On March 9th, 2023, there was a mass shooting at a kingdom hall in Hamburg, Germany. A disassociated member of the congregation killed 7 people including a 7-month-old fetus and wounded many others before turning the gun on himself. Why is this?
The country of Australia considers the shunning policies of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be cruel and unusual punishment. Why is this?
The country of Norway has cut off funding to Jehovah’s Witnesses and deregistered the religion? Why is this?
The state of Pennsylvania has started court proceedings that involve issuing subpoenas to all the elders in all congregations in the entire state. Why is this?
The Spain branch office of the Watch Tower Society is suing a group of people for calling themselves victims of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why is this?
In Mexico, an association of Watch Tower victims is filing papers to have the government deregister Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religion. Why is this?
In Canada, over 200 people are petitioning the court for the right to launch a class action lawsuit against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why is this?
I could go on. I mean I really could go on for some time, but the point is, what does all this mean for you if you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses or if you have family or friends that are in the Organization?
Do all these problems constitute the persecution that Jesus said his disciples are to expect, or is all this proof that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Jesus’ disciples at all? Where does the evidence lead?
Let’s not jump to any conclusions. It’s easy to dismiss all the foregoing as persecution because you may feel you are in the one true religion on earth but consider the example of a man who thought the same.
Imagine how you would react if you were suddenly blinded by a bright light from above and then you heard these words: “Why are you persecuting me? To keep kicking against the goads makes it hard for you.’” (Acts 26:14)
You might recognize that as the question our Lord Jesus asked of one Saul of Tarsus, but if you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, can you try to put yourself in Saul’s sandals? I’m dead serious about this because this is no trivial matter.
You see, while Jesus only asked this question of Saul, it really does apply to anyone who is cocksure of his approved state before God and doesn’t think to question it for a moment.
Saul became the apostle Paul and looking back on himself recognized that he was “a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man.” (1 Timothy 1:13) Insolent means contemptuous, rude, and insulting. He was all those things, yet Jesus saw something in his heart, and so he called out to him and saved him. He doesn’t call out to everyone, but is he calling out to you, dear Jehovah’s Witness?
Is he asking you, “Why are you persecuting me?”
Is he telling you, “To keep kicking against the goads makes it hard for you”?
Don’t dismiss these words out of hand. Don’t reason: “But I’m in the only organization that preaches Jehovah’s name, so I must be “in the truth.” Where else would I go?”
Saul of Tarsus could have reasoned that way. After all, he was an Israelite, born to the only people who worshipped Jehovah God. All the other nations worshipped false pagan gods. But the evidence to contradict his belief was there for him to see. His nation (Jehovah’s so-called earthly organization) had gone apostate. But he was ignoring that evidence. He was resisting the proof that was right before his eyes. He was “kicking against the goads.”
What is a goad? It is a pointed stick used to prod cattle. Sheep are different. Sheep willingly follow their shepherd, but cattle have to be driven, prodded to move. Saul was kicking against that prodding. Whatever form it actually took, we cannot say for sure, but there was evidence that he was moving in the wrong direction, and he was choosing to resist it. He was “kicking against the goads.”
Today, more than ever before, there is mounting evidence that the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has gone apostate. It has induced its members to persecute true Christians, spirit anointed disciples of Christ. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has followed their ancient counterpart in persecuting those few members who try to worship God in spirit and truth. Like the Governing Body of Israel, the priests and Pharisees, who expelled or disfellowshipped the followers of Jesus, calling them apostates and opposers, so have Jehovah’s Witnesses been induced by their leaders, from the Governing Body down to the local elders, to do the same.
Saul was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a rude and insolent man. Are you, dear Jehovah’s Witness, being like Saul?
Are you kicking against the goads, the hard evidence that you are in the wrong?
As it was for Saul of Tarsus, so it is for today. The evidence comes in two parts: One part is empirical—what you can observe from the world around you. And the second part is scriptural—what you can prove for yourself from God’s inspired word.
For Saul of Tarsus, that empirical evidence surely included the miracles that were being performed at the hands of Jesus’ followers. Somehow, he had managed to dismiss them as did his religious colleagues, the Pharisees, Sadducees and priests. Then there were the abundant prophecies concerning the Messiah which, when viewed with unbiased eyes, pointed to Jesus.
What empirical evidence is there for you, dear Jehovah’s Witness, to indicate that you might actually be persecuting Jesus as Saul was?
To answer that question, consider the parable of the sheep and goats found at Matthew 25:31-46 which is well known to all Jehovah’s Witnesses because it is used to support the authority of the Governing Body. Remember that the criteria for judgment in that parable was how a person helped or hindered one of Jesus’ anointed brothers. If you are merciful to the least of Jesus’ brothers, Jesus considers you to have been merciful toward him and so rewards you with life. If you fail to help one of his brothers in need, you are deemed to have failed to help Jesus and so are condemned to death.
Nobody in their right mind would want to be one of the goats in that parable, so what goads are prodding you right now, goads you might unwittingly be kicking against?
There are so many, but let’s start with the most recent one because it is so sensationally wicked that it has captured the attention of the world.
On March 9th, 2023, as the Thursday evening meeting of one of the congregations in Hamburg, Germany was drawing to a close, a former member of that congregation opened fire killing seven and wounding others, before turning the gun on himself. We cannot excuse that crime no matter what prompted the man to commit it. But neither should we dismiss it as just the result of mental illness or perhaps demonic possession. The most recent news reports tell us that the man had left the congregation. That means he was a disassociated or disfellowshipped member, meaning he was being shunned by the congregation members. Being shunned means being cut off completely (totally isolated) from one’s family and friends in the Organization.
“That’s right,” you might say. “We are just lovingly doing what the Bible commands us to do.”
No, you are not. In fact, you are violating what the Bible tells Christians to do in this instance, but we’ll get to that in the next video. We’ll see that the way Jehovah’s Witnesses are told to deal with former members and even unrepentant sinners is so far off the mark as to constitute a sin of its own. But for now, we’re looking at empirical evidence which means that which even people who do not study the Scriptures can see for themselves.
But we do study the Scriptures, so we can see the “why” something is happening while others may only see the “what”. They see a mass murder and then a suicide. This is not the first murder/suicide to be reported among Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s not even the first to have occurred in a Kingdom Hall, but it is, to my knowledge, the worst so far. But why does this happen. I know a sister who was a Jehovah’s Witness for 15 years and during that time personally knew five different people who committed suicide brought on by guilt and depression—not being able to measure up to the high standard set by the Governing Body.
Now let’s reason on this. We know that God is love, because 1 John 4:8 tells us so. We know that it is “the blessing of Jehovah that makes one rich, and He adds no pain with it.” (Proverbs 10:22)
The Watchtower (Study Edition) of September 2021 states on page 28, paragraph 11: “Disfellowshipping is part of Jehovah’s arrangement. His loving correction is in the best interests of everyone, including the wrongdoer. (Read Hebrews 12:11.)
We are told to read Hebrews 12:11, so let’s do that:
“True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but it is painful; yet afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
So reason with me on this. If Jehovah’s blessing makes us rich and he adds no pain with it, and if the disfellowshipping/disassociation policies including the total shunning of a person as practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses are in full accord with Jehovah’s commands and if the discipline Hebrews 12:11 speaks of includes shunning, then the result must be that “it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”
So why are there so many suicides and even murders linked to it? Could it be that the total social isolation that shunning causes is not something God mandates or approves of?
Does the Bible have anything to say about what happens when a person is isolated?
Proverbs 18:1 says, “whoever isolates himself pursues his own selfish desires; He rejects all practical wisdom.” (Proverbs 18:1 NWT)
If that is the case for someone who self-isolates, what happens to a person who is forced into isolation against his will or wishes? What effect does that have on an individual’s mental and emotional health?
Why don’t we ask people who have experienced it? Oh, right. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are not allowed to ask them, are you?
But the goads of empirical evidence don’t end here. I want you to consider what Paul told the Romans about how the world is supposed to perceive true Christians.
“Let every person be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. Therefore, whoever opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will bring judgment against themselves. For those rulers are an object of fear, not to the good deed, but to the bad. Do you want to be free of fear of the authority? Keep doing good, and you will have praise from it; for it is God’s minister to you for your good. But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear, for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword. It is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath against the one practicing what is bad.” (Romans 13:1-4)
So the worldly authorities, the governments of the world, are “God’s minister to you for your good.” So if the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is doing good, it will have praise from the superior authorities, right? However, if Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing bad, then “God’s minister” is “an avenger to express wrath against the one practicing what is bad.”
So, what does the empirical evidence tell us? What goads are prodding us to stop persecuting Jesus?
For many, the first goad of this nature came during the hearings of 2015 held by the Australia Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It was there that the Watch Tower policy of shunning a victim of abuse simply because she or he chose to leave the congregation was called “cruel” by the commissioner. Since then, country after country has begun to examine this policy which is seen as a violation of human rights, such as the right to freedom of worship, freedom of association, and freedom of speech. This has been acknowledged by the Governing Body.
Why are the superior authorities, “God’s minister,” condemning Jehovah’
s Witnesses for violating the universal laws on human rights? They should be praising Jehovah’s Witnesses for obeying the laws of the land. They shouldn’t have cause for condemning them. Sure, Jesus told his followers to expect to be persecuted for his name’s sake, but not because they would end up violating human rights. Throughout history, the Christian religions which have been guilty of violating human rights have all been false religions, or to put it another way, have all represented apostate Christianity. Are Jehovah’s Witnesses now in that category?
The Bible gives us this reassurance: “No weapon formed against you will have any success, And you will condemn any tongue that rises up against you in the judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of Jehovah, And their righteousness is from me,” declares Jehovah. (Isaiah 54:17 NWT)
But that wasn’t always the heritage of what the Watch Tower calls, God’s earthly organization, Israel, was it? He withdrew his protection when they failed to keep his law but began to follow men instead of Him. If we find that weapons formed against the Organization are having success and if we find the tongues raised against Jehovah’s Witnesses in condemnation are proving to speak truth, then we are being goaded toward a conclusion that perhaps we don’t want to accept. Will you kick against the goads or accept the call of Jesus to stop persecuting him, meaning his true disciples?
There is one final piece of empirical evidence to consider before we put the disfellowshipping/disassociation/shunning policies and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses under the microscope of Scripture, which we’ll do in the next video of this series.
Jesus gave his disciples one badge of distinction, one identifying mark of true Christianity. He said, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35)
What was new about this commandment, because the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself was not new, but was one of the two commands upon which the law of Moses was based? It was new because the standard set for exercising love was based on Jesus. He tells us to “love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another.” He said that all—I repeat—all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.”
So, it’s not just enough to love one another in the way the people of the nations love their friends. Jesus foretold that everybody and anybody would be able to recognize his disciples by the fact that their love for one another was patterned after the love exemplified by Jesus himself. There are many who claim to be Christian, who claim to be followers of Jesus, but they will readily obey men and go off to war to kill their fellow believers who live on the other side of some national border. Do the governments of the world look at Jehovah’s Witnesses and say, “These are true disciples of Jesus, real Christians! Look how they love one another. What self-sacrificing love they display for each other!”
No! That isn’t what we see happening. Instead, in place after place, Witnesses’ policies are deemed by the world as cruel and unusual punishment. Many even refer to them as cult-like. They are being judged as violators of basic human rights.
But, if you are a loyal Jehovah’s Witness who truly believes this is Jehovah’s Organization, you might still be thinking that you’ll win out in the end, because the shunning policy you are obeying is from God. But is it? Did you notice in that video we just played that Anthony Morris said that the Organization is being attacked by different governments for—and I quote—“OUR beliefs” and “OUR practices” on disfellowshipping.
Witnesses will hear that and assume that “OUR beliefs” means “what the Bible teaches.” But is that a correct assumption to make? How can we know? What must we do to determine whether we are putting our faith in God or in men? Well, returning to our example from the life of the apostle Paul, what did he do when he was first called by the Lord? He writes:
“I did not immediately consult with any human; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before I was, but I went to Arabia, and then I returned to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to visit with Cephas and I stayed with him for 15 days.” (Galatians 1:16-18)
Saul became the apostle Paul, but before he could serve the Lord as his apostle, he had to unlearn much of what he had been taught. He had been indoctrinated into the tradition of the sect of the Pharisees. He had extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, but that knowledge came with a very large measure of pharisaical interpretation. Paul had to throw out the bath water of human interpretation without losing the baby of Bible truth.
We all have had to do the same, and if you are ready and are finally willing to allow the goads to move you, then let us examine the whole of the Judicial system of Jehovah’s Witnesses to see what is true and what must be tossed out as dirty, unscriptural bathwater.
Let’s summarize the points we’ve considered. The practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses to totally shun someone who leave the organization or who is judged a sinner has resulted in great personal tragedy, not only due to murders and suicides, but also because of the great psychological and emotional harm it causes. This has brought widespread reproach on the organization and on the name of God which they proclaim. This causes the people of the world to view Jehovah’s Witnesses as heartless cultists, instead of loving Christians. So, instead of being judged as exemplary by the superior authorities, they are being scrutinized and punished. Additionally, the one identifying mark of Jesus’ true disciples, not just those who claim to be followers of the Christ, but who fail to measure up, is a love patterned after the love he displayed. All, even non-Christians, should recognize this love, because it is limited to the true followers of the Lord. Yet, this is not evident within the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses whose love is often regarded as very conditional.
In conclusion, by looking at the empirical evidence—or to put it another way—their works, we must conclude that the Organization does not meet the Bible standard that would mark the true disciples of Jesus. This evidence should goad us, or prod us, to go where we perhaps do not wish to go. It should cause us to look deeper into the scriptural evidence which allegedly backs up the Watch Tower doctrine for shunning all who sin or who disagree with the teachings of the Governing Body. To do that, we will need to be brave, for cowards are not allowed into the Kingdom of God.
“But as for the cowards and those without faith…and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This means the second death.”” (Revelation 21:8)
In the next video, we will examine what the Bible actually teaches regarding disfellowshipping and the scriptural handling of those who practice sin within the congregation. We will see whether the shunning policy practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses is from God or from men.
You may be surprised to learn that the JW teaching regarding the hope of the other sheep completely undermines any foundation whatsoever that their judicial policy is based on Scripture. I know may come as a shocking revelation. It did for me when I first delved into this.
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