[From ws17/10 p. 12 –December 4-10]
“Do not think I came to bring peace to the earth; I came to bring, not peace, but a sword.”—Mt 10:34
The opening (b) question for this study asks: “What prevents us from finding complete peace at this time? (See opening image.)
The answer found in paragraph 2 provides a rather astonishing bit of irony which, sadly, will escape the notice of the majority of those attending this Watchtower study:
As Christians, we must wage a spiritual war against Satan and the false teachings that he promotes. (2 Cor. 10:4, 5) But the greatest threat to our peace may come from unbelieving relatives. Some might ridicule our beliefs, accuse us of dividing the family, or threaten to disown us unless we give up our faith. How should we view family opposition? How can we successfully deal with the challenges it brings? – par. 2
Some might ridicule our beliefs? Some might accuse us of dividing the family?? Some might threaten to disown us unless we give up our faith???
So very true, but let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Do Jehovah’s Witnesses not do this very same thing? In fact, are they not among the worst offenders? When a Catholic converts to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, are all Catholics everywhere on earth instructed to treat him like a pariah? Does the priest stand up in the pulpit and say, “So and so is no longer a Catholic”—code which all the members of that religion understand to mean, ‘Don’t even say “hello” to this person if you pass him in the street’?
Most Witnesses will not notice this dichotomy, and should someone point it out, they’d likely respond, “That’s different, because we are the true religion.”
Thousands read these sites every month. I think it is safe to say that we are—to quote the paragraph—“Christians [who] must wage a spiritual war against Satan and the false teachings he promotes.” We have found many of these false teachings within the publications of JW.org. (See Beroean Pickets Archive for a listing.) When we bring these to the attention of our JW family and friends, we are ridiculed, accused of causing division and of destroying the unity of the congregation. Further, if we remain faithful to our Bible-based understanding, we’ll be challenged with the question: “Do you think you know more than the Governing Body?” or another variation that is common, “Don’t you trust the Governing Body?” Our brothers now see that submission to the mandates of the Governing Body is required for them to treat us as a fellow brother or sister. This is a form of idolatry, the worship of men. When one gives absolute obedience to someone or something, it is worship as defined in the Bible. If we do not worship their new idol, we will be shunned, completely ostracized.
So this paragraph is unwittingly speaking to those of us who have awakened to the truth about the Christ.
Of course, Jesus’ motive was to proclaim God’s message of truth, not to damage relationships. (John 18:37) Still, holding faithfully to Christ’s teachings would be challenging if one’s close friends or family members rejected the truth.”
Jesus included the pain of family opposition as part of the suffering that his followers must be willing to endure. (Matt. 10:38) In order to prove worthy of the Christ, his disciples have had to endure ridicule or even alienation from their families. Yet, they have gained far more than they have lost.—Read Mark 10:29, 30.”
How true this is! We seem to meet with cruel opposition, hatred in the form of verbal abuse and slanderous gossip, and shunning everywhere we turn. Some listen, but most reject us and will not give us a hearing ear. Even if we say that we’ll use only the Bible and discuss only Bible truth, they will turn away. However, there is a bright side; one I can personally attest to. The “Read” scripture in paragraph 5 promises that while we will lose family and friends because we choose to follow the Christ, we will find a hundred-fold more—mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and on top of that, everlasting life.
Jesus’ words cannot fail to come true. So let us have faith in them, not doubting at all.
An Unbelieving Mate
Again, we are confronted by irony that would be laughable were it not so tragic.
From paragraph 7: “If you have an unbelieving mate, you may experience more than the usual stress and anxiety in your marriage. Nevertheless, it is important for you to view your situation as Jehovah does. Your mate’s present unwillingness to follow Christ is not in itself a valid reason for separation or divorce. (1 Cor. 7:12-16)”
The hypocrisy in that last sentence will not escape the notice of those whose Jehovah’s Witness mates have left them because of their faith-based stand to follow the Christ and not the Governing Body. I know of several right now who woke up to the truth and tried to convince their mates of it as well. However, their spouses refused to believe the teaching of Christ, preferring instead the dogma of the Organization. Then others interceded (in-laws mostly) and persuaded the unbelieving JW mates to abandon their spouses claiming that the separation was needed to protect their “spirituality”. In my experience, this stand has always come with the support of the local elders.
What is noteworthy is that this position, supported by the publications and the local elders, is in violation of Bible direction:
If any brother has an unbelieving wife, and yet she is agreeable to dwelling with him, let him not leave her; 13 and a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and yet he is agreeable to dwelling with her, let her not leave her husband. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in relation to [his] wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in relation to the brother; otherwise, YOUR children would really be unclean, but now they are holy. (1 Co 7:12-14)
Now when Paul wrote this to the Corinthians, an unbelieving mate would have been a pagan—an idol-worshipping pagan. Yet, the believer was told not to leave his or her mate, for the sake not only of the unbeliever, but of the children. Yet today, if a brother or sister stops believing the false teachings of the Governing Body but remains a believer in the Christ, he or she continues to be a Christian. Still, the Organization sanctions full separation, even divorce. This is hardly what Paul had in mind when he spoke of unbelievers.
Paragraph 8 says: “What if your spouse tries to limit your worship? For example, one sister was told by her husband to share in the field ministry only on certain days of the week. If you face a similar situation, ask yourself: ‘Is my spouse demanding that I stop worshipping my God? If not, can I yield to the request?’ Being reasonable can help you to avoid needless marital conflict.—Phil. 4:5.”
Sound counsel, yet again, the hypocrisy is evident in that it is only applied in one direction. I know of no Jehovah’s Witness who has awoken to the truth who has in turn threatened his or her unbelieving JW spouse—who is still loyal to the Governing Body—with separation or divorce unless they stop participating in the field ministry or stop going to meetings. However, when you put the shoe on the other foot, the picture is not so pretty. Since the article chooses to quote an experience, let me cite one as well. One sister I know of personally was told by her husband that if she didn’t start attending meetings again, he was going to divorce her. He wanted to advance in the Organization, and her lack of attendance was making him look bad.
As you read paragraphs 9 and 10, bear in mind that if you have children and do not want to deprive them of any activity which is not explicitly condemned in the Bible, such as birthdays, or Mother’s Day, you should still be respectful of the conscience of your unbelieving Witness spouse. A Christian should be peaceable at all times. So do not let the hatred that JW.org indoctrination can produce in others, cause you to return like for like.
I’m going to slightly reword the following paragraphs from the article to show how they should really apply:
11At first, [you] may not have told your [Jehovah’s Witnesses] family about [your] association with [true worship]. As [your] faith grew, though, [you] saw the need to be open about [your] beliefs. (Mark 8:38) If your courageous stand has resulted in a problem between you and your [Witness] relatives, consider some steps to take to reduce conflict and still maintain integrity.
12Have empathy for unbelieving [Witness] relatives. While we may be overjoyed about the Bible truths we have learned, our relatives may mistakenly believe that we have been tricked [not realizing that they are the ones who] have become part of a cult. They may think that we no longer love them because we do not [condemn all the things they do.] They may even fear for our eternal welfare. We should show empathy by trying to see things from their viewpoint and by listening carefully to discern their real concerns. (Prov. 20:5) The apostle Paul endeavored to understand “people of all sorts” in order to share the good news with them, and a similar approach can help us as well.—1 Cor. 9:19-23.
13Speak with mildness. “Let your words always be gracious,” says the Bible. (Col. 4:6) We can ask Jehovah for his holy spirit so that we can display its fruitage when speaking with our [JW] relatives. We should not try to argue about all their false religious ideas. If they hurt us by their speech or actions, we can imitate the example of the apostles. Paul wrote: “When insulted, we bless; when persecuted, we patiently endure; when slandered, we answer mildly.”—1 Cor. 4:12, 13.
14Maintain fine conduct. Although mild speech is helpful in dealing with opposing relatives, our good conduct can speak even louder. (Read 1 Peter 3:1, 2, 16.) By your example, let your relatives see that [non-Jehovah’s Witnesses can] enjoy happy marriages, look after their children, and live a clean, moral, and fulfilling life. Even if our relatives never accept the truth, we can have the joy that comes from pleasing Jehovah by our faithful course.
15Plan ahead. Think of situations that might lead to conflict, and determine how to handle them. (Prov. 12:16, 23) A sister from Australia relates: “My father-in-law strongly opposed the truth. Before calling to check on him, my husband and I would pray that Jehovah help us not to respond in kind to angry reactions. We would prepare topics to discuss so that we could keep the conversation friendly. To avoid long conversations that would usually lead to a heated discussion about religion, we set a time limit for the visit.”
The advice from this sister in Australia will only apply, of course, if your JW relative is willing to meet with you, which is sadly often not the case. You can’t help them if they completely shun you. Nevertheless, we continue to love them and pray for them, knowing that their conduct is the result of long indoctrination which leads them to believe they are actually rendering sacred service to Jehovah. (John 16:2)
16Of course, you cannot expect to avoid all disagreements with your unbelieving [JW] relatives. Such conflict can make you feel guilty, especially because you love your relatives dearly and have always tried to please them. If you feel this way, strive to put your loyalty to Jehovah [and love of Jesus] ahead of your love for your family. Such a stand may actually help your relatives to see that applying Bible truth is a life-and-death matter. In any case, remember that you cannot force others to accept the truth. Instead, let them see in you the benefits of following Jehovah’s ways. Our loving God offers to them, just as he does to us, the opportunity to choose the course they will follow.—Isa. 48:17, 18.
If a Family Member Leaves Jehovah
What this subtitle is really saying is “if a family member leaves the Organization”. Witnesses view the two as synonymous in this context.
Paragraph 17 reads: “When a family member is disfellowshipped or he disassociates himself from the congregation, it can feel like the stab of a sword. How can you cope with the pain that this brings?”
The reverse is also true, and even more so. When you have lovingly tried to help a friend reason on Bible truth, only to have him or her go out of their way not only to shun you, but to get the entire congregation to do so, it cuts like a knife, because it comes from a loved one. The Psalmist says:
“For it is not an enemy who taunts me; Otherwise I could put up with it. It is not a foe who has risen up against me; Otherwise I could conceal myself from him. 13 But it is you, a man like me, My own companion whom I know well. 14 We used to enjoy a warm friendship together; Into the house of God we used to walk along with the multitude.” (Ps 55:12-14)
A Christian who was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, upon learning the truth that sets one free, may choose to no longer attend meetings in the Kingdom hall, yet he or she has not left Jehovah nor Jesus, nor for that matter the congregation of the holy ones. (1Co 1:2)
Nevertheless, in so doing, he or she may have been disfellowshipped for apostasy as defined by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses or may have chosen to disassociate him or herself, which amounts to the same thing in the eyes of the Organization. In either case, the brother or sister will be shunned, and will not be acknowledged by former friends and family with so much as a nod of the head.
This is viewed as disciplinary action, much like sending a criminal to prison. It is intended to bring people to heel, forcing them to kowtow and return to the Organization. Paragraph 19 opens with: “Respect the discipline of Jehovah”, quoting Hebrews 12:11. But is JW judicial discipline from Jehovah or from men?
To determine that, let’s look at the next sentence in paragraph 19:
For example, Jehovah instructs us to “stop keeping company” with unrepentant wrongdoers. (1 Cor. 5:11-13)
First of all, this instruction does not come from Jehovah, but from Jesus. Jehovah gave Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth, so we do well to recognize his place. (Mt 28:18) If you doubt that, consider that in the same letter to the Corinthians, cited here, Paul said:
“To the married people I give instructions, yet not I but the Lord, that a wife should not depart from her husband….” (1 Co 7:10)
Who is the lord who gives these instructions to the congregation? Notice that in the same passage referenced in paragraph 19, just a few verses earlier, Paul says:
“When you are gathered together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and knowing that I am with you in spirit along with the power of our Lord Jesus,” (1 Co 5:4)
The Lord Jesus, Head of the Christian congregation, gives the instructions. One might wonder that if the article cannot get such a fundamental truth right, how can we trust what it says about Jehovah’s discipline?
Jesus, through Paul, says to “stop keeping company”, but any Witness knows that being disfellowshipped or disassociated means they cannot so much as say “Hello”, let alone talk to the person. Yet, Paul doesn’t say that in the cited passage, nor anywhere else for that matter. Actually, he goes out of his way to define what he means, and it is not what Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught. Paul tells the Corinthians.
“In my letter I wrote you to stop keeping company with sexually immoral people, 10 not meaning entirely with the sexually immoral people of this world or the greedy people or extortioners or idolaters. Otherwise, you would actually have to get out of the world.” (1 Co 5:9, 10)
Here, Paul refers to a previous letter written to the Corinthians in which he told them to stop “keeping company” with a certain type of person, but “not entirely”. To do so would mean getting out of the world altogether, something impossible for them to do in any practical sense. So while they wouldn’t “mix with” such ones, they would still have contact with them; would still speak to them.
Having defined that, Paul now extends the definition to a member of the congregation—a brother—who is to be removed from their midst for similar conduct.
“But now I am writing you to stop keeping company with anyone called a brother who is sexually immoral or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. 12 For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Do you not judge those inside, 13 while God judges those outside? “Remove the wicked person from among yourselves.”” (1 Co 5:11-13)
By saying, “But now”, Paul opens the way to extend the foregoing counsel to “anyone called a brother who is” engaging in similar conduct.
This ties in with Jesus’ counsel at Mt 18:17 where we are told to consider such a one as “a man of the nations or as a tax collector.” That counsel made sense to a Jew back then, because they would not eat or socialize with a Roman, or a Corinthian, or any man not a Jew. But it wouldn’t make sense to a non-Jew unless explained. On the other hand, everyone hated a fellow citizen, a brother so to speak, who collected taxes for the hated Romans. So the rest of Jesus’ command hit home for non-Jewish Christians of that era.
Since Paul is talking to non-Jews principally (“men of the nations”) he tells them outright that eating with such ones is prohibited, because eating with someone in that culture, and even today, means you are on friendly terms.
So Christians were not told to shun the wicked one anymore than they were told to shun the world. If they shunned the world, they could not work in the world. They would, as Paul said, “actually have to get out of the world” to do so. He is saying, concerning the Corinthian brother that they are to remove from their midst, that they should treat him just like they treat every other worldly person they may come across.
This is a far cry from what Witnesses do. They treat worldly persons far better than they treat disfellowshipped and disassociated brothers and sisters. This policy also leads to contradictory situations where they can have contact with a non-JW relative or acquaintance who is living an immoral life but will have absolutely no contact with an ex-JW who leads an exemplary life.
So this JW doctrine in both theory and practice is not Biblical, but from men.
Some might counter, “Yes, but what about 2 John 6-9? Doesn’t that say we should not even say a greeting to a disfellowshipped or disassociated one?”
No, it does not!
Let’s read it:
“And this is what love means, that we go on walking according to his commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should go on walking in it. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those not acknowledging Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Look out for yourselves, so that you do not lose the things we have worked to produce, but that you may obtain a full reward. 9 Everyone who pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. The one who does remain in this teaching is the one who has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. 11 For the one who says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2 Jo 6-11)
First of all, there is no basis in the Bible to treat those who leave us, the disassociated ones, as described here. John isn’t talking about disassociated brothers or sisters, nor is he talking about those who are immoral, greedy, drunkards, nor idolaters. He’s talking about the antichrist. Those who are deceivers, those who are not acknowledging Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. By definition, to be an antichrist means to be against Christ. Such ones ‘push ahead and do not remain in the teaching of the Christ’. Do you know anyone acting in that way? Can you identify a group of people or an organization that pushes ahead with teachings that “do not remain in the teaching of the Christ”?
I have firsthand knowledge from a congregation I served in where a sister had accused a brother of abusing her prepubescent daughter. One of the elders broke confidentiality and the whole congregation got to know of the abuse resulting in shame for the daughter. This caused the mother to pull out of the Organization. The tragic irony is that as a result of the elder’s indiscretion and the Organization’s abysmal rule on disassociation, the congregation viewed the victim as a disassociated one, while the perpetrator continued to be treated as a brother.
Why are Jehovah’s Witnesses required to treat abuse victims who leave the organization as if they were apostates, as if the instruction in 2 John applied?
Likewise, when a brother or sister stops attending meetings because of recognizing that to continue as a member of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses means to continue upholding and teaching doctrines that are false, such ones are being obedient to the words found at Romans 14:23: “Indeed, everything that is not out of faith is sin.” Again, their stand is not pushing ahead, but the very opposite. They are resisting the organization’s pushing ahead, preferring to remain in the teaching of the Christ. Yet, they too are treated as if they had violated 2 John.
If someone calling himself a brother comes to you, and promotes an anti-Christian doctrine; someone who is a deceiver and who has left the teaching of the Christ; then, and only then, will you have the basis to apply John’s words.