“Love builds up.”—1 Corinthians 8:1.
[From ws 9/18 p. 12 – November 5 – November 11]
This is such an important subject, yet sadly out of 18 paragraphs we have only a third (6 paragraphs) devoted to ways to actually show love, one paragraph for each point. This hardly makes for a meaty spiritual meal. Additionally, as per usual it is taken and discussed out of context.
The full text of 1 Corinthians 8:1 states “Now concerning foods offered to idols: we know we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Here the Apostle Paul was contrasting that having knowledge gives a different result to having love. Knowing what is right does not always translate into doing what is right, whereas showing and practising love never fails. He goes into much more depth about love in 1 Corinthians 13, which is not referenced once in this WT article. The article only concentrates on the aspect of “Love builds up”.
The opening paragraph correctly says “ON HIS final night with his disciples, Jesus mentioned love nearly 30 times. He specifically indicated that his disciples should “love one another.” (John 15:12, 17) Their love for one another would be so outstanding that it would clearly distinguish them as his true followers. (John 13:34, 35)”
Its difficult to remember the last time we have seen a WT publication say that love was the primary object of discussion on the night before Jesus died. The emphasis was either put on preaching or on the memorial of Jesus death rather than the clear facts that he tried hard to impress on the disciples the need to show love.
Consider the claim in the next paragraph that “The genuine, self-sacrificing love and unbreakable unity of Jehovah’s servants today identify them as God’s people. (1 John 3:10, 11) How grateful we are that Christlike love prevails among Jehovah’s servants regardless of their nationality, tribe, language, or background”. While the amount of love shown may vary according to the culture of the majority, does your experience confirm or question that claim? Do Jehovah’s Witnesses as a consistent whole entity really show more love than those around them?
Arguably, no. They virtually never assist any community initiatives for better health, housing, or environment. Nor volunteer their time in charitable organisations that endeavour to preserve wildlife, combat homelessness or the like. Their ‘charitable works’ sometimes encompass disaster relief for fellow witnesses, but that is all. Yet we find many selfless individuals who go and assist in healthcare, or care for the aged, or the disabled, giving their time free of charge. If challenged the excuse often given by the brotherhood (in the past the writer often gave this) is that these problems are temporary. The preaching of the good news (according to the Organization) is given prime importance as it is claimed it offers people the opportunity for everlasting life. But almost all of this preaching is aimed at those who already at least nominally have faith in Jesus Christ. Very little preaching, percentage-wise, is to non Christians – especially those of non-Christian faiths.
We are reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan where the priest and Levite hurried past on the other side of the road, ostensibly because they may have had important duties at the temple to perform. Jesus drew out the answer from the man wanting to prove himself righteous by asking “Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor to the man that fell among the robbers?” (Luke 14:36). The man answered “The one that acted mercifully toward him.” Jesus then said to him: “Go your way and be doing the same yourself.”
Did Jesus put the emphasis on showing love or on preaching? Paragraph 1 is quoted above as saying “ON HIS final night with his disciples, Jesus mentioned love nearly 30 times. He specifically indicated that his disciples should “love one another.” (John 15:12, 17)”. Jesus certainly did not mention preaching nearly 30 times that night. In John chapters 13 through 18 which cover the evening with his disciples to his arrest and arrival at Pilate, the words ‘preach’ or ‘preaching’ do not appear and ‘witness’ only appears twice. Yet, as the paragraph states, “Jesus mentioned love nearly 30 times”. The emphasis was on love because he knew that in itself would be the most powerful witness.
Furthermore, the Organization has seen fit to challenge the courts on the issue of blood transfusions which has only affected a small minority of witnesses. However on the other hand it has made little effort to challenge the courts against the issue of racial segregation which would undoubtedly affect a majority of witnesses. Which of these two possible actions is showing true love for our neighbor? Surely the real benefits to our neighbors would come from reducing prejudice.
Why love is especially vital now (Par.3-5)
Paragraph 3 discusses the sad truth that each day many take their own lives by committing suicide. It concludes by saying “Sad to say, even some Christians have succumbed to such pressures and have taken their own life”. There are no statistics available and because of the prevailing attitude within the Organization about this subject there is little talk about the causes of such tragedies. However, having loved ones that display love to the individual greatly reduces the likelihood of a suicide attempt. If a person has a reason for living in these circumstances then suicide can usually be averted.
If any organisation takes away all the loved ones of an individual by forbidding them to speak to the individual, or slanders that individual’s conscience-led actions so that members cease showing love to that person, then in the event of a suicide they would be a big contributory factor to that sad event, even culpable for it. That is what has happened in recent years because of an ever more stringent shunning policy which is enforced these days even without a formal disfellowshipping action. The regional assembly video of 2017, which showed parents ignoring a phone call from a disfellowshipped daughter, is exactly the kind of unchristian teaching we are talking about. If the situation was real the daughter could have been making a last ditch attempt to speak to her parents and rejection could push her over the edge into attempting suicide. Another scenario may have been that the daughter had been seriously hurt in an accident of some sort and wanted to see her parents one last time.
Fact: The shunning policy as taught and encouraged by the Organization is unscriptural, unchristian and unloving. It is the major contributory factor in many JW and ex-JW related suicides and attempted suicides. It is also against basic human rights. It should be stopped with immediate effect.
Additionally, the superior authorities should take legal steps to ban and enforce that ban against any organization that continues to teach or hold to a shunning policy. (The Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is not the only organization that practices this disgusting, inhuman policy.)
Paragraph 4 gives examples of 3 faithful men who went through such bad times that they wanted to die. This was even to the point that they asked Jehovah to take away their life. However, Jehovah did not intervene and fulfill their wish. What he did do was assist them to cope with their very despondent feelings through his Holy Spirit when they asked for that help.
The next paragraph highlights issues that the brotherhood face in maintaining their joy. The following issues are mentioned:
- Persecution and ridicule
- Criticism and back biting at work
- Exhaustion due to working overtime
- Exhaustion due to relentless deadlines
- Domestic problems
However, none of these are unique to Witnesses. These problems are common to many. Indeed many of these issues could be caused by either the attitudes of the Witnesses themselves or because of following unscriptural teachings.
Persecution and ridicule is often meted out by people against those that are different to the majority, whether in race, language or religion. Given the unnecessary isolationist attitude of the majority of Witnesses, it is hardly a surprise Witnesses experience persecution and ridicule. (I, to my shame, did what most witnesses do and effectively shunned my non-witness relatives for years for fear their ‘worldliness’ would somehow rub off on me).
Criticism and back-biting at work depends on your position relative to their position, and the personalities involved. Religion can be a factor, but the criticism is usually caused by other factors.
As for exhaustion working overtime, that also depends on many factors. However, perhaps the most important is how much of one’s necessities of life cannot be covered without working overtime. A large amount of Witnesses struggle to pay their bills due to being in low paying jobs. A major contributory factor in this is the failure to get qualifications, whether from technical colleges or through Universities, which in many countries is now a prerequisite to even being offered an interview. Yet the Organization continually puts pressure on all young people to leave ‘worldly’ education as soon as they are legally able to and go pioneering because Armageddon is always just round the corner. However, soon the young people find themselves wanting to get married or needing to support children as Armageddon stays around the corner (due to failed predictions of men rather than a delay on God’s part) and don’t have the requisite skills or qualifications due to following the Organization’s unscriptural policy on further education. This can often lead to exhaustion and despondency for many Witnesses as they then struggle financially.
Exhaustion due to deadlines is something common to all, whether employees or self-employed, whether Witnesses or non-Witnesses. It is not specific or more common for Witnesses.
Over the years the writer has seen a number of witnesses suffering domestic problems. In many cases where this involved a non-Witness mate, a big contributory cause was the ‘zealousness’ of the Witness, causing an imbalance in attention paid to the mate. Those Witnesses with unbelieving mates who were far more reasonable and balanced in their Organizational activities rarely experienced such problems.
In summary many of these stresses in life are self inflicted by many Witnesses blindly following the dictates of men who do not have to live in the real world, but live off the contributions of those who do. Many of the causes are personal opinions masquerading as Bible truth.
Be built up by Jehovah’s love (Par.6-9)
Paragraph 6 goes on to make two true statements when it says “As one of Jehovah’s servants, you can be sure that Jehovah loves you most tenderly. God’s Word promises concerning those pursuing pure worship: “As a mighty One, he will save. He will exult over you with great joy.”—Zephaniah 3:16, 17.”
It is therefore imperative that we:
- are serving Jehovah in the way he wants, and
- we are pursuing pure worship rather than worship decided and designed by men.
As quoted, Isaiah highlights the only real source of comfort. In Isaiah 66:12-13 Jehovah says “As a mother comforts her son, so I will keep comforting you.”
Our Brothers need love (Par.10-12)
“Who have the responsibility to build up discouraged brothers?” asks the question.
1 John 4:19-21 is cited but should be a read or quoted scripture. It says very clearly “We love, because he first loved us. 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. And we have this commandment from him, that whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
This scripture is so clear. It does not require a reference to any other scripture to help understand it. Moreover its words are undeniable.
Romans 15:1-2 is the read scripture but does not contain such a powerful message. Indeed many could try and excuse themselves on the basis of this passage, claiming not to be strong and therefore not in a position to help others.
Finally, a rare mention and admission that some might need professional help when paragraph 11 says “Some in the congregation who have emotional disorders may need professional help and medication. (Luke 5:31) Elders and others in the congregation modestly recognize that they are not trained mental-health-care professionals. However, they and others in the congregation have a vital role to play—to “speak consolingly to those who are depressed, support the weak, be patient toward all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)”
This raises the question, if they are able to “modestly recognise that they are not trained mental-health-care professionals,” why has it taken so long for them to “modestly realise that they are not trained” criminal investigation professionals when presented with an allegation of child sexual abuse? Further why do they still persist in avoiding strongly encouraging the victim to seek professional mental support and criminal investigation support from the appropriate agencies and supporting them in doing that?
According to Healthline.com[i] nearly 7% of Americans suffer from clinical depression each year. However my experience in a number of congregations is that at least 10% suffer depression on an ongoing basis and those are the ones I knew about. Many hide their condition as the general view amongst Witnesses is that you must be spiritually weak or a failure if you admit to these feelings and seek professional help. The writer personally knows one brother who hid suicidal feelings for months from everyone he loved. He felt unable to seek professional help because it would bring disrepute on Jehovah’s name. Fortunately he finally sought help from his nearest and dearest, but he refused to get the professional help he likely needed.
Paragraph 12 gives another unverifiable experience of how allegedly one sister is helped. However, the suicidal feelings of the brother mentioned above were induced by the elders’ treatment of him, so he was unable to turn to them or his fellow congregation members for succour.[ii] The internet and YouTube is littered with similar experiences where many ex-Witnesses who had doubts or whose legitimate complaints were swept under the carpet, were summarily removed from the congregation and their friends and family by disfellowshipping, triggering enormous problems. There are so many it builds up a weight of evidence that, by and large, the accounts are truthful.
How to build up others in love (Par.13-18)
Be a good listener (Par.13)
James 1:19 encourages us “Know this, my beloved brothers. Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath”. This is an important quality if we are truly desiring to help others. As often said, we were given two ears and one mouth and to truly understand people and hence discern their needs we need to listen more than we speak. Many times just having someone listening is sufficient to give encouragement to continue on and overcome or cope with a problem.
Avoid a critical spirit (Par.14)
No-one likes being on the receiving end of criticism. But being imperfect it is all too easy to give out.
As we are reminded by the quoted scripture “Thoughtless speech is like the stabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise is a healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) If we are motivated by love we will look for the opportunity to overlook reasons for criticising others. However, it is easy to be judgemental and then criticise others. We therefore need to be careful that not only is any criticism justified, but also that the recipient can cope with the criticism. We would not want to be responsible for stumbling someone.
It is very important however to respectfully voice criticism where it is due, because it would be wrong to ignore bad practices on the part of others, particularly if they are hypocritically or knowingly doing or teaching something contrary to scripture.
Console others with God’s word (Par. 15)
The read scripture is Romans 15:4-5. This passage reminds us “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who supplies endurance and comfort grant YOU to have among yourselves the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had”.
Yet half the paragraph is taken up plugging Bible study aids from the Organization. Instead why not read and use 2 Corinthians 1:2-7, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, Philemon 1:4-7, 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, 1 Thessalonians 4:18.
Be tender and gentle (Par.16)
Paul’s example recorded in 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 showed the Christ-like attitude we would all want to imitate. Just like those with a physical wound who need it treated with gentleness and tenderness to avoid adding to the pain, so too those with emotional pain need the same careful treatment so that they do not suffer further emotional trauma.
What can be truthfully said is that there is such a disconnect between the encouragement of the paragraph and the real attitude usually meted out towards those bringing forward cases of child sexual abuse. Instead of being met with kindness and a willingness for the victim to have moral support from a close friend or relative, they are met with:
- A demand for the impossible: two witnesses to the crime.
- Refusal of moral support.
- Quizzed about intimate details by male strangers when most victims struggle to share these things with their own mother in privacy.
- No encouragement by default to notify secular authorities trained to deal with such delicate matters.
- No encouragement to seek professional help that specialises in assisting victims of this crime.
- No recognition that a crime has likely been committed, but rather treated like a sin or misdemeanour that can be brushed under the carpet.
What did Jesus say about such people? Mark 7:6-7 reads “He said to them: “Isaiah aptly prophesied about YOU hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honor me with [their] lips, but their hearts are far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshipping me, because they teach as doctrines commands of men.’ Letting go the commandment of God, YOU hold fast the tradition of men.”
Do not expect perfection from your brothers (Par.17)
The scripture cited here, Ecclesiastes 7:21-22, is very well put, saying “Also, do not give your heart to all the words that people may speak, that you may not hear your servant calling down evil upon you. For your own heart well knows even many times that you, even you, have called down evil upon others.”
Yes, clearly we should not expect perfection of our brothers, even of the Governing Body as individuals. But as Luke 12:48 warns “Indeed, everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him; and the one whom people put in charge of much, they will demand more than usual of”. The Governing Body as a whole should be willing to change policies that are clearly not working, thereby showing humility, yet that is evidently not happening willingly.
Last, but not least, has there been a subtle change in emphasis? The final paragraph (18) says “How we all look forward to the time when, in the coming Paradise, we will never have reason to be discouraged! There will be no more sickness, wars, inherited death, persecution, domestic strife, and disappointments.” It no longer says “when, soon in the coming paradise”. Nor does it say “Soon, there will be no more sickness”.
It seems that Armageddon being imminent has been kicked into the long grass. Time will tell if this is the case. Certainly, it would be unwise to hold our breath waiting for an apology from the Organization for raising false expectations.
In conclusion, some good points were made, but as often the case hypocrisy and subtle hidden changes lessen the benefits
Despite all this we can still show love. We echo the feelings of the Apostle Paul when he wrote to the Philippians in chapter 1:8-11 saying “For God is my witness of how I am yearning for all of YOU in such tender affection as Christ Jesus has. And this is what I continue praying, that YOUR love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment; that YOU may make sure of the more important things, so that YOU may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ, and may be filled with righteous fruit, which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.”
[ii] This experience is also unverifiable by readers due to a request of anonymity by the brother concerned for the present. However the writer can vouch for the truth of the experience.