“Have Love Among Yourselves”
“By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—JOHN 13:35.
1. What quality did Jesus emphasize shortly before his death?
“LITTLE children.” (John 13:33) With that tender expression, Jesus addressed his apostles on the evening before his death. We have no record in the Gospel accounts that Jesus had ever before used this compassionate expression in speaking to them. On that special night, however, he was moved to use this affectionate address to convey the deep love he felt for his followers. In fact, Jesus spoke of love some 30 times that night. Why did he give such emphasis to this quality?
2. Why is showing love so important for Christians?
2 Jesus explained why love is so important. “By this,” he said, “all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35; 15:12, 17) Being a follower of Christ goes hand in hand with showing brotherly love. True Christians are identified, not by a peculiar form of dress or by some unusual customs, but by the warm and tender love they show to one another. Having this outstanding kind of love is the second of the three principal requirements of a disciple of Christ mentioned at the start of the preceding article. What will help us to continue to meet this requirement?
“Doing It in Fuller Measure”
3. What admonition regarding love did the apostle Paul give?
3 As it was among Christ’s followers in the first century, this outstanding love is observable today among Christ’s genuine disciples. To first-century Christians, the apostle Paul wrote: “With reference to brotherly love, you do not need us to be writing you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and, in fact, you are doing it to all the brothers.” Even so, Paul added: “Go on doing it in fuller measure.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9, 10) We too need to take Paul’s admonition to heart and endeavor to show love for one another “in fuller measure.”
4. According to Paul and Jesus, to whom should we give special consideration?
4 In the same inspired letter, Paul encouraged his fellow believers to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls” and to “support the weak.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) On another occasion, he reminded Christians that those “who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those not strong.” (Romans 15:1) Jesus too gave instructions concerning helping those who are weak. After foretelling that on the night of his arrest Peter would abandon him, Jesus told Peter: “Once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.” Why? Because they would also have forsaken Jesus and thus would have needed help. (Luke 22:32; John 21:15-17) Hence, God’s Word directs us to extend our love to those who are spiritually weak and who may have lost contact with the Christian congregation. (Hebrews 12:12) Why should we do so? Two vivid illustrations given by Jesus provide the answer.
A Lost Sheep and a Lost Coin
5, 6. (a) What two brief illustrations did Jesus tell? (b) What do these illustrations reveal about Jehovah?
5 To teach his listeners Jehovah’s view of those who have strayed, Jesus gave two brief illustrations. One was about a shepherd. Jesus said: “What man of you with a hundred sheep, on losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine behind in the wilderness and go for the lost one until he finds it? And when he has found it he puts it upon his shoulders and rejoices. And when he gets home he calls his friends and his neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.’ I tell you that thus there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who have no need of repentance.”—Luke 15:4-7.
6 The second illustration was about a woman. Jesus said: “What woman with ten drachma coins, if she loses one drachma coin, does not light a lamp and sweep her house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it she calls the women who are her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the drachma coin that I lost.’ Thus, I tell you, joy arises among the angels of God over one sinner that repents.”—Luke 15:8-10.
7. What two lessons do the illustrations of the lost sheep and the lost coin contain for us?
7 What can we learn from these brief illustrations? They show us (1) how we should feel about those who have grown weak and (2) what we should do to help them. Let us consider these points.
Lost but Valued
8. (a) How did the shepherd and the woman react to their loss? (b) What does their reaction tell us about how they viewed the missing possession?
8 In both illustrations something had been lost, but note the reaction of the owners. The shepherd did not say: ‘What’s one sheep when I still have 99? I can get along without it.’ The woman did not say: ‘Why worry about that one coin? I’m content with the nine I still have.’ Rather, the shepherd searched for his lost sheep as if it were the only one he possessed. And the woman felt the loss of her coin as if she had no other coins. In both instances the missing object remained precious in the mind of the owner. What does this illustrate?
9. What is illustrated by the concern shown by the shepherd and the woman?
9 Note Jesus’ conclusion in both cases: “Thus there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents” and “thus, I tell you, joy arises among the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” The concern of the shepherd and the woman reflects, therefore, in its own small way, the feelings of Jehovah and his heavenly creatures. Just as what was lost remained precious in the eyes of the shepherd and of the woman, so those who have drifted away and lost contact with God’s people remain precious in Jehovah’s eyes. (Jeremiah 31:3) Such individuals may be spiritually weak, yet they are not necessarily rebellious. Despite their weakened state, to some extent they may still be keeping Jehovah’s requirements. (Psalm 119:176; Acts 15:29) Hence, as in times past, Jehovah is slow to “cast them away from before his face.”—2 Kings 13:23.
10, 11. (a) How do we want to view those who have drifted away from the congregation? (b) According to Jesus’ two illustrations, how can we express our concern for them?
10 Like Jehovah and Jesus, we too are deeply concerned about those who are weak and missing from the Christian congregation. (Ezekiel 34:16; Luke 19:10) We view a spiritually weak individual as a lost sheep—not a lost cause. We do not reason: ‘Why worry about a weak one? The congregation is getting along just fine without him.’ Rather, like Jehovah, we view those who have drifted away but who want to return as being valuable.
11 How, though, can we express our feelings of concern? Jesus’ two illustrations indicate that we can do so (1) by taking the initiative, (2) by being gentle, and (3) by being earnest. Let us look at these aspects one at a time.
Take the Initiative
12. What do the words “go for the lost one” tell us about the shepherd’s attitude?
12 In the first of the two illustrations, Jesus says that the shepherd will “go for the lost one.” The shepherd takes the initiative and makes a deliberate effort to find the missing sheep. Hardship, danger, and distance do not hold him back. On the contrary, the shepherd persists “until he finds it.”—Luke 15:4.
13. How did faithful men of old respond to the needs of weak ones, and how can we imitate such Bible examples?
13 Similarly, reaching out to a person in need of encouragement often requires that the stronger one take the initiative. Faithful men of old understood this. For instance, when Jonathan, King Saul’s son, noticed that his bosom friend David was in need of encouragement, Jonathan “rose up and went to David at Horesh, that he might strengthen his hand in regard to God.” (1 Samuel 23:15, 16) Centuries later, when Governor Nehemiah saw that some of his Jewish brothers had grown weak, he too “immediately rose” up and encouraged them ‘to keep Jehovah in mind.’ (Nehemiah 4:14) We today will also want to ‘rise up’—take the initiative—to strengthen those who are weak. But who in the congregation should do so?
14. Who in the Christian congregation should reach out to those who are weak?
14 Christian elders, in particular, have the responsibility to “strengthen the weak hands . . . and make the knees that are wobbling firm” and to “say to those who are anxious at heart: ‘Be strong. Do not be afraid.’” (Isaiah 35:3, 4; 1 Peter 5:1, 2) Note, however, that Paul’s admonition to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls” and to “support the weak” was not given to elders only. Rather, Paul’s words were directed to the entire “congregation of the Thessalonians.” (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 5:14) Reaching out to those who are weak is thus a task for all Christians. Like the shepherd in the illustration, each Christian should be moved to “go for the lost one.” Of course, this is done most effectively in cooperation with the elders. Could you take some steps to assist a weak one in your congregation?
15. Why may the shepherd have acted in the way that he did?
15 What does the shepherd do when he finally finds the lost sheep? “He puts it upon his shoulders.” (Luke 15:5) What a touching and telling detail! The sheep may have wandered for days and nights through unfamiliar territory, perhaps even being exposed to the threat of stalking lions. (Job 38:39, 40) No doubt the sheep is weakened by a lack of food. It is simply too frail to overcome in its own strength the hurdles it will encounter on the way back to the fold. Therefore, the shepherd bends down, gently lifts up the sheep, and carries it across all obstacles back to the flock. How can we reflect the care shown by this shepherd?
16. Why should we reflect the tenderness that the shepherd showed toward the strayed sheep?
16 A person who has lost contact with the congregation may be exhausted in a spiritual sense. Like the sheep separated from the shepherd, such an individual may have wandered aimlessly through this world’s hostile territory. Without the protection provided by the fold, the Christian congregation, he is exposed more than ever to the attacks of the Devil, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” (1 Peter 5:8) Additionally, he is weakened by a lack of spiritual food. Hence, on his own he likely is too weak to overcome the hurdles he will encounter on his journey back to the congregation. Therefore, we need to bend down, so to speak, gently lift up the weak one, and carry him back. (Galatians 6:2) How may we accomplish that?
17. How can we imitate the apostle Paul when we visit someone who is weak?
17 The apostle Paul said: “If anyone is weak, do I not share his weakness?” (2 Corinthians 11:29, The New English Bible; 1 Corinthians 9:22) Paul had empathy for people, including the weak. We want to display similar fellow feeling for those who are weak. When visiting a spiritually weak Christian, reassure him that he is valuable in Jehovah’s eyes and dearly missed by his fellow Witnesses. (1 Thessalonians 2:17) Let him know that they are ready to give him support and are willing to be for him “a brother that is born for when there is distress.” (Proverbs 17:17; Psalm 34:18) Our heartfelt expressions may gently and gradually lift him up to the point that he is able to return to the flock. What should we do next? The illustration of the woman and the lost coin gives us guidance.
18. (a) Why did the woman in the illustration not feel hopeless? (b) What earnest efforts did the woman put forth, and with what result?
18 The woman who loses the coin knows that the situation is challenging but not hopeless. Had the coin been dropped in a large, bushy field or in a deep, muddy lake, she probably would have given it up as lost beyond recovery. However, knowing that the coin must be somewhere in her house, within reach, she begins a thorough and earnest search. (Luke 15:8) First, she lights a lamp to brighten her dark house. Then, she sweeps the floor with her broom, hoping to hear a tinkling sound. Finally, she carefully searches every nook and cranny until the lamp catches a glint of a silver coin. The woman’s earnest effort is rewarded!
19. What lessons in helping weak ones can we draw from the actions of the woman in the illustration of the lost coin?
19 As this detail of the illustration reminds us, the Scriptural obligation to help a weak Christian is not beyond our abilities. At the same time, we realize that it requires effort. After all, the apostle Paul said to the Ephesian elders: “By thus laboring you must assist those who are weak.” (Acts 20:35a) Keep in mind that the woman does not find the coin by looking around her house casually, just here and there, or incidentally, just now and then. No, she succeeds because she systematically searches “until she finds it.” Likewise, when we endeavor to regain a spiritually weak individual, our approach needs to be earnest and purposeful. What can we do?
20. What can be done to help weak ones?
20 How can we help a weak one build up faith and appreciation? A personal Bible study in an appropriate Christian publication may be just what is needed. Indeed, conducting a Bible study with a weak individual allows us to assist him in a consistent and thorough way. It is likely that the service overseer could best determine who might provide the needed assistance. He may suggest what subjects could be studied and which publication would be most helpful. Just as the woman in the illustration uses helpful tools to accomplish her task, so today we have tools that help us to accomplish our God-given responsibility to assist those who are weak. Two of our new tools, or publications, will be especially helpful in this endeavor. They are the books Worship the Only True God and Draw Close to Jehovah. *
21. How does helping those who are weak bring blessings to all?
21 Assisting those who are weak brings blessings to all. The one being helped enjoys the happiness of becoming reunited with true friends. We experience the heartfelt joy that only giving can bring. (Luke 15:6, 9; Acts 20:35b) The congregation as a whole grows in warmth as each member takes a loving interest in others. And above all, honor goes to our caring Shepherds, Jehovah and Jesus, as their desire to support the weak is reflected in their earthly servants. (Psalm 72:12-14; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1) What good reasons we have, therefore, to continue ‘having love among ourselves’!
^ par. 20 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Can You Explain?
• Why is showing love essential for each one of us?
• Why should we extend our love to those who are weak?
• What lessons do the illustrations of the lost sheep and the lost coin teach us?
• What practical steps can we take to help someone who is weak?
[Pictures on page 16, 17]
In helping weak ones, we take the initiative and are gentle and earnest
[Picture on page 16, 17]
Helping those who are weak brings blessings to all