“Become imitators of God, as beloved children.”
1. What ability can help us to imitate God’s qualities?
JEHOVAH has given us the ability to put ourselves in the place of others. To some extent, we can conceive of a situation that we have not experienced. (Read Ephesians 5:1, 2.) How can we use this God-given gift wisely? What should we do to prevent it from harming us?
2. How does our distress affect Jehovah?
2 Undoubtedly, we rejoice that God has promised immortality in heaven to faithful anointed ones and everlasting life on earth to Jesus’ loyal “other sheep.” (John 10:16; 17:3; 1 Cor. 15:53) Of course, neither immortal life in heaven nor eternal life on earth will be plagued by the suffering common today. Jehovah is aware of the pain we experience, even as he knew how the Israelites suffered as slaves in Egypt. Indeed, “during all their distress it was distressing to him.” (Isa. 63:9) Centuries later, the Jews were afraid because of enemy opposition to the rebuilding of the temple, but God said: “Whoever touches you touches the pupil of my eye.” (Zech. 2:8) Just as a mother has tender feelings for her baby, Jehovah is moved to act lovingly in behalf of his people. (Isa. 49:15) In a sense, Jehovah can put himself in the place of others, and he has given us that ability.
HOW JESUS REFLECTED GOD’S LOVE
3. What shows that Jesus was compassionate?
3 Jesus sensed the pain of others, even those whose exact circumstances he had never experienced. For instance, the common people lived in fear of the religious leaders, who deceived them and burdened them with many man-made rules. (Matt. 23:4; Mark 7:1-5; John 7:13) Jesus was never frightened or deceived, but he could understand situations that he had not lived through. Therefore, “on seeing the crowds, he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) Like his Father, Jesus was loving and compassionate.
4. How did seeing the suffering of others affect Jesus?
4 When Jesus saw people suffering, he was moved to show them love. Thus, he perfectly reflected the love of his Father. After one extensive preaching tour, Jesus and his apostles were about to go to an isolated place to get some rest. Because he felt pity for the crowd awaiting him, however, Jesus took time “to teach them many things.”
HOW WE CAN IMITATE JEHOVAH’S LOVE
5, 6. To imitate God’s love, how must we treat our neighbor? Illustrate. (See opening image.)
5 We can imitate God’s love by the way we treat our neighbor. To illustrate: Suppose a Christian youth, whom we will call Alan, is thinking about an elderly brother whose poor eyesight makes it hard for him to read. He also finds it difficult to walk from house to house in the ministry. Alan remembers Jesus’ words: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.” (Luke 6:31) So Alan asks himself, ‘What do I want men to do to me?’ His frank answer is, ‘I want them to play ball with me!’ But the aging brother will not be able to play ball, will he? Jesus’ statement implies that we must ask ourselves, ‘What would I want my neighbor to do to me if I were in his circumstances?’
6 Alan is not elderly, but he has the ability to conceive of experiences he has not had. He observes the elderly brother and listens to him with concern. Gradually, Alan understands what it is like to be an older person who finds it hard to read the Bible or walk from house to house. When Alan feels the aging brother’s distress, he sees what help is needed, and he wants to be helpful. We can do the same. To imitate God’s love, we must put ourselves in our brother’s shoes, so to speak.
7. How can we come to know others well enough to feel their pain?
7 It is not always easy to understand the pain that others are experiencing. Many people face difficulties that we have never known. Some are challenged physically because of injury, disease, or aging. Others are coping with emotional trials because of depression, panic attacks, or the aftereffects of abuse. Still others are part of a religiously divided family or a single-parent household. Everyone faces some problem, and often it is one we ourselves have not experienced. In such a case, how can we imitate God’s love? By listening intently until we understand the other person’s feelings, at least to some extent. This will move us to imitate Jehovah’s love by acting according to the need. The need is different with each individual, but we may be able to provide spiritual encouragement and some other practical help.
IMITATE JEHOVAH’S KINDNESS
8. What helped Jesus to show kindness?
8 God’s Son said: “The Most High . . . is kind toward the unthankful and wicked.” (Luke 6:35) In fact, Jesus imitated God’s kindness. What helped Jesus to do so? He treated people in a kind manner by anticipating how his words and actions might affect another individual’s feelings. For example, a woman known to be a sinner approached him, weeping and wetting his feet with her tears. Jesus discerned that she was repentant, and he knew how heartbroken she would be if he dismissed her unkindly. Instead, he commended and forgave her. When a Pharisee disapproved of what had happened, Jesus spoke to him kindly too.
9. What can help us to imitate God’s kindness? Give an example.
9 How can we imitate God’s kindness? The apostle Paul wrote: “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle [or, “tactful,” ftn.] toward all.” (2 Tim. 2:24) Tactful people discern how to deal with delicate situations so as to avoid hurting the feelings of others. Think about how we can be kind in the following situations: At work, our supervisor is not doing his job well. How will we react? A brother comes to a meeting for the first time in months. What will we say to him? In the ministry, a householder says, “I’m too busy to talk right now.” Will we be considerate? At home, our spouse asks, “Why didn’t you tell me what you had planned for Saturday?” Will we respond in a kind way? By putting ourselves in the place of others and trying to anticipate how our words might affect them, we can discern how to speak and act in ways that imitate Jehovah’s kindness.
IMITATE GOD’S WISDOM
10, 11. What can help us to imitate God’s wisdom? Give an example.
10 Our being able to conceive of events that we have not lived through can also help us to imitate Jehovah’s wisdom and foresee the probable results of our actions. Wisdom is one of Jehovah’s principal attributes, and if he chooses to do so, he can foresee in detail the results of certain actions. We do not have that degree of foresight, but we do well to think about what could happen as a result of what we are about to do. The Israelites failed to consider the possible consequences of their disobedience to God. Despite all that God had done for them, Moses knew that they would do what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes. In the hearing of the entire congregation of Israel, he recited a song containing these words: “They are a nation devoid of sense, and there is no understanding among them. If only they were wise! They would ponder over this. They would think about their outcome.”
11 To imitate God’s wisdom, we would do well to think about or even visualize the likely consequences of our actions. If we are courting, for example, we need to recognize the power of sexual attraction. Never would we make plans or do anything that could endanger our precious relationship with Jehovah! Instead, let us act in harmony with these inspired words: “The shrewd one sees the danger and conceals himself, but the inexperienced keep right on going and suffer the consequences.”
AVOID HARMFUL CONTEMPLATION
12. How could contemplation harm us?
12 A shrewd person realizes that contemplation can be like a fire. If fire is handled properly, it can be useful, such as when it cooks our food. But fire is deadly when it is uncontrolled and burns down a house and kills its occupants. Similarly, contemplation is useful when it helps us to imitate Jehovah. However, it can be harmful when it feeds immoral desires. For example, if we make it a practice to think about sinful actions, this could lead to our acting out such fantasies. Indeed, indulging in immoral reverie can be spiritually deadly!
13. What way of life did Eve possibly picture in her mind?
13 Consider how the first woman, Eve, developed a desire to eat the forbidden fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” (Gen. 2:16, 17) The serpent told her: “You certainly will not die. For God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.” Eve “saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something desirable to the eyes.” What was the result? “She began taking of its fruit and eating it. Afterward, she also gave some to her husband when he was with her, and he began eating it.” (Gen. 3:1-6) To Eve, there was apparently something attractive in the idea that Satan presented to her. Instead of being told what was good and bad, she would decide this for herself. How harmful such musing proved to be! Through Eve’s sinful husband, Adam, “sin entered into the world and death through sin.”
14. How does the Bible help us to avoid misconduct?
14 Eve’s sin in the garden of Eden did not involve sexual immorality. However, Jesus warned against entertaining mental images of immoral conduct. He said: “Everyone who keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28) Moreover, Paul warned: “Do not be planning ahead for the desires of the flesh.”
15. What kind of treasures should we store up, and why?
15 Another dangerous fantasy is to imagine oneself becoming very wealthy while paying little attention to God. Actually, the wealth of a rich person “is like a protective wall in his imagination.” (Prov. 18:11) Jesus related a story to illustrate the sad state of a person “who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21) Jehovah rejoices when we do things that please him. (Prov. 27:11) How happy we are when we have his approval because we have stored up “treasures in heaven”! (Matt. 6:20) And a good relationship with Jehovah is unquestionably the most valuable treasure we can have.
CONTROLLING ANXIOUS THOUGHTS
16. What is one way to control anxiety?
16 Imagine the extent of our anxiety if we were consumed by efforts to store up “treasures on the earth.” (Matt. 6:19) Jesus used an illustration to show that “the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches” can choke the word of the Kingdom. (Matt. 13:18, 19, 22) Whether worrying about money or not, some people constantly imagine all the bad things that can possibly happen. However, uncontrolled anxious thoughts can cause us physical and spiritual harm. Let us trust in Jehovah and remember that “anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.” (Prov. 12:25) Good words of encouragement from someone who understands us can make our heart rejoice. Confiding in our parents, our spouse, or a trusted friend who views things from God’s standpoint may help to relieve our anxiety.
17. How does Jehovah help us to cope with anxiety?
17 No one understands our anxiety better than Jehovah does. “Do not be anxious over anything,” wrote Paul, “but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6, 7) Think about those who are helping to protect us from spiritual harm
18. How can contemplation help us?
18 As we have seen, contemplation can help us to imitate God’s qualities, such as love. (1 Tim. 1:11; 1 John 4:8) We will be happy if we display genuine love, consider the consequences of our actions, and avoid anxiety that would rob us of joy. Let us therefore make good use of our God-given ability to imagine the hope ahead and imitate Jehovah’s love, kindness, wisdom, and happiness.