Keep Cultivating Tender Affection – Study 2021/4
“In brotherly love have tender affection for one another.” Romans 12:10
[Study 4 from ws 1/21 p.20, March 29 – April 4, 2021]
“In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another, take the lead.”- Romans 12:10
The preview to this article tells us that Jesus said the identifying mark of true Christians would be love. This Watchtower study article is meant to help us develop and maintain tender affection for those related to us in faith, by which they mean only Jehovah’s Witnesses rather than all Christians.
The first two paragraphs focus on the lack of affection prevalent in today’s society. The writer makes a poor attempt at providing evidence of this lack of affection by referring to families that are disconnected by computers, tablets and smartphones. Although it is true that technology has taken up valuable family togetherness time, one would not readily accept that this represents the characteristics in 2 Timothy 3:3 which is cited in paragraph 1 “having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness”.
In fact, with the increasing output online of material on the JW.Org website and JW Broadcasting, and the reduction of published printed material, one could argue that the Organization is adding to this problem, rather than taking a stand against it. If one is working full-time as most adults do, they would struggle to keep up with all the material published each month, especially after preparing for all the meetings and participating in preaching for the unspoken rule of 10 hours a month.
The Gospels give many accounts of how Jesus treated others with tender affection. Something we could relate to. But instead, the Organization choose to write 2 paragraphs about Jehovah’s qualities, and 4 short paragraphs about Jonathan and David, before going on to suggest what we should do. In the progress they basically ignored Jesus the Son of God, overlooking that Jesus himself said in Matthew 11:27 “… neither does anyone fully know the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son is willing to reveal him.”. This scripture clearly shows that we cannot properly know our Father Jehovah unless we look at the example of Jesus. In looking at such qualities as tender affection, surely the example of Jesus Christ would be the best example and most practical to help us.
Paragraphs 4 and 5 just give shallow soundbites as “The Bible reveals Jehovah’s beautiful qualities. For example, it says that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) That description alone draws us to him.”.
Since when did just saying something mean it was true? Descriptions alone, certainly that short, do nothing to draw us to anyone, let alone someone we cannot see. Instead, we actually need to make a closer examination of the partially quoted scripture to get more compelling reasons.
Being honest with yourself, how many Witnesses read the “Read Scriptures”, let alone the cited scriptures. Much less is there the opportunity to answer in the meetings about the cited scriptures. Are we not often told to stick to the answers in the paragraph and that includes the scriptures?
The Context of cited 1 John 4:8
So, what does 1 John 4:7-20, the context show? The Apostle John reminded us that we should “continue loving one another …”. Why, “because love is from God …” and showing love to others shows we love, and respect God, and we want to do what he asks us to do. How is God love? In that He is the personification of love, the originator of love. Did he not create humans in his image with the capacity to show love?
What is the biggest and most important way that God showed love? “By this the love of God was revealed in our case, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world …”. Why? “… so that we might gain life through him.” Yes “the love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.” God loved us even though we may not have always loved him and made a provision for us to gain everlasting life. Is that not a demonstration of tender affection?
The Apostle John goes on to reason “Beloved ones, if this is how God loved us, then we are also under obligation to love one another.” Are we left on our own in our attempts to show love and tender affection to others? Of course not, that would be unloving of God. John reminds us that God “has given his [holy] spirit to us.” Furthermore, “whoever acknowledges that Jesus is God’s son, God remains in union with such one.” As a result, we come “to know and believe the love that God has for us.” No need to just be told “God is love” and accept that fact intellectually, rather we feel it within us when we come to know and appreciate and are reminded of what God and Christ did for us.
The Apostle John then goes on to offer more compelling reasons to show love and tender affection to others when he writes “God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in union with God and God remains in union with him. 17 In this way love has been made perfect in us, so that we may have freeness of speech in the day of judgment, because just as that one is, so are we ourselves in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts fear out, because fear restrains us. Indeed, the one who is fearful has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love, because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For the one who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And we have this commandment from him, that whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
There are many important reasons given by the Apostle John as to why we would want to show love and tender affection for others. However, did you notice the key point without which God could not apply this level of love and tender affection? It was acknowledging that Jesus is God’s son. Then God would be able to apply the benefits to us of that loving provision, a result of God’s and Jesus’ tender affection for all mankind.
On that basis you would assume that the rest of the study article would be full of references to Jesus and his example. But you would be sorely mistaken. The whole Watchtower study article only contains three passing references to Jesus! Surely something is seriously wrong with the emphasis of these Watchtower study articles. Although showing tender affection is the right thing to do, does not John suggest that showing love to others is without purpose and with little benefit if we do not acknowledge Jesus Christ role. Likewise, not showing love to others negates any proclaimed love for God.
Let us now take a brief look at Jesus’ personal example which is not touched on in the study article.
Firstly, Jesus demonstrated outwardly his tender affection. It could be seen, felt, and was commented on.
Jesus and Lazarus
Evidence of this can be seen in the account of the resurrection of Lazarus. We find this account in John 11. Note John 11:3, where Mary and Martha send a message to Jesus when Lazarus was sick saying “Lord, see! The one for whom you have affection is sick.”.
John 11:5 continues to confirm this when it tells us “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus”.
What was Jesus’ response to Mary falling at his feet weeping. Was he cold and unfeeling? The account continues “Jesus … groaned in the spirit and became troubled …” and asked to see where Lazarus had been laid. As the mourners said ““Lord, come and see.” Jesus gave way to tears.”. The Jews who were there “began to say: “See, what affection he used to have for him!”.
The account then goes on to tell how Jesus resurrected his friend Lazarus.
Jesus and the deaf man
Another account is that of when a deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him to be cured. The account is in Mark 7:31-37. Show tender care for his wellbeing “he took him away from the crowd privately and put his fingers into the man’s ears and, after spitting, he touched his tongue. 34 And with a look up into heaven he sighed deeply and said to him: “Ephʹpha·tha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 Well, his [the man’s] hearing powers were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he began speaking normally.”. Yes, it was a kindness, a show of tender affection, to take the deaf man away from the noisy crowd, so then when he regained his hearing, he would not be overwhelmed with the noise but could slowly adjust to now being able to hear.
Jesus and the Apostle Peter
Because of the affection Jesus showed to his disciples, it was returned. Without it the following conversation could never have taken place.
After Jesus death and resurrection, he was speaking to the disciples and “Jesus said to Simon Peter: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him: “Yes, Lord, you know I have affection for you.” He said to him: “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again he said to him, a second time: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him: “Yes, Lord, you know I have affection for you.” He said to him: “Shepherd my little sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time: “Simon son of John, do you have affection for me?” Peter became grieved that he said to him the third time: “Do you have affection for me?” So he said to him: “Lord, you know all things; you are aware that I have affection for you.” Jesus said to him: “Feed my little sheep”.
Jesus did not contradict Peter’s claim. Rather, he was impressing upon Peter, that just as he, Jesus had affection for Peter, and Peter for Jesus, this affection now had to be extended to all Jesus’ followers, his little sheep.
These brief examinations of 3 instances of Jesus showing affection are just the tip of the iceberg.
In conclusion, let us follow the example of Jesus, who made the attributes of his and our Father manifest, including showing tender affection. No doubt, if we as true Christians work hard on showing true affection to others, then perhaps one day we will be able to honestly say to Jesus without any fear of contradiction, “Lord, you know all things; you are aware that I have affection for you.”. At that time would it not be heart-warming to hear in return: “Feed my little sheep” thereby acknowledging the truth of our statement?