“Love builds up.”—1 COR. 8:1.
SONGS: 73, 83
1. What important subject did Jesus discuss on his final night with his disciples?
ON HIS final night with his disciples, Jesus mentioned love nearly 30 times. He specifically indicated that his disciples should “love one another.” (John 15:12, 17) Their love for one another would be so outstanding that it would clearly distinguish them as his true followers. (John 13:34, 35) This love is not mere sentimentality. Jesus was referring to a most noble quality—self-sacrificing love. He said: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends. You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.”—John 15:13, 14.
2. (a) What do we find among God’s servants? (b) What questions will we answer in this article?
2 The genuine, self-sacrificing love and unbreakable unity of Jehovah’s servants today identify them as God’s people. (1 John 3:10, 11) How grateful we are that Christlike love prevails among Jehovah’s servants regardless of their nationality, tribe, language, or background! We may wonder, though: ‘Why is love especially vital in our day? How do Jehovah and Jesus build us up in love? How can we individually display Christlike love that “builds up”?’—1 Cor. 8:1.
WHY LOVE IS ESPECIALLY VITAL NOW
3. How do these “critical times” affect people?
3 Because life is “filled with trouble and sorrow,” many in these “critical times” suffer from various degrees of emotional distress. (Ps. 90:10; 2 Tim. 3:1-5) Countless individuals feel like just giving up. Estimates suggest that more than 800,000 people die every year from suicide—about one death every 40 seconds. Sad to say, even some Christians have succumbed to such pressures and have taken their own life.
4. Which Bible characters expressed a desire to die?
4 Back in Bible times, some of God’s faithful servants were so overwhelmed by their circumstances that they felt that they wanted to die. For example, pain-ridden Job lamented: “I loathe my life; I do not want to go on living.” (Job 7:16; 14:13) Jonah was so disappointed with the way things had turned out in his assignment that he said: “Now, O Jehovah, please take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3) Also, at one point the faithful prophet Elijah felt so affected by his situation that he asked that he might die. He said: “It is enough! Now, O Jehovah, take my life away.” (1 Ki. 19:4) However, Jehovah valued those devoted servants and wanted them to live. Instead of condemning how they felt, he helped them to overcome their desire to die and built them up in love so that they could continue serving him faithfully.
5. Why do brothers and sisters need our love especially now?
5 Even if our brothers and sisters do not necessarily feel like giving up, many today deal with stressful situations and need to be built up in love. Some endure persecution and ridicule. Others are the victims of criticism or backbiting at their workplace. Or they are exhausted because of working overtime or having to meet relentless deadlines. Still others deal with strength-sapping domestic problems, perhaps being the target of criticism by an unbelieving mate. As a result of these and other pressures, many in the congregation feel physically and emotionally drained. Who can help discouraged ones to keep going?
BE BUILT UP BY JEHOVAH’S LOVE
6. How does Jehovah build up his servants in love?
6 Jehovah builds up his worshippers by reassuring them of his unfailing love. How encouraging it must have been for faithful Israelites to hear Jehovah’s words: “You became precious in my eyes, you were honored, and I have loved you. . . . Do not be afraid, for I am with you”! (Isa. 43:4, 5) As one of Jehovah’s servants, you can be sure that Jehovah loves you most tenderly. * God’s Word promises concerning those pursuing pure worship: “As a mighty One, he will save. He will exult over you with great joy.”—Zeph. 3:16, 17.
7. In what way is Jehovah’s love like that of a nursing mother? (See opening picture.)
7 No matter what trials his people may face, Jehovah promises to sustain and comfort them. “You will nurse and be carried on the hip, and you will be bounced on the knees. As a mother comforts her son, so I will keep comforting you.” (Isa. 66:12, 13) What a heartwarming scene—a loving mother carrying a baby on her hip or bouncing him on her knees! In this way Jehovah touchingly illustrates the intensity and tenderness of his love for true worshippers. Never doubt that you are personally very precious and dear to Jehovah.—Jer. 31:3.
8, 9. How can Jesus’ love fortify us?
8 True Christians also have this reason to be drawn to God’s love: He “loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) What love Jesus also showed in giving his life for us! And what a powerful motivation that love is for us! God’s Word promises that not even “tribulation or distress” can “separate us from the love of the Christ.”—Rom. 8:35, 38, 39.
9 When we grapple with trials that are physically, emotionally, or spiritually draining, the compelling force of Christ’s love can give us the strength to endure. (Read 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.) Jesus’ love has the power to sustain us and to motivate us not to give up, even in the face of such trials as disasters, persecution, personal disappointments, or gnawing anxiety.
OUR BROTHERS NEED OUR LOVE
10, 11. Who have the responsibility to build up discouraged brothers? Explain.
10 One means by which Jehovah builds us up in love is the Christian congregation. Individually, we can reciprocate his love by loving and building up our spiritual brothers and sisters not only spiritually but also emotionally. (1 John 4:19-21) The apostle Paul urged Christians: “Keep encouraging one another and building one another up, just as you are in fact doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11) Yes, all in the congregation—not just elders—can imitate Jehovah and Jesus in comforting and building up the brothers and sisters.—Read Romans 15:1, 2.
11 Some in the congregation who have emotional disorders may need professional help and medication. (Luke 5:31) Elders and others in the congregation modestly recognize that they are not trained mental-health-care professionals. However, they and others in the congregation have a vital role to play—to “speak consolingly to those who are depressed, support the weak, be patient toward all.” (1 Thess. 5:14) All Christians need to display loving empathy and patience, speaking consolingly in order to build up discouraged ones. Are you a source of comfort and encouragement? Knowing how to provide such help can render your efforts more effective.
12. Give an example of someone who was built up by a congregation’s love.
12 How can our love build up those who experience painful emotions? “At times I have suicidal thoughts,” says one Christian sister in Europe. “But I have a good support system. The congregation I belong to has saved my life. The brothers and sisters are always very encouraging and loving. Although only a few know that I suffer from depression, the congregation is always there for me. One married couple are like my spiritual parents. They take good care of me, and they are there for me literally 24 hours a day.” True, not everyone can assist to the same degree. But our genuine expressions of support can make a big difference to those who are suffering from emotional pain. *
HOW TO BUILD UP OTHERS IN LOVE
13. What is essential if we want to build up others?
13 Be a good listener. (Jas. 1:19) To listen with empathy is an act of love. You may ask tactful and sympathetic questions with the aim of understanding the feelings of a sufferer. You will then be able to show empathy and to build up your fellow servant. Let your facial expressions reflect your sincere, loving concern. If the other Christian feels the need to explain things in greater detail, be patient and resist any urge to interrupt. By listening patiently, you will more likely understand the feelings involved. That can help your suffering brother or sister to have confidence in you and thus be more inclined to listen to what you say as you strive to be upbuilding. When you show that you truly care, your loving concern can be very comforting.
14. Why do we want to avoid a critical spirit?
14 Avoid a critical spirit. Our coming across as being critical of depressed ones can add to their anguish and can undermine our sincere efforts to build them up in love. “Thoughtless speech is like the stabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise is a healing.” (Prov. 12:18) Naturally, we do not intentionally ‘stab’ depressed individuals with hurtful words. Yet, even if someone is ‘stabbed’ unintentionally, the effect can be very painful. To build others up in love by encouraging them requires that we exercise empathy, putting ourselves in their situation to the extent possible.—Matt. 7:12.
15. What is a valuable tool we can use to build others up in love?
15 Console others with God’s Word. (Read Romans 15:4, 5.) The Holy Scriptures are a treasure trove of comfort and consolation. The Bible is from “the God who supplies endurance and comfort.” Besides comforting scriptures, we have a wealth of Bible study aids. We can use the Watch Tower Publications Index and the Research Guide for Jehovah’s Witnesses. These can help us locate upbuilding Scriptural thoughts to cope with all kinds of problems. These aids can thus equip us to be in a position to provide empathetic thoughts that can make our loving efforts more effective.
16. What qualities do we need when encouraging a depressed Christian?
16 Be tender and gentle. These are priceless facets of the unselfish love we show when we encourage and build up someone. Jehovah himself is “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort,” and he has “tender compassion” for his servants. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-6; Luke 1:78; Rom. 15:13) Paul set a fine example in this regard, writing: “We became gentle in your midst, as when a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. So having tender affection for you, we were determined to impart to you, not only the good news of God but also our very selves, because you became so beloved to us.” (1 Thess. 2:7, 8) When we display godlike tenderness, we can be the answer to a distressed person’s prayers.
17. What balanced view of our brothers will help us build them up in love?
17 Do not expect perfection from your brothers. Keep a balanced view of your spiritual brothers and sisters. To expect faultless behavior from your brothers is unrealistic and will bring disappointment. (Eccl. 7:21, 22) Remember, Jehovah is realistic in what he requires of his servants. If we imitate his example, we will be prepared to put up with the imperfections of others. (Eph. 4:2, 32) Instead of giving them the impression that they are not doing enough, make it a point to commend them for what they are doing. That can encourage them. Sincere commendation can build others up in love and help them to find “cause for rejoicing” in their own sacred service. How much better when we do so rather than express frustrating comparisons with others.—Gal. 6:4.
18. What incentive do we have to build others up in love?
18 Every one of Jehovah’s sheep is extremely precious to him and to Jesus, who provided the ransom sacrifice. (Gal. 2:20) We love our spiritual brothers and sisters dearly. And we want to care for them in a tender and loving way. In order to be a source of refreshment, “let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that build one another up.” (Rom. 14:19) How we all look forward to the time when, in the coming Paradise, we will never have reason to be discouraged! There will be no more sickness, wars, inherited death, persecution, domestic strife, and disappointments. When the Millennium is past, mankind will have reached perfection. Those who pass the final test will then be adopted as earthly sons of Jehovah God and have “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21) May we all keep displaying the love that builds up and helping one another to attain that joyful and rewarding goal.
^ par. 6 See chapter 24 of the book Draw Close to Jehovah.
^ par. 12 For practical suggestions on dealing with suicidal thoughts and feelings, see articles in Awake!: “Why Go On? Three Reasons to Keep Living” (April 2014); “When You Feel Like Giving Up on Life” (January 2012); and “Life Is Worth Living” (October 22, 2001).