“All of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. […] You are all one in union with Christ Jesus.”
We are all equally valuable within the congregation, regardless of our gender, ethnicity, social class, or whatever we identified as before becoming Christians.
Jesus gave his life for us each as individuals.
That is why we strive to give up our old divisive attitudes and humbly learn to see all our brothers and sisters with honor and appreciation (Rom. 12:10; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:24)
“Since you are so ‘reasonable,’ you gladly put up with the unreasonable ones.”
~2 Corinthians 11:19
Was the Apostle Paul being sarcastic when he made this statement?
The context shows that the “unreasonable ones” refers to apostate Christians who were criticizing him in his absence. (2 Cor. 11:3-6,12-15).
Paul put up with a lot to carry out his ministry, including physical persecution and health problems. (2 Cor. 11:24-27;12:7).
But he was especially sensitive to the negative attitudes the Christians in Corinth had towards him.
It hurt him to have to defend his own reputation before his brothers. (2 Cor. 12:11,16)
Today we may come across negative, one-sided information about other Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It would be unwise to “put up” with apostate material that tries to weaken our faith in God’s congregation.
“Barnabas was determined to take along John, who was called Mark. Paul, however, was not in favor of taking him along with them […]. At this there was a sharp burst of anger, so that they separated from each other.”
All three men involved in the discord were spiritually strong and had an extraordinary record of service to God. (Acts 13:4,5)
Still, there was at least one occasion in which Paul was disappointed by Mark, and eventually, he and Barnabas had a grave argument about it.
In time, though, Mark took on more responsibilities and even wrote a gospel account of Jesus’ life, having been eyewitness to some events. (Mark 14:51,52; Phm. 23,24; 1 Pet. 5:13)
Some time prior to the completion of the gospel, Paul came to forgive Mark and even requested his company in Rome. (2 Tim. 4:11)
This account teaches us that while Christians should constantly strive to display patience and self-control, we are not perfect and from time to time, will have serious disagreements with other mature Christians. (Gal. 5:22,23)
But much like Paul, Barnabas and Mark, such disagreements should not impede our desire to continue serving Jehovah to the best of our abilities. (Acts 15:39b,40)
That a fellow believer has a differing point of view does not automatically disqualify them as a spiritually strong person.
“When [Barnabas] arrived and saw the undeserved kindness of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all to continue in the Lord with heartfelt resolve.”
The early Christian congregation was changing in the sense that it was no longer exclusive to Jews or Jewish proselytes.
Barnabas was a Levite who had converted to Christianity. (Acts 4:36)
He was appointed an apostle because holy spirit moved him to do missionary work. (Acts 13:4; 14:14)
When he saw the enthusiasm with which the new converts in Antioch received the good news of the kingdom, he sought out Paul and together they helped strengthen the congregation. (Acts 11:25,26)
It was there that “by divine providence” Christ’s disciples were first called “Christians.”
In Greek, the phrase translated “heartfelt resolve” literally means “purpose of the heart.”
Other synonyms could be: firmness, conviction, determination.
Barnabas not only told his new spiritual family to stay in the truth; he took them under his wing and nurtured their faith.
Through personal sacrifice, tolerance toward others, and a joyous spirit, he exemplified ‘continuing in the Lord with heartfelt resolve.’
“He said to them: ‘You will indeed drink my cup […].'”
When James and John asked their mother to ask Jesus if they could sit on either side of him in his kingdom, Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking for. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” (Matt. 20:22)
To this, they resolutely replied, “We can.”
Jesus’ companions had already left behind a successful fishing business to follow him, and he trusted them. (Mark 1:19,20)
He affectionately called them “the Sons of Thunder” perhaps because of their impetuous zeal. (Mark 3:17)
About eleven years later, James proved he could “drink the cup” of martyrdom when Herod Agrippa executed him. (Acts 12:1,2)
Despite outliving the other apostles, John also followed Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice when he was exiled to the island of Patmos for bearing witness. (Re. 1:9)
Jesus trusted they would remain loyal, and they did not disappoint.
They learned to slave for their brothers instead of seeking prominence. (Matt. 20:25-27)
Like Jesus, we should trust our brothers in the congregation will remain loyal despite their imperfections as we strive to do the same.
“[…] All your sons will be taught by Jehovah,
And the peace of your sons will be abundant.”
One of the identifying markers of true worship is the peacefulness of those who practice it.
Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35)
Isaiah himself prophesied that in the last days, God’s people would be made up of peace-lovers from different ends of the earth. (Is. 2:2,4)
But is an international brotherhood of peace really something attainable in these divided times we are living?
Jesus also stated: “The things impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
If we love God and want to follow in Christ’s footsteps, we will not only practice a form of worship free of promoting hatred or war, but will ‘clothe ourselves’ with love in the manner in which we speak and treat those around us on a daily basis. (Col. 3:12-15)
“Jehovah is merciful and compassionate,
Slow to anger and abundant in loyal love.”
Have you ever become so angry at someone that you became obsessed with their flaws and that, in turn, affected your joy in the congregation?
We do well to imitate Jehovah in being slow to anger.
One way to improve on this is by meditating on the example of Christ Jesus.
Jesus had a mild temper (Matt. 11:29).
He did not allow others to provoke him.
Rather, he entrusted himself to the Highest Judge (1 Pet. 2:23).
How can we, too, be slow in anger?
We want to be able to discern right from wrong, and a big part of that is knowing when to keep our mouth shut.
Otherwise, if we feel contempt toward others, we might end up slandering them (Prov. 11:12,13).
The way to a calm spirit is constant and straight (Prov. 15:21).
Although we feel forces trying to knock us off our path, having a mild temper implies steadfastness.
Jesus remained calm even when his disciples did the exact opposite of what he had asked (Mark 14:34-38).
Likewise, in the congregation, there may be someone who constantly does the opposite of what he is instructed, and yet he has a certain level of authority.
Jehovah does not expect people to be perfect, so it should not surprise us when they err.
True- it is extremely grieving to be targeted by someone’s rudeness on a personal level, or worse yet, to see your loved one bullied by a brother in the faith.
But Jehovah can use others’ shortcomings to develop endurance, faith and a positive attitude in our own personalities.
Another way to look at it is to remember that Jehovah isn’t asking more of us than he himself is willing to give.
So Hiram went out from Tyre to see the cities that Solomon had given him, but he was not satisfied with them. He said: “What sort of cities are these that you have given me, my brother?” So they came to be called the Land of Cabul* down to this day. In the meantime, Hiram sent to the king 120 talents of gold.
~1 Kings 9:12-14
*possibly meaning “the land as good as nothing.”
The attitude that King Hiram of Tyre demonstrated toward supporting true worship is worthy of noting.
Before Solomon’s reign, Hiram was a friend to King David, sending him cedar and craftsmen to work on his palace (2 Sam. 5:11).
Once the building of the temple and Solomon’s palace was underway, King Hiram contributed significantly by sending his own best workers to support the 20-year project (1 Ki. 5:6-18).
“He rejoiced greatly and said: ‘May Jehovah be praised today, for he has given David a wise son over this great people!’” (1 Ki. 5:7).
Although this was a business transaction, King Hiram saw Solomon as more than a friend, calling him “my brother” even upon being let down by him.
After receiving the cities that were “good for nothing,” we continue to read about King Hiram’s monetary contributions to King Solomon’s reign (1 Ki. 10:11,12,22).
May we follow his example and continue to view our brothers and sisters in the faith with respect and admiration, ever-willing to support one another, even when we do not feel that they have fulfilled their end of an important agreement.