[From ws 3/19 p.20 Study Article 13: May 27- June 2, 2019]
“He was moved with pity for them . . . And he started to teach them many things.” – JOB 27:5
The preview to this article says “when we show fellow feeling we can increase our joy, we will consider what we can learn from Jesus’ example , as well as four specific ways that we can show fellow feeling for those whom we meet in the preaching work.”
What does it mean to have fellow feeling?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “an understanding or sympathy that you feel for another person because you have a shared experience”.
To be able to show fellow feeling in the ministry the person preaching should be able to identify with the people he or she is preaching to. There must be some kind of shared experience.
Paragraph 2 asks what enabled Jesus to be merciful and compassionate in his dealings with sinful humans.
- “Jesus loved people.”
- “That love for people moved him to become thoroughly acquainted with the way humans think”
- “Jesus had tender feelings for others. People sensed his love for them and responded favorably to the Kingdom message.”
These are very good points. However, do Jehovah’s Witnesses become thoroughly acquainted with the way that other people think?
That would require them to spend time with non-witnesses, read secular and other religious literature. It would also require the Witnesses to understand their values, aspirations and feelings about a number of issues ranging from politics to culture and maybe even education. They may need to hear what others think of Jehovah’s Witnesses even if what they have to say is not favourable.
How many Witnesses could honestly say they can engage fully on any of those topics?
Paragraph 3 says that if we have fellow feeling we will view the ministry as more than just an obligation. We will want to prove that we care about people and are eager to help them. What the paragraph does not say is, who we would be proving this to? Would it be Jehovah and Jesus? Or would it be the Elders and the Governing Body?
If our motive for preaching is love, then we do not need to prove anything. Our preaching would already be a demonstration of the love we have for people and Jehovah.
In Acts 20:35, Paul was not just speaking about the ministry; he was referring to all the sacrifices he had made on behalf of the congregation.
We do not find any evidence that the number of hours he spent preaching were recorded nor any mention of monthly averages and targets that needed to be met by publishers.
“JESUS SHOWED FELLOW FEELING IN THE MINISTRY”
Paragraph 6 says “Jesus was concerned about others, and he felt moved to bring them a message of comfort.” If we imitate Jesus’ example we will also be moved to comfort others, even doing so in informal discussions.
“HOW WE CAN EXPRESS FELLOW FEELING”
The four ways to show fellow feeling are good advice:
Paragraph 8 “Consider the needs of each individual”
The analogy of a doctor is also very applicable. A doctor always asks questions and examines the patient before prescribing treatment. The paragraph then goes on “we should not try to use the same approach with everyone we meet in our ministry. Rather, we take into consideration the specific circumstances and viewpoints of each individual.”
What would most people say about the approach of Witnesses in the ministry? Do they really consider other viewpoints with the intention of potentially adjusting their views where the evidence indicates that they should? Or rather are they quick to give an answer to the questions and viewpoints by using through their publications whether written or videos? What about the literature used to study with individuals? Do they seek information from different sources and most relevant to the Individual they are studying with or do they use the same prescribed books before someone can be baptised?
Most witnesses would openly acknowledge that they would never accept any viewpoint which contrasts their literature.
Paragraph 10 – 12 “Try to imagine what their life may be like” and “Be patient with those whom you teach”
The advice provided in the paragraphs can ironically be applied in relation to our relatives and friends who are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Generally Jehovah’s Witnesses have a strong emotional connection to not just their beliefs but also the Governing Body. This makes it difficult to address problematic doctrinal issues. When it comes to religious views uniting families, this is more of an issue among Witnesses than in other traditional Christian denominations.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that anyone who holds a different view to the Governing Body is an apostate and should therefore not be associated with, even if this is a beloved family member.
The words in paragraph 14: “If we are patient with people in the ministry, we will not expect them to understand or accept Bible truth the first time they hear it. Rather, fellow feeling moves us to help them reason on the Scriptures over a period of time”, are even more applicable to our friends and relatives who are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
When demonstrating flaws in JW doctrine it may require patience, particularly because Witnesses are taught to believe that the Governing Body are Jehovah’s only channel of dispensing spiritual food on earth.
For a more detailed discussion regarding humans living on a paradise earth refer to the following series of articles: Mankind’s hope for the Future, Where will it be?
Paragraph 16 “Look for practical ways to show consideration”
Sound and practical advice is offered in this paragraph regarding helping those we preach to with errands and other tasks. Jesus said that love would be the indentifying mark of true Christians (John 13:35). When we extend a helping hand to others their hearts become more receptive to our message.
“KEEP A BALANCED VIEW OF YOUR ROLE”
The Governing Body should apply the advice given to publishers in paragraph 17. The person preaching is not the most important person when it comes to the preaching work. Jehovah is the one who draws people. If that is the case, why does the Organisation place such great emphasis on unquestioned loyalty to them or to a person accepting JW doctrine before getting baptised?
Overall the advice offered in this article is practical. Notwithstanding, a few paragraphs with JW doctrine, we can benefit from applying the four suggested ways of showing fellow feeling in our ministry.
Perhaps a fifth point to be added in showing fellow feeling in the ministry would be to be yielding on matters of conscience. Where the Bible is not explicit on a doctrinal issue, we would never want to undermine the beliefs of others whom we come across in our ministry or insist on our viewpoints.