Be Built Up by Love

“You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.”​—MATTHEW 22:37.

1. (a) What are some things cultivated by a Christian? (b) Which is the most important Christian quality, and why?

A CHRISTIAN cultivates many things in order to be an effective minister. The book of Proverbs highlights the value of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. (Proverbs 2:1-10) The apostle Paul discussed the need for solid faith and strong hope. (Romans 1:16, 17; Colossians 1:5; Hebrews 10:39) Endurance and self-control are also vital. (Acts 24:25; Hebrews 10:36) However, there is one element that if lacking detracts from all the other things and could even make them valueless. That element is love.​—1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13.

2. How did Jesus show the importance of love, and what questions does this raise?

2 Jesus showed the importance of love when he said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Since love is the identifying mark of a true Christian, we need to ask such questions as, What is love? Why is it so essential that Jesus said that it, above all else, characterizes his disciples? How can we cultivate love? Who should be the object of our love? Let us consider these questions.

What Is Love?

3. How can love be described, and why does it involve both the mind and the heart?

3 One description of love is ‘a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, a warm fondness or liking for another.’ It is a quality that moves people to work for the good of others, sometimes at great personal sacrifice. Love, as it is described in the Bible, involves both the mind and the heart. The mind, or intellect, plays a role because a person who loves does this with his eyes open, recognizing that he and other humans that he loves all have weaknesses as well as attractive qualities. The intellect is further involved since there are those whom a Christian loves​—sometimes, perhaps, against his natural inclinations—​because he knows from his reading of the Bible that God wants him to do so. (Matthew 5:44; 1 Corinthians 16:14) Still, love basically comes from the heart. Genuine love as it is revealed in the Bible is never merely intellectual. It entails deep sincerity and full emotional commitment.​—1 Peter 1:22.

4. In what way is love a powerful bond?

4 People who are selfish at heart are rarely capable of a truly loving relationship because a person who loves is prepared to put the interests of another ahead of his own. (Philippians 2:2-4) Jesus’ words “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving” are especially true when the giving is an act of love. (Acts 20:35) Love is a powerful bond.  (Colossians 3:14) It often includes friendship, but the bonds of love are stronger than those of friendship. The romantic relationship between a husband and his wife is sometimes described as love; however, the love that the Bible encourages us to cultivate is more enduring than physical attraction. When a couple truly love each other, they remain together even if a physical relationship is no longer possible because of the infirmities of old age or because one of them is incapacitated.

Love​—An Essential Quality

5. Why is love an essential quality for a Christian?

5 Why is love an essential quality for a Christian? First, because Jesus commanded his followers to love one another. He said: “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you. These things I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:14, 17) Second, because Jehovah is the personification of love, and as his worshipers we should imitate him. (Ephesians 5:1; 1 John 4:16) The Bible says that taking in knowledge of Jehovah and Jesus means everlasting life. How can we say that we know God if we do not try to be like him? The apostle John reasoned: “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.”​—1 John 4:8.

6. How can love balance different aspects of our lives?

6 Love is important for a third reason: It helps us to balance different aspects of our lives and adds good motive to what we do. For example, it is vital continually to take in knowledge of God’s Word. For a Christian, such knowledge is like food. It helps him to grow to maturity and to act in harmony with God’s will. (Psalm 119:105; Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:15, 16) However, Paul warned: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) No, there is nothing wrong with accurate knowledge. The problem is with us​—we have sinful tendencies. (Genesis 8:21) If the balancing influence of love is missing, knowledge could make a person puffed up, thinking himself better than others. That will not happen if he is basically motivated by love. “Love . . . does not brag, does not get puffed up.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) A Christian who is motivated by love does not become proud, even if he acquires a deep knowledge. Love keeps him humble and prevents him from wanting to make a name for himself.​—Psalm 138:6; James 4:6.

7, 8. How does love help us to focus on the more important things?

7 Paul wrote to the Philippians: “This is what I continue praying, that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment; that you may make sure of the more important things.” (Philippians 1:9, 10) Christian love will help us to follow this encouragement to make sure of the more important things. As an example, consider Paul’s words to Timothy: “If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer, he is desirous of a fine work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) During the 2000 service year, the number of congregations worldwide increased by 1,502, making a new total of 91,487. Hence, there is a great need for more elders, and those who reach out for the privilege are to be commended.

8 However, those reaching out for privileges of oversight will maintain a good balance if they keep in mind the purpose of such a privilege. Simply having authority or a wider name recognition is not the important thing. Elders who please Jehovah are motivated by love for him and for their brothers. They are not seeking prominence or influence. The apostle Peter, after counseling congregation elders to maintain a good attitude, stressed the need of “lowliness of mind.” He counseled all in the congregation: “Humble yourselves . . . under the mighty hand of God.” (1 Peter 5:1-6) Anyone who is reaching out does well to consider the example of countless elders around the world who are  hardworking, humble, and therefore a blessing to their congregations.​—Hebrews 13:7.

Good Motive Helps Us to Endure

9. Why do Christians keep Jehovah’s promised blessings in mind?

9 The importance of being motivated by love is seen in another way. To those who pursue godly devotion out of love, the Bible promises rich blessings now and unimaginably wonderful blessings in the future. (1 Timothy 4:8) A Christian who strongly believes these promises and who is convinced that Jehovah “becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him” is helped to stand firm in the faith. (Hebrews 11:6) Most of us long for the fulfillment of God’s promises and echo the sentiment of the apostle John: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20) Yes, meditating on the blessings in store if we are faithful strengthens us to endure, just as keeping in mind “the joy that was set before him” helped Jesus to endure.​—Hebrews 12:1, 2.

10, 11. How does being motivated by love help us to endure?

10 What, though, if our desire to live in the new world is our sole motive for serving Jehovah? Then we could easily become impatient or dissatisfied when things get difficult or events do not happen as or when we hope. We could be in serious danger of drifting away. (Hebrews 2:1; 3:12) Paul spoke of a former companion named Demas, who forsook him. Why? Because “he loved the present system of things.” (2 Timothy 4:10) Any who serve for purely selfish reasons are in danger of doing the same. They could be attracted by the immediate opportunities offered in the world and become unwilling to make sacrifices now in the hope of blessings to come.

11 While it is proper and natural to have a desire to receive future blessings and hoped-for relief from trials, love builds our appreciation for what should be paramount in our life. It is Jehovah’s will, not ours, that is the important thing. (Luke 22:41, 42) Yes, love builds us up. It makes us content to wait patiently upon our God, satisfied with whatever blessings he gives and confident that in his due time we will receive everything that he has promised​—and more. (Psalm 145:16; 2 Corinthians 12:8, 9) In the meantime, love helps us to keep on serving unselfishly because “love . . . does not look for its own interests.”​—1 Corinthians 13:4, 5.

Whom Should Christians Love?

12. According to Jesus, whom should we love?

12 Jesus gave a general rule as to whom we should love when he quoted two statements from the Mosaic Law. He said: “You must love  Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind” and, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”​—Matthew 22:37-39.

13. How can we learn to love Jehovah, even though we cannot see him?

13 From Jesus’ words, it is clear that first and foremost we should love Jehovah. However, we are not born with a fully developed love of Jehovah. That is something we must cultivate. When we first heard about him, we were attracted to him by what we heard. Little by little, we learned how he prepared the earth for mankind. (Genesis 2:5-23) We learned how he has dealt with mankind, not casting us off when sin first invaded the human family, but taking steps to redeem us. (Genesis 3:1-5, 15) He dealt kindly with those who were faithful, and eventually he provided his only-begotten Son for the forgiveness of our sins. (John 3:16, 36) This increasing knowledge made our appreciation for Jehovah grow. (Isaiah 25:1) King David said that he loved Jehovah because of His loving care. (Psalm 116:1-9) Today, Jehovah cares for us, guides us, strengthens us, and encourages us. The more we learn about him, the deeper our love becomes.​—Psalm 31:23; Zephaniah 3:17; Romans 8:28.

How Can We Show Our Love?

14. In what way can we show that our love for God is genuine?

14 Of course, many around the world say that they love God, but the way they act belies their claim. How can we know that we really do love Jehovah? We can talk to him in prayer and tell him how we feel. And we can act in a way that demonstrates our love. The apostle John said: “Whoever does observe [God’s] word, truthfully in this person the love of God has been made perfect. By this we have the knowledge that we are in union with him.” (1 John 2:5; 5:3) Among other things, God’s Word tells us to associate together and live clean, moral lives. We avoid hypocrisy, speak the truth, and keep our thinking clean. (2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:15; 1 Timothy 1:5; Hebrews 10:23-25) We show love by giving material help to those in need. (1 John 3:17, 18) And we do not hold back from telling others about Jehovah. That includes sharing in the worldwide preaching of the good news of the Kingdom. (Matthew 24:14; Romans 10:10) Obedience to God’s Word in such things is evidence that our love for Jehovah is genuine.

15, 16. How did love for Jehovah affect many lives last year?

15 Love for Jehovah helps people to make good decisions. Last year, such love moved 288,907 individuals to dedicate their lives to him and symbolize that decision by water baptism. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Their dedication was meaningful. It marked a change in their lives. For example, Gazmend was one of the top basketball stars in Albania. For some years, he and his wife studied the Bible and despite obstacles eventually qualified as Kingdom publishers. Last year, Gazmend was baptized, one of 366 baptized in Albania in the  2000 service year. A newspaper published an article about him and said: “His life has a purpose, and because of this, he and his family are enjoying the happiest days of their life. For him, it is no longer important to see how much he can get out of life but, instead, how much he can give to help other people.”

16 Similarly, a newly baptized sister working for an oil company in Guam received a tempting offer. After climbing the corporate ladder for years, she was finally offered the opportunity to be the first female vice president in the company’s history. However, she had now dedicated her life to Jehovah. So after discussing matters with her husband, the new sister turned down the offer and instead arranged for part-time work so that she could progress toward being a full-time minister, a pioneer. Love for Jehovah moved her to want to serve him as a pioneer rather than to pursue the financial interests of this world. In fact, worldwide such love moved 805,205 to share in different features of the pioneer ministry during the 2000 service year. What an expression of love and faith those pioneers made!

Moved to Love Jesus

17. What fine example of love do we see in Jesus?

17 Jesus is a wonderful example of someone motivated by love. In his prehuman existence, he loved his Father and he loved mankind. As the embodiment of wisdom, he said: “I came to be beside [Jehovah] as a master worker, and I came to be the one he was specially fond of day by day, I being glad before him all the time, being glad at the productive land of his earth, and the things I was fond of were with the sons of men.” (Proverbs 8:30, 31) Jesus’ love moved him to give up his heavenly dwelling and be born as a helpless infant. He dealt patiently and kindly with the meek and lowly and suffered at the hands of Jehovah’s enemies. Finally, he died for all mankind on a torture stake. (John 3:35; 14:30, 31; 15:12, 13; Philippians 2:5-11) What a fine example of right motivation!

18. (a) How do we cultivate love of Jesus? (b) In what way do we demonstrate that we love Jesus?

18 When those with a right heart condition read the accounts of Jesus’ life in the Gospels  and meditate on how many blessings his faithful course has brought them, this causes a deep love for him to grow within them. We today are like the ones addressed by Peter when he said: “Though you never saw [Jesus], you love him.” (1 Peter 1:8) Our love is shown when we exercise faith in him and imitate his life of self-sacrifice. (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Peter 2:21-25) On April 19, 2000, a total of 14,872,086 were reminded of our reasons for loving Jesus when they attended the annual Memorial of his death. What a large number that was! And how strengthening to know that so many are interested in salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice! Truly, we are built up by the love of Jehovah and Jesus for us and our love for them.

19. What questions about love will be discussed in the following article?

19 Jesus said that we should love Jehovah with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. But he also said that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:29-31) Whom does that include? And how does love of neighbor help us to maintain a good balance and a proper motive? These questions will be discussed in the following article.

Do You Remember?

• Why is love a vital quality?

• How can we learn to love Jehovah?

• How does our conduct prove that we love Jehovah?

• How do we demonstrate our love for Jesus?

[Study Questions]

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Love helps us to wait patiently for relief

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Jesus’ great sacrifice moves us to love him