How Far-Reaching Is Your Love?
“You must love your neighbor as yourself.”—MATTHEW 22:39.
1. If we love Jehovah, why must we also love our neighbor?
WHEN Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment, he answered: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” Then, he quoted a second commandment similar to the first: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37, 39) Yes, love of neighbor is a mark of a Christian. Indeed, if we love Jehovah, we must love our neighbor. Why? Because we show our love of God by obeying his Word, and his Word commands us to love our neighbor. Hence, if we do not love our brothers and sisters, our love of God cannot be genuine.—Romans 13:8; 1 John 2:5; 4:20, 21.
2. What kind of love should we have for our neighbor?
2 When Jesus said that we should love our neighbor, he was speaking of more than friendship. And he was referring to a love that is different from that which naturally exists within families or between a man and a woman. He was speaking of the kind of love that Jehovah has for his dedicated servants and that they have for him. (John 17:26; 1 John 4:11, 19) A Jewish scribe—who, as Jesus discerned, was speaking intelligently—agreed with Jesus that love of God should be “with one’s whole heart and with one’s whole understanding and with one’s whole strength.” (Mark 12:28-34) He was correct. The love a Christian cultivates both for God and for neighbor involves our emotions and our intellect. It is felt in the heart and is guided by the mind.
3. (a) How did Jesus teach a “man versed in the Law” that he should have an extensive view of who is his neighbor? (b) How does Jesus’ illustration apply to Christians today?
3 As reported by Luke, when Jesus said that we should love our neighbor, “a certain man versed in the Law” asked: “Who really is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with a parable. A man was beaten, robbed, and left half dead by the wayside. First a priest and then a Levite walked by. Both ignored him. Finally, a Samaritan came along, saw the wounded man, and acted with great kindness toward him. Which of the three was a neighbor to the wounded man? The answer was obvious. (Luke 10:25-37) The man versed in the Law may have been shocked to hear Jesus say that a Samaritan could be a better neighbor than a priest and a Levite. Clearly, Jesus was helping that man to love his neighbor in a more far-reaching way. Christians too love in such a way. Consider all those whom their love embraces.
Love Within the Family
4. Where, first, does a Christian exercise love?
4 Christians love their family members—wives love husbands, husbands love wives, parents love children. (Ecclesiastes 9:9; Ephesians 5:33; Titus 2:4) True, bonds of natural love exist in most families. However, reports of broken marriages, spousal abuse, and neglected or abused children show that the family is under stress today, and natural family feelings may not be enough to hold it together. (2 Timothy 3:1-3) To make a real success of their family life, Christians need to exercise the kind of love that Jehovah and Jesus have.—Ephesians 5:21-27.
5. To whom do parents look for help in raising their children, and what have been the results for many?
5 Christian parents view their children as a trust from Jehovah, and they look to him for help in raising them. (Psalm 127:3-5; Proverbs 22:6) In this way they cultivate Christian love, which helps them to guard their children from the corrupting influences that young people may fall prey to. As a result, many Christian parents have experienced a joy similar to that of a mother in the Netherlands. After watching the baptism of her son—one of 575 individuals baptized in the Netherlands last year—she wrote the following: “At this moment, my investment of the past 20 years has paid off. All the time and energy—as well as the hurt, effort, and sorrow—are now forgotten.” How happy she is that her son, of his own free will, chose to serve Jehovah. The peak of 31,089 publishers reporting in the Netherlands last year includes many who learned from their parents to love Jehovah.
6. How can Christian love help to strengthen the marriage bond?
6 Paul called love “a perfect bond of union,” and it can preserve a marriage union even through stormy times. (Colossians 3:14, 18, 19; 1 Peter 3:1-7) When a man in Rurutu, a small island some 450 miles [700 k] from Tahiti, started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, his wife was strongly opposed. Eventually, she took the children, left him, and went to live in Tahiti. Still, he showed his love by sending her money regularly and calling by phone to ask if there was anything she or the children needed. Thus he did his best to fulfill his Christian obligations. (1 Timothy 5:8) He prayed constantly that his family would be reunited, and eventually his wife returned. When she did, he treated her with “love, endurance, mildness of temper.” (1 Timothy 6:11) In 1998, he was baptized and was later overjoyed when his wife agreed to study the Bible. That study was one of the 1,351 conducted in the territory under the Tahiti branch last year.
7. According to a man in Germany, what strengthened his marriage?
7 In Germany a man opposed his wife’s interest in Bible truth and was convinced that Jehovah’s Witnesses wanted to deceive her. Later, however, he wrote to the Witness who first contacted his wife: “Thank you for introducing my wife to Jehovah’s Witnesses. At first, I was worried because I had heard so many bad things about them. But now, having attended the meetings with my wife, I realize how wrong I was. I know that I am hearing the truth, and it has made our marriage much stronger.” The 162,932 Witnesses of Jehovah in Germany—and the 1,773 in the islands under the Tahiti branch—include many families united in godly love.
Love for Our Christian Brothers
8, 9. (a) Who teaches us to love our brothers, and what does love move us to do? (b) Give an example of how love can help brothers to be mutually supportive.
8 Paul said to the Thessalonian Christians: “You yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9) Yes, those who are “taught by Jehovah” love one another. (Isaiah 54:13) Their love is expressed in action, as Paul showed when he said: “Through love slave for one another.” (Galatians 5:13; 1 John 3:18) This they do, for example, when they visit sick brothers and sisters, encourage the depressed, and support the weak. (1 Thessalonians 5:14) Our genuine Christian love contributes to the growth of our spiritual paradise.
9 In the Ancón Congregation—one of the 544 congregations in Ecuador—the brothers showed their love in a practical way. A financial crisis left them without work or income, so the publishers decided to raise money by selling food to the local fishermen when these came home after a night’s fishing. Everyone cooperated, including the children. They had to start at 1:00 a.m. so as to have the food prepared by 4:00 a.m. when the fishermen returned. The money raised by the brothers was shared among them according to their need. Such mutual help demonstrated genuine Christian love.
10, 11. How can we show love for brothers whom we do not personally know?
10 However, our love is not limited to Christians whom we personally know. The apostle Peter said: “Have love for the whole association of brothers.” (1 Peter 2:17) We love all our brothers and sisters because they are all fellow worshipers of Jehovah God. Times of crisis may present an opportunity to demonstrate this love. For example, during the 2000 service year, severe floods ravaged Mozambique, and an ongoing civil war in Angola left many impoverished. A large number of the 31,725 brothers in Mozambique and the 41,222 in Angola have been affected by these events. Hence, Witnesses in neighboring South Africa have sent large quantities of provisions to alleviate the distress of their brothers in those lands. Their willingness to contribute their “surplus” to their needy brothers demonstrated their love.—2 Corinthians 8:8, 13-15, 24.
11 Love is seen, too, when brothers in many countries contribute toward the building of Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls in less prosperous lands. An example is in the Solomon Islands. Despite much unrest, the Solomon Islands saw a 6-percent increase in publishers last year, with a peak of 1,697. They planned to build an Assembly Hall. Although many islanders were fleeing the country, volunteers came from Australia to help in the construction. Eventually, the volunteers had to leave, but not before they had trained local brothers to complete the foundation. The prefabricated steel structure of the hall was shipped from Australia, and the completion of this fine building for worship—at a time when many building sites lie abandoned—will be a fine witness to Jehovah’s name and to the love of the brothers.
Like God, We Love the World
12. How do we imitate Jehovah in our attitude toward those not of our faith?
12 Is our love limited to our family and our brotherhood? No, not if we are “imitators of God.” Jesus said: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (Ephesians 5:1; John 3:16) Like Jehovah God, we act lovingly toward all—including those not of our faith. (Luke 6:35, 36; Galatians 6:10) In this regard especially, we preach the good news of the Kingdom and tell others of God’s great act of love in their behalf. This can result in salvation to any who listen.—Mark 13:10; 1 Timothy 4:16.
13, 14. What are some experiences of brothers who showed love to non-Witnesses, even at great personal inconvenience?
13 Consider four special pioneer ministers in Nepal. These were assigned to a city in the southwest of the country, and for the last five years, they have shown their love by patiently witnessing in the city and outlying villages. To cover their territory, they often travel for many hours on bicycles in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit [40°C]. Their love and “endurance in work that is good” produced fine results when a book study group was formed in one of the villages. (Romans 2:7) In March 2000, 32 people came to hear the public talk by the visiting circuit overseer. Nepal had a peak of 430 publishers last year—an increase of 9 percent. Jehovah is clearly blessing the zeal and love of the brothers in that land.
14 In Colombia temporary special pioneers went to preach among the Wayuu Indians. To do this, they had to learn a new language, but their loving interest was rewarded when despite a heavy downpour of rain, 27 attended a public talk. Loving zeal such as that shown by these pioneers contributed to a 5-percent increase in Colombia and a peak of 107,613 publishers. In Denmark an elderly sister wanted to share the good news with others, but she was disabled. Undaunted, she made contact with interested people by writing letters. At present, she corresponds with 42 people and conducts 11 Bible studies. She is one of the peak of 14,885 publishers who reported in Denmark last year.
Love Your Enemies
15, 16. (a) How far-reaching did Jesus say our love should be? (b) How did responsible brothers deal in a loving way with an individual who made false accusations against Jehovah’s Witnesses?
15 Jesus told the man versed in the Law that a Samaritan could be viewed as a neighbor. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus went even further when he said: “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 persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens.” (Matthew 5:43-45) Even when someone opposes us, we try to “keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Romans 12:19-21) If possible, we share with him our most precious possession, the truth.
16 In Ukraine an article in the Kremenchuk Herald newspaper spoke of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a dangerous sect. This was serious because in Europe some speak of Jehovah’s Witnesses in this way in order to persuade people that the activities of the Witnesses should be restricted or banned. Hence, the editor was approached and asked to publish a press release correcting the article. He agreed, but with the release, he printed a statement that the original article was based on fact. So responsible brothers approached him again with more information. Finally, the editor realized that the original article was wrong, and he published a retraction. Dealing with him frankly and kindly was the loving way to handle this situation, and it led to a good result.
How Can We Cultivate Love?
17. What indicates that it might not always be easy to act lovingly toward others?
17 When a baby is born, its parents quickly fall in love with it. Dealing lovingly with adults is not always so instinctive. That is likely why the Bible repeatedly tells us to love one another—it is something we have to work on. (1 Peter 1:22; 4:8; 1 John 3:11) Jesus knew that our love would be tested when he said that we should forgive our brother “up to seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21, 22) Paul too urged us to “continue putting up with one another.” (Colossians 3:12, 13) No wonder that we are told: “Pursue love”! (1 Corinthians 14:1) How can we do this?
18. What will help us to cultivate love of others?
18 First, we can always keep in mind the love we have for Jehovah God. This love is a strong incentive to love our neighbor. Why? Because when we do so, this reflects well on our heavenly Father and brings glory and praise to him. (John 15:8-10; Philippians 1:9-11) Second, we can try to see things as Jehovah sees them. Every time we sin, we sin against Jehovah; yet, time and again he forgives us and keeps on loving us. (Psalm 86:5; 103:2, 3; 1 John 1:9; 4:18) If we cultivate Jehovah’s view, we will be disposed to love others and forgive their offenses against us. (Matthew 6:12) Third, we can deal with others as we want them to deal with us. (Matthew 7:12) Imperfect as we are, we often need forgiveness. For example, when we say things that hurt others, we hope that they will remember that everyone sins with the tongue from time to time. (James 3:2) If we want others to deal lovingly with us, we should deal lovingly with them.
19. How can we seek the help of holy spirit in cultivating love?
19 Fourth, we can seek the help of holy spirit because love is part of the fruitage of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Friendships, family feelings, and romantic love are often instinctive. But we need the help of Jehovah’s spirit to cultivate the love that Jehovah has, the love that is a perfect bond of union. We can seek the help of holy spirit by reading the inspired Bible. For example, if we study the life of Jesus, we will see how he dealt with people, and we can learn to imitate him. (John 13:34, 35; 15:12) Further, we can ask Jehovah for holy spirit, especially in situations that make it difficult for us to act in a loving way. (Luke 11:13) Finally, we can pursue love by staying close to the Christian congregation. Being with loving brothers and sisters helps us to cultivate love.—Proverbs 13:20.
20, 21. What outstanding demonstration of love did Jehovah’s Witnesses make during the 2000 service year?
20 Last year, there was a peak of 6,035,564 publishers of the good news around the world. Jehovah’s Witnesses spent a total of 1,171,270,425 hours seeking out individuals to tell them about that good news. It was love that made them endure the heat, the rain, and the cold as they went about this work. It was love that moved them to talk to schoolmates and workmates and to approach total strangers on the streets and at other locations. Many whom the Witnesses visited were apathetic, a few were opposed. However, some showed interest, so that 433,454,049 return visits were made and 4,766,631 Bible studies were conducted. *
21 What a demonstration all of this was of the love Jehovah’s Witnesses have for their God and for their neighbor! That love will never grow cold. We are confident that the 2001 service year will see an even greater witness given to mankind. May Jehovah’s blessing continue with his loyal and zealous worshipers as they ‘let all their affairs take place with love’!—1 Corinthians 16:14.
^ par. 20 For complete details of the 2000 Service Year Report, see the chart on pages 18-21.
Can You Explain?
• Whom do we imitate when we love our neighbor?
• How far-reaching should our love be?
• What are some experiences demonstrating Christian love?
• How can we cultivate Christian love?
[Chart on page 18-21]
2000 SERVICE YEAR REPORT OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES WORLDWIDE
(See bound volume)
[Pictures on page 15]
Christian love can hold a family together
[Pictures on page 17]
Love moves us to share our hope with others