Hebrews, chapters 12 & 13

“Pursue peace with all people […].”
~Hebrews 12:14

Jesus said, “Happy are the peacemakers, since they will be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9)
Is it possible to pursue peace without letting others walk all over you?
Abraham’s son, Isaac, had to move on several occasions to keep peace with his neighbors, and Jehovah blessed him. (Gen. 26:12-25)
Eventually, Isaac’s good example brought praise to Jehovah. (Gen. 26:26-31)
If a Christian keeps him or herself “restrained under evil,” in time, the other party could come back to their senses. (Prov. 16:7; 2 Tim. 2:24-26)
We trust that we do not need to take matters into our own hands because Jehovah will hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions. (Rom. 12:17-19)
But pursuing peace is not passive; rather, we try to conquer evil by kindly doing good. (Rom. 12:20,21)
While it may grow tiring waiting on Jehovah, we focus on the future promises for those who endure, and on our spiritual blessings. (Rom. 12:12)

Galatians, chapters 4-6

“Now the works of the flesh are plainly seen, and they are […] strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, divisions […]. Those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom.”
~Galatians 5:19-21

I am highlighting this passage because recently I decided I need to be more mild in spirit and less contentious.
Perhaps we inherited a quick temper from one of our parents or it is a result of never having cultivated patience.
Maybe we find it easy to be polite face-to-face but immediately get hot headed when someone cuts us off in traffic, or gives us less than enthusiastic customer service over the phone.
Or maybe we generally get along well with someone until we find out they were rude to someone we love.
Regardless of our reasons, as Christians we need to be in control of what we feel instead of giving free reign to our emotions. (Gal. 5:22,23)

A recent article in the JW app, titled “How to Control Your Anger,” cited the following words of wisdom:

“Let go of anger and abandon rage; Do not become upset and turn to doing evil.” (Ps. 37:8)

“Also, let the peace of the Christ rule in your hearts, for you were called to that peace in one body. And show yourselves thankful.” (Col. 3:15)

“Finally, all of you have unity of mind, fellow feeling, brotherly affection, tender compassion, and humility.” (1 Pet. 3:8)

“The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, And it is beauty on his part to overlook an offense.” (Prov. 19:11)

“Let your words always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should answer each person.” (Col. 4:6)

“Know this, my beloved brothers: Everyone must be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (Jas. 1:19)

John, chapters 7 & 8

“Stop judging by the outward appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
~John 7:24

Jews sought to kill Jesus because he miraculously cured a man on the sabbath. (John 5:8,9,15,16)
Their worship was based on a strict literal interpretation of Mosaic Law and rabbinic traditions.
It neglected the Law’s foundations: justice, mercy and faithfulness.(Prov. 21:3; Hos. 6:6; Mic. 6:8; Matt. 23:23)
Judging with “righteous judgment” implies not believing everything we see or hear, and treating others fairly, regardless of their social status. (Is. 11:3,4)
If we are so concerned with proving we are right that we act recklessly toward others, we could become ritualistic in our form of worship, forgetting that the gist of God’s law is to love. (Matt. 22:37-40)

Mark, chapters 1 & 2

“[…] He was at home. And so many gathered that there was no more room, not even around the door, and he began to speak the word to them.”
~Mark 2:1,2

When I think of Jesus’ ministry, I do not think of him as having people over for brunch, but rather picture him as a wanderer, reaching out to others wherever they were at.
But he did have a home based in Capernaum, which was close to Nazareth, the town he had grown up in. (Matt. 4:13)
What strikes me in this passage is Jesus’ hospitality, even towards those who did not have faith in him. (Mark 2:6,7)
Not only was his privacy overcrowded in an unannounced manner, but some even removed the roof to bring down a paralytic man. (Mark 2:4)
Jesus remained helpful and compassionate as always. (Mark 2:5)
When we in the Christian congregation are encouraged to be hospitable, it is not a suggestion based on culture or personal preference. (1 Pe. 4:9)
The way of hospitality is part of Christ’s example.

Matthew, chapters 1-3

“But after (Joseph) had thought these things over, look! Jehovah’s angel appeared to him in a dream […].”

~Matthew 1:20

How excited Joseph must have been to see his fiance Mary after her three-month trip away from home.
But when Mary told him she was four months pregnant, he must have felt heartbroken and confused. (Matt. 1:18,19; Luke 1:56)

Still, Joseph lovingly considered Mary’s dire circumstances before his feelings.
Thus, he came to the conclusion that he should dissolve their pending marriage in secret.
Otherwise he would have exposed Mary to the fatal punishment dictated by Mosaic Law for adulterers. (De. 5:18; 22:23,24)

When life doesn’t turn out the way we planned it, we do well to follow Joseph’s example and think things through, instead of acting impulsively.
Jehovah God watches over us, ready to guide the meek in the right direction. (Isa. 57:15)

Amos, chapters 1-9

“Even if you offer me whole burnt offerings and gift offerings,
I will find no pleasure in them; […]
Let justice flow down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
~Amos 5:22, 24

We should not let our sacred service to God fall into a mechanical routine, as if we are doing him a favor through the sacrifices we offer him.
What God really looks for in us is heartfelt obedience. (Ps. 50:14)
False religion allows believers to continue on paths of cruelty and corruption, “absolving” sins through rites and rituals without ever addressing the root of problems. (Amos 2:6,7; 5:12)
Acceptable service to God is motivated by love of what is good.
We should try to reflect his sense of justice. (Amos 5:14,15)

Isaiah, chapters 52-57

“[…] All your sons will be taught by Jehovah,
And the peace of your sons will be abundant.”
~Isaiah 54:13

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)

Psalms 102-105

“Jehovah is merciful and compassionate,
Slow to anger and abundant in loyal love.”
~Psalm 103:8

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.

Job, chapters 11-15

“[…] You keep counting my every step; You watch only for my sin.”
~Job 14:16

When Job suffered depression, he thought God would focus on his past mistakes, like humans erroneously do.
While it is true that God does not deceive Himself and ignore our sins entirely, he does not dwell on the past when we are willing to repent (Ps. 130:3; 139:3).
Therefore, we should not assume Jehovah is drawing away from us because of mistakes we have asked him to forgive (Jas. 4:8).
Sometimes people close to us make us feel unwanted, useless and that we are in their way.
They might take advantage of our affection and take out their frustration on us.
People who are depressed are more likely to be victims of this, as they are more vulnerable and less likely to defend themselves.
Job apparently thought Jehovah would victimize him in this way.
He accused Jehovah of holding on to his transgressions, as if He had ‘sealed them up in a bag’ or ‘with glue,’ (Job 14:17).
How wonderful it is to understand that God is not really like that, but his kindness surpasses that we could expect of any human (Ps. 103:8,14; Isa. 55:6-9).
In effect, Jehovah focuses on us to find what is good, appreciating what we have to offer (2 Cor. 8:12).

Job, chapters 1-5

“Let the day perish on which I was born, […]
Let that day be darkness.”

~Job 3:3,4

After losing his life’s work, his livelihood, his family and his health, Job had more than plenty reasons to be depressed (Job 1:13-19; 2:7,9).
His false friend, Eliphaz, wrongfully attributed Job’s depression to a lack of faith.
“Does your reverence for God not give you confidence?” he asked accusingly (Job 4:6).
But Job’s depression did not stem from an unfulfilled spiritual need (Job 2:3,6,9,10).
His trials were beyond what any man can emotionally bear while still holding on to a certain sense of sanity.
This is why he sat mourning on ashes, unrecognizable (Job 2:8,12).
It is normal for serious problems to affect our emotional health and attitude, whatever their nature may be.
When a friend confides in us that they are depressed, it is important not to make it an issue of faith, because we may end up sounding like Eliphaz giving wrong counsel to Job.
If we are not careful with our choice of words and assumptions, we may make a bad situation much, much worse.
It is important, therefore, to imitate Jehovah’s kindness and really take the time to listen and observe before applying any type of counsel to those who are brokenhearted (Ps.34:18; Jas.1:19).