said made it seem that he wanted the best for her. But his actions showed that he did not. (Genesis 3:4, 5) When David was king, he had a friend named Ahithophel. But Ahithophel betrayed David to benefit himself. His actions showed that he was not a true friend. (2 Samuel 15:31) Today, apostates and others who create divisions in the congregation use “smooth talk and flattering speech.” (Romans 16:17, 18) They may pretend to care about others, but in reality, they are selfish.
8. What question should we ask ourselves?
8 Fake love is especially shameful because it is used to deceive people. We may be able to fool humans, but we cannot fool Jehovah. Jesus said that those who act like hypocrites would be punished “with the greatest severity.” (Matthew 24:51) As Jehovah’s servants, we never want to be hypocritical. So we should ask ourselves, ‘Is my love genuine, or am I selfish and dishonest?’ Let us consider nine ways we can show love that is “free from hypocrisy.”
HOW WE CAN LOVE “IN DEED AND TRUTH”
9. What will genuine love motivate us to do?
9 Be happy to serve even if no one notices what you do. We should be willing to do loving and kind things for others, things that no one else will ever know about. (Read Matthew 6:1-4.) Ananias and Sapphira had a different attitude. When they made a donation, they wanted others to know about it. They lied about how much they were giving, and they were punished for their hypocrisy. (Acts 5:1-10) But if we really love our brothers, we will be happy to do kind things for them without wanting others to know what we have done. We can learn from the brothers who help the Governing Body prepare spiritual food. They do not draw attention to themselves, and they do not let people know what projects they have worked on.
Be happy to serve even if no one notices what you do
10. How can we show honor to others?
10 Show honor to others. (Read Romans 12:10.) Jesus showed honor to his apostles when he washed their feet. (John 13:3-5, 12-15) We should work hard to become humble like Jesus and serve others. The apostles did not fully understand what Jesus had done until much later, when they received holy spirit. (John 13:7) We show honor to others by not thinking that we are better than they are because we are better educated, are richer, or have special assignments. (Romans 12:3) We are not jealous when others receive praise, but we rejoice with them even if we feel that we should have received some of the praise as well.
11. Why must our commendation be sincere?
11 Give sincere commendation. Look for opportunities to commend others. We all know that commendation is “good for building up” one another. (Ephesians 4:29) But we want to make sure that what we say is sincere and is not said just to flatter others. We should not say something we do not mean or avoid our responsibility to give necessary counsel. (Proverbs 29:5) We would be hypocrites if we commended others and then later criticized them behind their back. The apostle Paul’s love was genuine. When he wrote to the Christians in Corinth, he commended them for what they were doing well. (1 Corinthians 11:2) But when they needed counsel, he explained the reason to them kindly and clearly.—1 Corinthians 11:20-22.
12. How can we show genuine love when we offer hospitality?
12 Be hospitable. Jehovah commands us to be generous with our brothers and sisters. (Read 1 John 3:17.) But we must have the right motive for being hospitable. We can ask ourselves: ‘Do I invite to my home only my close friends or only those whom I consider to be important in the congregation? Do I invite only people who I think will do something for me in return? Or am I generous with brothers and sisters whom I do not know well or who cannot do something for me?’ (Luke 14:12-14) Imagine these situations: What if a brother needs help because of some unwise decisions he made? Or what if someone we invited to our home never thanked us? Jehovah tells us: “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9) We will be happy when we give with the right motive.—Acts 20:35.
13. (a) When might we need more patience? (b) What can we do to help those who are weak?
13 Help those who are weak. The Bible’s command to “support the weak, be patient toward all” can test if our love is genuine. (1 Thessalonians 5:14) Many brothers who were weak later became strong in the faith. But others continue to need our patient and loving help. How can we help them? We can use the Bible to encourage them, we can invite them to preach with us, or we can just listen to them. Also, we should not think of our brothers and sisters as simply being either “strong” or “weak.” Instead, we should realize that we all have both strengths and weaknesses. Even the apostle Paul admitted that he had weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10) All of us need help and encouragement from one another.
14. What should we be willing to do to maintain peace with our brothers?
14 Make peace. Peace with our brothers is very precious. Even if we feel that we have been misunderstood or treated unfairly, we should do everything we can to make peace. (Read Romans 12:17, 18.) If we have hurt someone’s feelings, we may simply need to apologize. But we must be sincere. For example, instead of saying, “I am sorry that you feel that way,” it would be better to admit our fault by saying, “I am sorry that I hurt you by what I said.” Peace is especially important in a marriage. It would be wrong for a husband and wife to act as if they loved each other in front of others while privately they refused to talk to each other, said hurtful things to each other, or were even violent.
15. How can we show that our forgiveness is genuine?
15 Forgive freely. If someone offends us, we forgive him and let go of our hurt feelings. We should do this even if he does not realize that he offended us. We freely forgive by “putting up with one another in love, earnestly endeavoring to maintain the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2, 3) In order to forgive genuinely, we must stop thinking about what the person did. Love “does not keep account of the injury.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5) In fact, if we held a grudge, we could harm our relationship with our brother or sister and also with Jehovah. (Matthew 6:14, 15) We prove that our forgiveness is sincere when we pray for the person who offended us.—Luke 6:27, 28.
16. How should we feel about special assignments in Jehovah’s service?
16 Sacrifice personal advantages. When we receive a special assignment in Jehovah’s service, we can prove that our love is genuine by “seeking, not [our] own advantage, but that of the other person.” (1 Corinthians 10:24) For example, at our assemblies and conventions, the attendants enter the facility before others and could be tempted to save the best seats for themselves and their families. Instead, many of them choose less favorable seats within their assigned section. By doing so, they show unselfish love. How could you imitate their good example?
17. If a Christian commits a serious sin, what will genuine love motivate him to do?
17 Confess and stop secret sins. Some Christians who have committed a serious sin have tried to keep it secret. Perhaps they are embarrassed or do not want to disappoint others. (Proverbs 28:13) But hiding the sin is unloving because it harms both the sinner and others. How? Jehovah might stop blessing the congregation with his holy spirit, and the congregation would not have peace. (Ephesians 4:30) So if a Christian commits a serious sin, genuine love will motivate him to speak to the elders and get the help he needs.—James 5:14, 15.
18. How important is genuine love?
18 Love is the greatest of all qualities. (1 Corinthians 13:13) It helps people to see who are true followers of Jesus and to see who really imitate Jehovah, the Source of love. (Ephesians 5:1, 2) Paul said that if he did not have love, he would be nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2) May each of us continue to show our love, not just “in word” but also “in deed and truth.”