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 STUDY ARTICLE 18

Love and Justice in the Christian Congregation

Love and Justice in the Christian Congregation

“Go on carrying the burdens of one another, and in this way you will fulfill the law of the Christ.”​—GAL. 6:2.

SONG 12 Great God, Jehovah

PREVIEW *

1. We can be sure of what two things?

JEHOVAH GOD loves his worshippers. He always has, and he always will. He also loves justice. (Ps. 33:5) So we can be sure of two things: (1) It pains Jehovah when his servants are treated unfairly. (2) He will make sure that justice is served. In the first article in this series, * we learned that the Law that God gave Israel through Moses was built on love. It promoted justice​—justice for all, even vulnerable ones. (Deut. 10:18) That Law reveals how deeply Jehovah cares about his worshippers.

2. What questions will we answer?

2 The Mosaic Law ended in 33 C.E. when the Christian congregation was established. Would Christians be without the benefits of a law that is built on love and promotes justice? By no means! Christians had a new law. In this article, we will first discuss what that law is. Then we will answer these questions: Why can we say that this law is built on love? Why can we say that it promotes justice? Under this law, how should those in authority treat others?

WHAT IS “THE LAW OF THE CHRIST”?

3. What is included in “the law of the Christ” mentioned at Galatians 6:2?

3 Read Galatians 6:2. Christians are under “the law of the Christ.” Jesus did not write down a law code for his  followers, but he did give them instructions, commands, and principles to live by. “The law of the Christ” includes everything Jesus taught. To understand this law better, consider the following.

4-5. In what ways did Jesus teach, and when did he teach?

4 In what ways did Jesus teach? First, he taught people by what he said. His words had power because they conveyed the truth about God, taught the real meaning of life, and pointed to God’s Kingdom as the remedy for all human suffering. (Luke 24:19) Jesus also taught by example. By how he lived, he showed his followers how they should live.​—John 13:15.

5 When did Jesus teach? He taught during his ministry on earth. (Matt. 4:23) He also taught his followers shortly after he was resurrected. For example, he appeared to a group of disciples​—perhaps numbering over 500—​and gave them the command to “make disciples.” (Matt. 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 15:6) As head of the congregation, Jesus continued to instruct his disciples after he returned to heaven. For instance, about 96 C.E., Christ directed the apostle John to give encouragement and counsel to anointed Christians.​—Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:1.

6-7. (a) Where are Jesus’ teachings recorded? (b) How do we obey the law of the Christ?

6 Where are Jesus’ teachings recorded? The four Gospels record many of the things Jesus said and did on earth. The rest of the Christian Greek Scriptures​—written by men who were inspired by holy spirit and who had “the mind of Christ”—​further help us to understand Jesus’ thinking on matters.​—1 Cor. 2:16.

7 Lessons: Jesus’ teachings cover all aspects of life. So the law of the Christ governs what we do at home, at work or at school, and in the congregation. We learn this law by reading the Christian Greek Scriptures and meditating on them. We obey this law by bringing our lives into harmony with the instructions, commands, and principles found in that  inspired record. When we obey the law of the Christ, we are obeying our loving God, Jehovah, who is the Source of all that Jesus taught.​—John 8:28.

A LAW BUILT ON LOVE

8. What is the foundation of the law of the Christ?

8 A well-made house built on a solid foundation makes those who live in it feel safe and secure. Similarly, a good law built on a solid foundation makes those who live by it feel safe and secure. The law of the Christ is built on the best possible foundation​—love. Why can we say that?

When we deal lovingly with others, we are obeying “the law of the Christ” (See paragraphs 9-14) *

9-10. What examples show that Jesus was motivated by love, and how can we imitate him?

9 First, Jesus was motivated by love in everything he did. Pity, or tender compassion, is an expression of love. Moved by such pity, Jesus taught the crowds, healed the sick, fed the hungry, and raised the dead. (Matt. 14:14; 15:32-38; Mark 6:34; Luke 7:11-15) Although doing such things consumed much of his time and energy, Jesus willingly put the needs of others ahead of his own. Above all, he showed great love by surrendering his life in behalf of others.​—John 15:13.

10 Lessons: We can imitate Jesus by putting the needs of others ahead of our own. We can also imitate him by cultivating tender compassion for people in our territory. When such compassion moves us to preach and teach the good news, we are obeying the law of the Christ.

11-12. (a) What shows that Jehovah deeply cares about us? (b) How can we imitate Jehovah’s love?

11 Second, Jesus revealed his Father’s love. During his ministry, Jesus showed how deeply Jehovah cares about his worshippers. Among other things, Jesus taught the following: Each of us is valuable and precious to our heavenly Father. (Matt. 10:31) Jehovah is eager to welcome back a lost sheep who repents and returns to the congregation. (Luke 15:7, 10) Jehovah proved his love for us by giving his Son as a ransom in our behalf.​—John 3:16.

12 Lessons: How can we imitate Jehovah’s love? (Eph. 5:1, 2) We view each of our brothers and sisters as valuable and precious, and we gladly welcome back “a lost sheep” who returns to Jehovah. (Ps. 119:176) We prove that we love our brothers and sisters by giving of ourselves, such as by helping them in times of need. (1 John 3:17) When we treat others in loving ways, we are obeying the law of the Christ.

13-14. (a) As recorded at John 13:34, 35, what did Jesus command his followers to show, and why is this a new commandment? (b) How do we obey the new commandment?

13 Third, Jesus commanded his followers to show self-sacrificing love. (Read John 13:34, 35.) Jesus’ commandment is new because it calls for a kind of love that was not required under the Law that God gave Israel: Love fellow believers as Jesus loved you. That requires a self-sacrificing love. * We are to love our brothers and sisters even more than we love ourselves. We must love them to the point of being willing to give up our life for them, as Jesus did for us.

 14 Lessons: How do we obey the new commandment? Put simply, by making sacrifices for our brothers and sisters. We are willing to make not just the ultimate sacrifice​—giving up our life—​but also smaller sacrifices. For example, when we regularly go out of our way to pick up an elderly brother or sister for a meeting, or we willingly give up our own preferences in order to please a loved one, or we take time off from secular work to help with disaster relief, we are obeying the law of the Christ. We are also helping to make our congregation a place where each individual can feel safe and secure.

A LAW THAT PROMOTES JUSTICE

15-17. (a) How did Jesus’ actions reveal his sense of justice? (b) How can we imitate Jesus?

15 “Justice,” as used in the Bible, basically means to do what God considers to be right and to do so without partiality. Why can we say that the law of the Christ promotes justice?

Jesus was respectful and kind to women, including those whom others viewed with scorn (See paragraph 16) *

16 First, consider how Jesus’ actions revealed his sense of justice. In his day, the Jewish religious leaders hated non-Jews, despised common Jews, and disrespected women. Jesus, however, was fair and impartial in dealing with all. He accepted non-Jews who approached him in faith. (Matt. 8:5-10, 13) He preached without prejudice to all, rich and poor. (Matt. 11:5; Luke 19:2, 9) He was never harsh or abusive in his treatment of women. On the contrary, he was respectful and kind to women, including those whom others viewed with scorn.​—Luke 7:37-39, 44-50.

17 Lessons: We can imitate Jesus by dealing impartially with others and preaching to all who are willing to listen​—regardless of their social or religious background. Christian men follow his example by treating women with respect. When we do such things, we are obeying the law of the Christ.

18-19. What did Jesus teach about justice, and what lessons do we learn from his teaching?

18 Second, consider what Jesus taught about justice. He taught principles that would help his followers to treat others fairly. Think, for example, about the Golden Rule. (Matt. 7:12) We all want to be treated fairly. Therefore, we should behave fairly toward others. If we do, they may be moved to treat us with fairness. But what if we have been treated unjustly? Jesus also taught his followers to trust that Jehovah will “cause justice to be done for [those] who cry out to him day and night.” (Luke 18:6, 7) That statement is, in effect, a promise: Our just God is aware of the trials we are facing in these last days, and he will cause justice to be done for us in his due time.​—2 Thess. 1:6.

19 Lessons: When we follow the principles that Jesus taught, we will treat others in a just way. And if we have been a victim of injustice in Satan’s world, we can take comfort in knowing that Jehovah will cause justice to be done for us.

HOW SHOULD THOSE IN AUTHORITY TREAT OTHERS?

20-21. (a) How should those in authority treat others? (b) How can a husband show self-sacrificing love, and how should a father treat his children?

20 Under the law of the Christ, how should those in authority treat others?  Since love is the foundation of that law, those in authority must dignify those in their care and treat them in a loving way. They must remember that the way of Christ is the way of love.

21 In the family. A husband is to love his wife “as the Christ does the congregation.” (Eph. 5:25, 28, 29) A husband must imitate the self-sacrificing love of Christ by putting his wife’s needs and interests ahead of his own. Some men may find it difficult to show such love, perhaps because they were not raised in an environment where treating others fairly and lovingly was valued. It may be difficult for them to unlearn bad habits, but they must make these changes in order to obey the law of the Christ. A husband who shows self-sacrificing love gains his wife’s respect. A father who truly loves his children would never abuse them by what he says or does. (Eph. 4:31) Instead, he expresses his love and approval in ways that make his children feel safe and secure. Such a father gains the love and trust of his children.

22. As stated at 1 Peter 5:1-3, to whom do the “sheep” belong, and how are they to be treated?

22 In the congregation. Elders must remember that the “sheep” do not belong to them. (John 10:16; read 1 Peter 5:1-3.) The expressions “flock of God,” “before God,” and “God’s inheritance” remind elders that the sheep belong to Jehovah. He wants his sheep to be treated with love and tenderness. (1 Thess. 2:7, 8) Elders who lovingly carry out their responsibility as shepherds gain Jehovah’s approval. Such elders also gain the  love and respect of their brothers and sisters.

23-24. (a) What is the role of elders in handling cases of serious wrongdoing? (b) When handling such cases, what concerns do elders have?

23 What is the role of elders in handling cases of serious wrongdoing? Their role is different from that of judges and elders under the Law that God gave Israel. Under that Law, appointed men handled not only spiritual matters but also civil and criminal cases. But under the law of the Christ, the elders’ role is to handle the spiritual aspects of the wrongdoing. They recognize that the secular authorities have the God-given responsibility to handle civil and criminal cases. That includes the authority to impose such penalties as fines or imprisonments.​—Rom. 13:1-4.

24 How do elders handle the spiritual aspects of serious wrongdoing? They use the Scriptures to weigh matters and make decisions. They keep in mind that love is the foundation of the law of the Christ. Love moves the elders to consider: What needs to be done to help any in the congregation who have been victims of the wrongdoing? Regarding the wrongdoer, love moves the elders to consider: Is he repentant? Can we help him to regain his spiritual health?

25. What will the next article discuss?

25 How thankful we are to be under the law of the Christ! When all of us work hard to obey it, we help to make our congregation a place where each individual can feel loved, valued, and safe. Still, we are living in a world where “wicked men” have advanced “from bad to worse.” (2 Tim. 3:13) We must not let down our guard. How can the Christian congregation reflect God’s justice when dealing with child sexual abuse? The next article will answer that question.

SONG 15 Praise Jehovah’s Firstborn!

^ par. 5 This article and the two that follow are part of a series that discusses why we can be confident that Jehovah is a God of love and justice. He wants his people to receive justice, and he comforts those who have been deprived of it in this wicked world.

^ par. 1 See the article “Love and Justice in Ancient Israel” in the February 2019 issue of The Watchtower.

^ par. 13 EXPRESSION EXPLAINED: A self-sacrificing love moves us to put the needs and interests of others ahead of our own. We are willing to give up something or deprive ourselves of something in order to help or benefit others.

^ par. 61 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Jesus observes a widow whose only son has died. Moved with pity, Jesus resurrects the young man.

^ par. 63 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Jesus has a meal in the home of a Pharisee named Simon. A woman, perhaps a prostitute, has just washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and poured some oil on them. Simon disapproves of the woman’s actions, but Jesus defends her.