Love is …
perfection of character.
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16).
The love that our heavenly Father seeks to have us develop is a love which is in full harmony and in total surrender to God’s will. When we please our Divine Father of Life, He will bless with eternal life.
“To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor an immortality, he will give eternal life” (Romans 2:7).
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
One element of Love is MEEKNESS.
Meekness does not mean weakness.
Consider Moses. He was a meek man and did he have a weak character? Not at all. He was humble-minded, not boastful, not proud or haughty.
“Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men who were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).
So the New Creatures in Christ, must develop and maintain this quality of meekness, from the divine standpoint.
Another element of love is GENTLENESS.
Does this signify weakness or fear? No.
Gentleness is part of a character of love.
Jesus said, “take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
In Galatians 5:22, 23, the Apostle Paul writes, that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
To the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul writes, ” (1) I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (2) Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (3) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (4) There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (6) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6).
“Moderation”—reasonableness, gentleness—the spirit of a sound mind, of gentleness, meekness.
This attitude of mind comes in large measure as a result of knowledge of God and his plans (R5840). Surely there never was a time when this counsel was so much needed as now!
Let the fact that we know only in part and understand only in part keep us humble and moderate in word and deed and thought (R5249).
Here is a practical example:
If we feel the leader of a meeting is not following the best Scriptural course, we must show moderation in our approach—approving what we can, objecting in kindness, meekness, and brotherly love (R3866). The Greek seems to carry the thought of reasonableness, of not exacting our rights too rigorously—mercy and leniency (R3128:2). Keep yourselves well in hand, subject and obedient to the will of God.
In 2 Timothy 3:2-5, the Apostle Paul warns against those “in the last days” (today) who he describes as “(2) lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, (3) without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, (4) treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— (5) having a form of godliness but denying its power.” The Apostle Paul then states, “have nothing to do with such people.”
Even in discussing the time of trouble, emphasis should be laid upon the glorious Kingdom which will be inaugurated (R5716:4). We should be using the knowledge we possess, doing with our might what our hands find to do (R5249). Let us be specially on guard that the influence of every word and act should be in accord with law, order and peace—“live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18).
Our gentleness toward all men would begin at home—more particularly in the Church—but should be manifested toward all with whom we have dealings (R5840).
Messiah’s Kingdom is shortly to be established—this should help the Lord’s people in living an exemplary life (R5840). This clause implies the exhortation belongs specially to the closing of this Gospel age—thus, to this time period we are currently living in.
We are expecting great changes soon and can well afford to be generous and liberal in our sentiments toward others (R3128:3).
PATIENCE is another element of love and a part of the true Christian character.
“With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
Patience is an element of character. We read in Revelation 3:10,
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
When examining the word “patience” we find that two quite distinct words in the Greek are translated by our English word patience in the New Testament:
- makrothunia (James 5:10; Acts 26:3)—this is the word which in a general way corresponds to the common thought of patience, as we speak of it connected with every-day affairs of our lives; it means merely long-suffering, and, indeed, makrothunia is generally so translated throughout the New Testament (Romans 2:4; 9:22; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 1:11; 3:12; 1 Timothy 1:16; 2 Peter 3:15).
- hupomonee—this is used in the Revelation text quoted above which has a much deeper and fuller significance than attaches to our English word patience. It signifies rather constancy,—the thought being an endurance of evil in a cheerful, willing, patient manner. It represents, therefore, an element of character, and not merely a temporary condition or restraint of feeling or action.
For instance, a worldly man might have a great deal of patience in connection with the running of his business;—he might be very attentive to his customers, very obliging, very painstaking, and show no dissatisfaction in connection with the inconsiderateness of his customers; and “patience,” in its ordinary sense, might be ascribed to his conduct.
But the word in the Revelation text rendered “patience” signifies such a development of heart and character as manifests itself in an endurance of wrong or affliction with contentment, without rebellion of will, with full acquiescence in the divine wisdom and love.
In Luke 8:15, in the parable of the sower, we read:
“That [sown] on the good ground are they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience [with cheerful endurance, constancy].”
The thought here is that in order to be of the fruit-bearing class which the Lord will approve and accept to his Kingdom, it is necessary to do more than to receive the word of his testimony, even thou we receive it with joy—for that class in the parable is represented by the stony ground, which at first gave evidence of great fruitfulness and vigor, but which, when the sun of persecution arose, withered, because of lack of depth of soil. That stony, shallow soil represents, the Lord explains, a class of hearers who rejoice greatly in the truth, but do not endure, such as cannot withstand persecution or opposition, but wither under it, become discouraged. Such cannot be of the Kingdom class, all of whom must be overcomers.
In this parable our Lord shows us that patient endurance, constancy, is the final test, following after the readiness of preparation to receive the seed; following after the seed has been received and has sprouted; following after love and hope and joy and faith have caused it to spring forth and to give fruitage (R2791).
Patient endurance, then, is necessary, in order that the grain may be developed and thoroughly ripened, and made fit for the garner.
Ah! how important patient endurance seems to be, in the light of this our Lord’s word—cheerful endurance; for we cannot suppose that he who judges the thoughts and intents of the heart would be pleased with his children, even if he saw them enduring much for his sake, if they endured in an impatient or dissatisfied or unhappy frame of mind. They would not, in that event, be copies of God’s dear Son, our Lord, whose sentiment is expressed in the words,
“I delight to do thy will, O God!” (Psalm 40:8)
All of the Royal Priesthood are sacrificers, as was the Chief Priest, our Redeemer and example, who offered up himself: we, as the under priests, have also presented our bodies living sacrifices, and are to lay down our lives for the brethren—in the service of the truth. And God, who accepts these sacrifices through the merit of Christ, informs us that he appreciates or loves the cheerful giver, those who perform their sacrifices of a willing heart, cheerfully.
The other instance in which our Lord used the word “patience” during his ministry is recorded in Luke 21:19. He had just been telling his followers what they must expect as the result of being his disciples during the present time, when sin abounds, and when Satan is the prince of this world—they must expect tribulation, opposition from various quarters; but he assures them that they would nevertheless be fully and completely under divine care and protection, even tho the persecutions would be permitted to reach and to affect them. Then follow the words,
“In your patience [patient endurance, cheerful constancy] possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19).
BROTHERLY KINDNESS is another element of love.
“(5) And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; (6) And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; (7) And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. (8) For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).
The Greek word “Philadelpia” signifies brotherly love. “Phileo”—is duty love, a love which has a cause or demand upon it (R2807).
Phileo love is evidenced in the natural family relationship, and also in the spiritual family, the Church. We may not love our brethren’s peculiarities, their features, but we love them as brethren, whether black or white, bond or free, because they are brethren, comrades in the same race (Q449).
Phileo love means to make due allowance for inherited weaknesses and circumstantial misfortunes of others—to deal patiently and helpfully so far as wisdom may dictate, with a view to the correction of those faults, even at the expense of self-interest, if necessary and prudent (R4809, R1114).
Phileo love means to meekly bear reproof, determining to overcome deformities of character, and prove a help rather than a hindrance to others; no longer fostering old dispositions (R4809).
Phileo is a love for all who are brethren and yoke fellows in the cause of righteousness and truth, the cause of God (R2037).
Instead of disdaining those who are ignoble, instead of putting them away, treat them kindly (R448). This of necessity grows out of godliness. As god-likeness presupposes the other graces mentioned, so its development implies an enlargement of our hearts to all who are of the household of faith (R2155).
There is also “AGAPE” LOVE…
Love as a general expression covers all the elements of character which are really parts of love (F186).
We might divide the race-course into four quarters:
(2) love for the Lord because we see something of the glorious majesty of his character;
(3) love for the brethren;
(4) perfect love—for all, even our enemies (F187-189).
- Is deep, pure and true.
- Thinketh no evil.
- Does not puff itself up.
- Is not easily offended;
- Rejoiceth always in the truth and never in iniquity;
- Is the climax of Christian attainment in the present life, the grace of all graces, which never fades, and which will be perfected when we receive the new resurrection body (R2037, R2155).
- Is sincere love for the unrighteous and unlovely, as well as for the good and beautiful (R4809, R1114).
- Is a love which is ever ready to manifest itself in wise and helpful activity for saint and sinner; and which pities, helps, comforts, cheers and blesses all within its reach—manifesting and cultivating the disposition which must be found in every member of the Christ company (R4809, R1114).
We do not attain to the perfection of love at the beginning of our course, but it is the mark or standard which indicates the end of the course
Love is the chief of all graces.
Acts of kindness will gradually lead to an attitude of love, even where the subject does not seem to deserve it (R1628).
Love is an experience, and includes in it an earnest desire for the well-being of the object loved (R78:5).
Love excels all the other virtues, because it is the most enduring (R4732).
True love on our part will manifest itself in obedience—disobedience is an evidence of the loss of love as viewed from the Lord’s standpoint
“WITHOUT LOVE I AM NOTHING”
If we could speak all the languages known amongst men and even the angelic tongue as well, and if we were to use these talents in preaching, if we were to preach without being inspired by love, it would be completely unprofitable.
God would esteem it no more than the sound proceeding from cymbals or any brass instrument. Does God want to give cymbals and brass horns glory, honor and immortality? Of course not!
If man were to preach the whole Truth in all its grandeur, and have the ability to comprehend it even through the holy Spirit yet if there be a weakness in character development of love towards the brethren, then we could not be fit enough for divine favor and a share in the Kingdom, just like that brass horn would not be.
What a glorious lesson as we attempt to sound forth the praises of Him who has called us from darkness to light! How necessary it is that we speak the Truth in the love of it, with hearts full of devotion and appreciation!
By quieting the mind… and heading to the voice of our Heavenly Father through the inspired words of God in Bible and through prayer, we may learn to absorb and appreciate each lesson step by step as God unfolds it to us. God is the ultimate example of patience, waiting perhaps billions of years before finally confronting the pain of watching His own firstborn Son being sacrificed on Calvary and be the ransom for all mankind.
There is a saying “take time to smell the roses.”
And in the same way let’s remember to take time to hear God-Jehovah speak…
and grow from it…
The Apostle suggests that if he had mountain-moving faith, if his knowledge of Divine mysteries were very great, superior to those of all other men, and even if in his zeal for man or for God he should become a martyr and permit his body to be burned, yet, notwithstanding all this, if the primary influence in these matters were not love, all the sacrifice, all the self-denials, all the labors, even the burning, would profit nothing.
When we come to get the Divine standpoint of things we find indeed that we have a very high standard to achieve; and yet our judgment assures us that it is right, that it is just, that it is proper, that God should thus set the standard of love as the only standard by which we shall ultimately be measured. But whoever thinks to have this perfect love for God and for man and make no manifestations of it is equally mistaken.
Wherever love is in the heart … words, works, thoughts and looks will testify to it, so that he who loves much will serve much.
If we love the Lord we shall delight in His service regardless of failures, regardless of fame, regardless of any earthly consideration; yea, even though the service of the Lord should cause us the loss of human approbation, fellowship, etc…
Hence every true Christian may link the two words love and service, and be sure that his love will manifest itself in zeal. Similarly, love of the brethren will mean a desire to serve the brethren; love of the home and family will mean a desire to do good to them; love of our neighbor will signify a desire to do for his interests according to our knowledge and limitations.
THE RESTRAINTS OF LOVE
The Apostle points out some of the restraints of love.
It cannot be quick, irascible; for “love suffers long and is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
- He who is loving cannot be envious of others, nor covetous of the blessings and favors they are enjoying; for “love envieth not.”
- He who is loving cannot be boastful and proud; for “love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.”
- He who is controlled by the spirit of love will not be ungracious, unkind, rude; for “love doth not behave itself unseemly.”
- He who is full of the spirit of love will not be selfish, grasping, neglectful of the interests of others; for “love does not seeks its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
- The truly loving one will not be quickly angered, will not be easily offended; for “love is not easily provoked.”
“The one controlled by the spirit of love will not be imagining unkindness and rudeness nor seeking to interpret the words or conduct of others unkindly; for ‘love thinketh no evil’ “
(Pastor Russell’s Sermons, pages SM272-SM285).
What a beautiful example we see in our Master’s words to Simon:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).
Let us not neglect to pray for our fellow brethren in Christ, always while we are in this carnal abode.
“LOVE NEVER FAILS.”
The following is from “What Pastor Russell Said – Question Book”
QUESTION (1910) 1— At what point of character development can we say, the crown is ours, and that we are overcomers?
“ANSWER. — I think, dear friends, that the proper point at which we could say that, would be when we reach the mark of perfect love. For instance, you came to the Lord and made your consecration, you entered the School of Christ and began to learn of him. That was about the time you found out how short you were of the proper measure. Will the Lord ever be able to make anything out of me? Now the Lord is going to measure you according to your mind and is waiting for you to get to the mark of perfect love, which is the standard of a perfect character, for none will be worthy of a place in the kingdom or eternal life except those that reach this mark, either now or in the Millennial Age. God has nothing for anyone except those that reach that standard in his mind and heart. He may have weaknesses, etc., and you may speak things that you are sorry for, and must apologize for, but your heart is at the mark–perfect love—and that is the reason you want to apologize, because you have reached the mark of perfect love. You love God, and all mankind, and wish to do good to all, as you have an opportunity. After a person gets where he can love his enemies, he is at the mark of perfect love. He will not be perfect in flesh, for that will not be possible in this age. Many still have to put a bridle upon their tongues, etc., you must hold in the old nature. This I have often illustrated by a bad dog which would represent our old nature, and for which the new creature is responsible. We must hold him in. Our intentions are good, as is shown by the fact that when the heat or excitement of the moment is passed, then the heart goes back to the principles of righteousness, and asks for forgiveness from the Father. He will ask for forgiveness for anything he has done. You might say, it will be harder to rectify this, than not to have done it in the first place. Surely. But that is what you must do, if you want [Q51] to prove to the Lord that your heart is for righteousness, and whenever you find you have made a mistake, you must rectify it. Now, then, if you get to that place, you have gotten to the place where, to my understanding, you are at the mark of perfect love, toward God, men, etc. You desire good for all and injury toward none. From that moment, I understand, the Lord counts you as one having a crown apportioned to you. That is one thing, but seeing that no man take your crown is another thing. After granted to you it still remains that if you are moved from the mark, pressed aside by difficulties, you are not standing this test, and you will not be worthy of being an overcomer. So you see there is a mark of character, without which none will be acceptable in the kingdom, spiritual or earthly. Now we must demonstrate our love and devotion, that is what we live for today and tomorrow, and in all your Christian experience, from the time you enter the school of Christ, for you are to learn of him as quickly as possible and get to the mark of perfect love toward all.”
The words below are from Reprint No. 4470 from “ZWT” (www.htdb.one).
STANDING AT THE MARK
WE HAVE heretofore suggested what we now wish to further, if possible, emphasize; namely, the fact that there is a Divine standard of holiness, of righteousness, which, if it be not attained, will mean our non-acceptance by the Lord as members of his Elect Church; and, more than this, our unfitness for eternal life upon any plane. This standard of character, or mark of perfection, as we have pointed out, is not a standard or mark of fleshly perfection, because the Lord accepts amongst his consecrated disciples those of various degrees of mental, moral and physical degeneracy. The justification which he provides makes up for the blemishes of each, for the more blemished as well as for the less blemished. The robe of his righteousness imputed is as necessary to the noblest as to the most degraded, and renders the latter as acceptable as the former.
From this standpoint it is recognized that the heart, the renewed mind, the renewed will, is the spirit-begotten New Creature which is on trial before God. It has professed a thorough consecration to righteousness and opposition to sin, a complete deadness to it, and a determination to mortify, to deaden, the will of the flesh to the extent of its ability. From the very start this condition is pleasing and acceptable to the Lord. Nevertheless, it is Scripturally represented at first as being merely a “babe” condition, according to one illustration, and according to another merely a “begotten” condition. Progress must be made, character must be developed, and then, further, it must be tested. “Not every one who saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom.” Not every one who professes consecration, and newness of life, and self-sacrifice in the interests of truth and righteousness, can be accepted as a joint-heir with Christ. Time must be given for development and for proving.
Love for God they have, from the very outset. But it is not love of the highest type. As already shown, it is largely, if not entirely, duty love. The “babe” in Christ must feed upon the sincere milk of the Word, that he may grow strong. As the spiritual food is appropriated, and spiritual exercise is taken, strength of character comes in, the eyes of our understanding open more widely, and lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the Divine character are discerned which were not visible at the first. This brings us to a higher type of love for God—a love for his glorious character.
Meantime, also, a sympathetic love for the world is gradually developing in the spiritual “babe.” As the principles of the Divine character are seen and appreciated, the New Creature begins to apply these to everything in life, and hence increases in sympathetic love toward man and beast, friend and foe. Another element of love is gradually attained also: At first the “babe” in Christ loves some of the brethren—the nobler, the gentler, the better educated ones, etc.; but gradually, as the Divine character is discerned, and the Divine love becomes shed abroad in the heart, this love broadens out so that it includes every member of the family of God and every member of the fallen race—yea, even enemies. With this development comes spiritual activity, called in the Scriptures quickening—”You hath he quickened.” This quickening implies activity in the service of God, and the service of the brethren, and if outside opportunity beyond this permit, it would mean an activity in the service of all needing assistance such as we could give.
The Christian life here illustrated, which began as a “babe in Christ,” has by this time reached the standard of manhood in Christ, and is at the Mark of Perfect Love—for God, for the brethren, for the neighbor and for the enemies. Not until this point shall have been reached could such a person be considered fit for heaven, or for eternal life on any plane.
We are to bear in mind that there is no development in heaven, and hence perfection of character must be attained by the saints before they die. And, similarly, the world during the Millennium must attain this perfect development before the close of the age in order to be fit for eternal life according to the Divine promise and standards.
Is it asked to what extent will this standard of perfect love in the heart manifest itself in the flesh? We answer, that during the Millennial Age it will manifest itself perfectly in the flesh, for the world then will be judged according to the actual attainments in their flesh, and perfection by restitution will be not only possible, but required. But as for us of the Gospel Age, we who are being judged not according to the flesh but according to the spirit, to what extent will the new mind, the new nature, when at the Mark of Perfect Love, be able to govern and control the flesh? Our answer is, that the degrees of control will vary much, according to the degrees of imperfection with which the mortal body is afflicted.
The only standard which we can set forth is that the new nature, new mind, new will, would be very regretful, very sorrowful, in respect to any laches, or errors, of its mortal body. The Lord would know (and perhaps the brethren also to some extent) of the New Creature’s endeavor to control the mortal body by the degree of its grief in connection with every error, and its continually renewed effort to bring every power of the body, and even every thought, into complete subjection to the will of God in Christ. Any sympathy with sin is an evidence that the New Creature is not at the Mark. And no sympathy with sin, but constant endeavor for righteousness, is evidence that it is at the Mark.
Some may be at this Mark for a longer and some for a shorter period. Our Lord was surely at it from the beginning of his ministry. He was tested there, while at the Mark of perfect love. All the besetments of the Adversary and of the world failed to move him from that position of perfect love. He laid down his life at this Mark. St. Paul was surely at this Mark for many years before his actual death. He was continually laying down his life for the brethren, continually serving his enemies and praying for them; and surely he was continually loving and serving the Lord with his every power and talent.
No Christian should be satisfied with a long delay in reaching the Mark. The milk of the Word should be received, its strength should be appropriated, spiritual sight and spiritual energy should quickly follow, and strong meat of Divine Truth should speedily bring to full maturity the Christian character. And once attained, it should be held at any cost through all the trials and difficulties which the Adversary, and the world, and the flesh, might be permitted to bring against us. The severest temptations come after we have reached the Mark—temptations to slackness in service of God; temptations to withhold parts of our sacrifice; temptations to deal unkindly, uncharitably, unlovingly with the brethren, or unjustly with our neighbor, or ungenerously with our enemies. All of these must be resisted as we prize our eternal life, as we prize the promise of joint-heirship and fellowship with our Redeemer in His Kingdom.
Whoever sees this subject clearly must realize that as a Christian he has to do with a great proposition which will thoroughly test his loyalty, his courage, his zeal, [R4470, page 271] his love. He will need to remember the Lord’s comforting assurances of grace to help in every time of need if he would come off a victor and not be dismayed, nor have his courage beaten down by the Adversary’s attacks.
Br. Charles Russell. “Pastor Russell’s Sermons,” and “What Pastor Russell Said – Question Book.”
The Reprints of the Original Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. These Reprints can be accessed here: http://www.htdbv8.com
Suggested Further Reading
A Practical Self-Examination On Love
Agape by Br. Mark Grillo
Brotherly Kindness by Br. Ed Byrd
Words for Love in the Bible, In the Hebrew, by Br. W.A. Eliason, The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom Magazine, Set/Oct. 1986.
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