In the previous video in this series on shunning as practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, we analyzed Matthew 18:17 where Jesus tells his disciples to treat an unrepentant sinner as if that person were “a Gentile or a tax collector.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that Jesus’ words support their extreme shunning policy. They ignore the fact that Jesus didn’t shun Gentiles nor tax collectors. He even blessed some Gentiles with miraculous acts of mercy, and he invited some tax collectors to dine with him.
For Witnesses, that creates a good deal of cognitive dissonance. The reason for such confusion is that many still believe that the Organization has this whole disfellowshipping thing down pat. It is very hard for the JW faithful to believe that the revered men of the Governing Body could be acting in bad faith, knowingly deceiving the Other Sheep of their flock.
Perhaps most of the Jews of Jesus’ day felt the same way about the scribes and Pharisees. They wrongly viewed these rabbis to be righteous men, knowledgeable teachers used by Jehovah God to reveal the way to salvation to the common people.
The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has occupied a similar role in the minds and hearts of Jehovah’s Witnesses as this Watchtower quote shows:
“We can enter into Jehovah’s rest—or join him in his rest—by obediently working in harmony with his advancing purpose as it is revealed to us through his organization.” (w11 7/15 p. 28 par. 16 God’s Rest—What Is It?)
But the scribes, Pharisees, and priests making up the body that governed the religious lives of the Jews back then were not godly men at all. They were wicked men, liars. The spirit that guided them wasn’t from Jehovah, but from His adversary, the devil. This was revealed to the crowds by Jesus:
“You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a murderer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:43, 44 NWT)
For Jesus’ disciples to break free of the control that the Pharisees and other Jewish religious leaders held over them, they had to realize that those men had no legitimate authority from God. They were in fact the devil’s children. The disciples had to view them just as Jesus did, as wicked liars intent only on enriching themselves by exercising power over the lives of others. They had to realize that so as to break free from their control.
Once a person has been proven to be a deceitful liar, you can no longer trust anything he says. All his teachings become fruit of the poisonous tree, don’t they? Often, when I’ve been able to show a willing listener that a teaching of the Governing Body is false, I get the disclaimer, “Well, they’re only imperfect men. We all make mistakes due to human imperfection.” Such naïve comments are born out of an inbred trust that the men of the Governing Body are being used by God and that if there are any problems, Jehovah will set them straight in his own time.
This is wrong and dangerous thinking. I’m not asking you to believe me. No, that would again be putting your trust in men. What we all need to do is utilize the tools Jesus gave us to distinguish between those led by the holy spirit of God and those who are led by the spirit of Satan. For example, Jesus tells us:
“Offspring of vipers, how can you speak good things when you are wicked? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure sends out good things, whereas the wicked man out of his wicked treasure sends out wicked things. I tell you that men will render an account on Judgment Day for every unprofitable saying that they speak; for by your words you will be declared righteous, and by your words you will be condemned.”” (Matthew 12:34-37)
To repeat the last part: “by your words you will be declared righteous, and by your words you will be condemned.”
The Bible calls our words, the fruit of the lips. (Hebrews 13:15) So, let’s examine the words of the Governing Body to see if their lips are producing the good fruit of truth, or the rotten fruit of lies.
We’re currently focusing in this video on the issue of shunning, so let’s go to JW.org, to the “Frequently Asked Questions” section, and consider this topic.
“Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Shun Those Who Used to Belong to Their Religion?”
Use this QR Code to navigate directly to the page we are examining on JW.org. [JW.org Shunning QR Code.jpeg].
If you read through the entire written answer, which is essentially a public relations statement, you’ll see that they never actually answer the question being asked. Why don’t they give a straightforward and honest answer?
What we get is this misleading half-truth in the first paragraph—a nifty little piece of misdirection worthy of a politician dodging an embarrassing question.
“Those who were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses but no longer preach to others, perhaps even drifting away from association with fellow believers, are not shunned. In fact, we reach out to them and try to rekindle their spiritual interest.”
Why don’t they simply answer the question? Don’t they have the backing of the Bible? Don’t they preach that shunning is a loving provision from God? The Bible says that “perfect love casts fear out, because fear restrains us.” (1 John 4:18 NWT)
What are they so afraid of that they can’t just give us an honest answer? To answer that, we need to recognize that belonging to a religion means being a member of that religion, right?
A naïve person might read their answer on JW.org and be led to believe that if someone just stops associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, then there will be no repercussions, that they will not be shunned by family and friends, because by “drifting away”, they no longer belong to the religion and so are no longer considered to be members of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But this is simply not the case.
For example, I don’t belong to the Mormon Church. That means that I’m not a member of the Mormon religion. Therefore, when I violate one of their laws, like drinking coffee or alcohol, I don’t have to worry about Mormon elders calling me up for a disciplinary hearing, because I’m not a member of their religion.
So, based on the Governing Body’s position as stated on their web site, they don’t shun a person who no longer belongs to their religion, meaning someone who drifts away. If they don’t belong because they’ve drifted away, then they are no longer members. Can you be a member without belonging? I don’t see how.
Based on that, they are misleading their readers. How do we know that? Because of what we’ve found in the secret elders’ manual, Shepherd the Flock of God (latest edition 2023). If you want to see it for yourself, use this QR Code.
Source: Shepherd the Flock of God (2023 edition)
Chapter 12 “Determining Whether a Judicial Committee Should Be Formed?”
Paragraph 44 “Those Who Have Not Associated for Many Years”
The title of the paragraph I’ve just read proves the Governing Body is not being honest because even those who have not associated for “many years”—that is, those who no longer belong to the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses because they have “drifted away”, are still subject to potential judicial action, even to being shunned!
What about those who drifted away only a year or two earlier? The truth is, unless you formally resign, you are always considered as still belonging to their religion; and so, you are always subject to their authority and so you can always be called before a judicial committee if they feel threatened by you.
I had not associated at all with any congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses for four years, yet the Canada branch still felt it necessary to form a judicial committee to come after me because they felt threatened.
By the way, I didn’t drift away. The Governing Body wants to convince its flock that members only leave for negative reasons like pride, weak faith, or apostasy. They don’t want Jehovah’s Witnesses to realize that many are leaving because they’ve found truth and have come to realize they’ve been deceived for years by the false teachings of men.
Therefore, a truthful answer to the question: “Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Shun Those Who Used to Belong to Their Religion?” would be “Yes, we shun people who used to belong to our religion.” The only way for you to “no longer belong” is to renounce your membership, that is, to resign from Jehovah’s Witnesses.
But, if you resign, they will force all your family and friends to shun you. If you just drift away, you still must conform to their rules, or you may find yourself in front of a judicial committee. It’s kind of like the Hotel California: “You can check out, but you can never leave.”
Here’s a related question on JW.org. Let’s see if they answer this one honestly.
“Can a Person Resign From Being One of Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
This time their answer is: “Yes. A person can resign from our organization in two ways:”
That still isn’t an honest answer, because it is a half-truth. What they leave unstated is that they are holding a gun to the head of everyone thinking of resigning. Okay, I’m using a metaphor. The gun is their shunning policy. You can resign, but you will be severely punished for doing so. You will lose all your JW family and friends.
God’s holy spirit does not guide his servants to speak lies and half-truths. The spirit of Satan on the other hand…
If you’ve used the QR Code to access the entire answer on JW.org, you’ll see that they end their answer with an outright lie: “We believe that those who worship God must do so willingly, from the heart.”
No, they don’t! They don’t believe that at all. If you did, they wouldn’t punish people for choosing to worship God in spirit and in truth. To the Governing Body, such ones are apostates and so must be shunned. Do they provide scriptural evidence for such a stand? Or do they condemn themselves by their words and show themselves to be liars like the Pharisees that opposed Jesus and his disciples? To answer this, consider last week’s mid-week meeting Bible study, Life and Ministry #58, par. 1:
What if someone we know has decided that he no longer wants to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? It can be heartbreaking when someone close to us does this. That person may force us to choose between him and Jehovah. We must be determined to remain loyal to God above all else. (Matthew 10:37) So we obey Jehovah’s command not to associate with such individuals.—Read 1 Corinthians 5:11.
Yes, we must remain loyal to God above all else. But they don’t mean God, do they? They mean the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So, they have declared themselves to be God. Think about that!
They cite two scriptures in this paragraph. Both are utterly misapplied, which is what liars do. They cite Matthew 10:37 after stating that “we must be determined to remain loyal to God” but when you read that verse, you see it isn’t talking about Jehovah God at all. It is Jesus who says, “Whoever has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and whoever has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)
We learn even more by reading the context, something Witnesses rarely do in their Bible studies. Let’s read from verse 32 to 38.
“Everyone, then, who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father who is in the heavens. But whoever disowns me before men, I will also disown him before my Father who is in the heavens. Do not think I came to bring peace to the earth; I came to bring, not peace, but a sword. For I came to cause division, with a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Indeed, a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and whoever has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not accept his torture stake and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:32-38)
Notice that Jesus puts “enemies” in the plural, while the Christian who carries his torture stake and is worthy of Jesus is declared in the singular. So, when all Jehovah’s Witnesses turn against a Christian who chooses to follow Jesus Christ, who is the one being persecuted? Is it not the one being shunned? The Christian who courageously stands for truth is not shunning his parents, or his children, or his friends. He or she is like Christ in that they practice agape love by wanting to reveal truth. It is the shunners, indoctrinated Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are the enemies Jesus is referring to.
Let’s return to examining the Life and Ministry study #58 from last week’s mid-week meeting to see what their words reveal about themselves. Remember, Jesus’ warning: By your words you will be declared righteous and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:37)
The paragraph from that study we just read ended with this statement: “So we obey Jehovah’s command not to associate with such individuals.—Read 1 Corinthians 5:11.”
Okay, we’ll do that, we’ll read 1 Corinthians 5:11.
“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.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)
What you see here is an ad hominem attack, a kind of logical fallacy. Someone who wants to resign from Jehovah’s Witnesses because he wants to worship God in spirit and in truth is not the sinner being described at 1 Corinthians 5:11, wouldn’t you agree?
Liars use this logical fallacy when they can’t defeat the argument. They resort to attacking the person. If they could defeat the argument, they would, but that would require them to be in the truth, not in the lie.
Now we come to the real reason that the Organization has chosen to compel their flock to shun anyone who simply resigns from the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s all about control. It’s an age-old pattern of oppression, and by stooping to it, the Governing Body has caused Jehovah’s Witnesses to join a very long line of liars seeking to persecute the children of God. Jehovah’s Witnesses are now adopting policies of the Catholic Church which they once condemned. What hypocrisy!
Consider this excerpt from the Awake! magazine in which they condemn the Catholic Church for the very thing the Governing Body now practices:
The authority for excommunication, they claim, is based on the teachings of Christ and the apostles, as found in the following scriptures: Matthew 18:15-18; 1 Corinthians 5:3-5; Galatians 1:8,9; 1 Timothy 1:20; Titus 3:10. But the Hierarchy’s excommunication, as a punishment and “medicinal” remedy (Catholic Encyclopedia), finds no support in these scriptures. In fact, it is altogether foreign to Bible teachings.—Hebrews 10:26-31. … Thereafter, as the pretensions of the Hierarchy increased, the weapon of excommunication became the instrument by which the clergy attained a combination of ecclesiastical power and secular tyranny that finds no parallel in history. Princes and potentates that opposed the dictates of the Vatican were speedily impaled on the tines of excommunication and hung over persecution fires.” –[Boldface added] (g47 1/8 p. 27)
Witnesses don’t call it excommunication. They call it disfellowshipping, which is just a euphemism for their real weapon: Shunning. They have fulfilled Jesus’ words by turning faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses into the enemies of the true followers of Christ, just as he warned would happen. “A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10:32-38)
The scribes and Pharisees fulfilled Jesus’ words when they persecuted Christians. The Catholic Church fulfilled his words by using their weapon of excommunication. And the Governing Body is fulfilling Jesus’ words by using the local elders and traveling overseers to force their flock to shun anyone who dares to speak out against their false teachings, or simply decides to bug out.
Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites” on many occasions. It is a characteristic of the agents of Satan, the ministers who disguise themselves in robes of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11:15) (Mind you, those robes are wearing awfully thin right now.) And if you think I’m being harsh in saying they are as hypocritical as the Pharisees were, consider this: Throughout the 20th century, Witnesses fought many legal battles around the world to establish a person’s right to freedom of worship. Now that they’ve obtained this right, they are among the biggest violators of it, by persecuting anyone for making the very choice they fought so hard to protect.
Since they have assumed the role of the Catholic Church which they condemned in that 1947 Awake! that we just read, it seems proper to reword their condemnation as it fits the present conduct of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“As the pretensions of the Hierarchy [Governing Body] increased [BY unilaterally declaring themselves to be the faithful slave], the weapon of excommunication [shunning] became the instrument by which the clergy [JW elders] attained a combination of ecclesiastical power and secular [spiritual] tyranny that finds no parallel in history [except that it now parallels the Catholic Church].”
And by what authority does the Governing Body do this? They can’t claim, as the Catholic clergy did, that their authority for shunning is based on the teachings of Christ and the apostles. There is nothing in the Christian Scriptures that depicts the kind of judicial system Jehovah’s Witnesses have set up. There was no elders’ manual in the first century; no judicial committees; no secret meetings; no centralized control and reporting; no detailed definition of what constituted a sin; no disassociation policy.
There is certainly no basis for the way they deal with sin currently to be found in the teaching of Jesus as expressed at Matthew 18:15-17. So, from where to they claim their authority? The Insight book will tell us:
Based on the principles of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian Greek Scriptures by command and precedent authorize expulsion, or disfellowshipping, from the Christian congregation. By exercising this God-given authority, the congregation keeps itself clean and in good standing before God. The apostle Paul, with the authority vested in him, ordered the expulsion of an incestuous fornicator who had taken his father’s wife. (it-1 p. 788 Expelling)
What principles from the Hebrew Scriptures? What they mean is the Mosaic law code, but they don’t want to say that, because they also preach that the Mosaic law was replaced by the law of the Christ, the law of principled love. Then, they have the audacity to claim that their authority is God-given, using the Apostle Paul as an example.
Paul didn’t get his authority from the law of Moses, but from Jesus Christ directly, and he fought against Christians who wanted to implement the law code within the Christian congregation. Instead of comparing themselves to the Apostle Paul, the Governing Body are better compared to the Judaizers who were trying to use circumcision to wean Gentile Christians off the Law of Love that Christ instituted and back to the Law of Moses.
The Governing Body will object that they don’t ignore Jesus teaching at Matthew 18. Well, how can they? It’s right there in Scripture. But what they can do is to interpret it in a way that doesn’t undermine their authority. They tell their followers that Matthew 18:15-17 only describes a process to use when dealing with sins of a minor or personal nature, like fraud and slander. In the elders’ manual, Shepherd the Flock of God (2023), Matthew 18 is only referenced once. Only once! Imagine their impudence in marginalizing Jesus’ command by relegating its application to only a single paragraph titled: Fraud, Slander: (Lev. 19:16; Matt. 18:15-17…) from Chapter 12, par. 24
Where does the Bible say anything about some sins being minor and some major or grave. Paul tells us that the “wages sin pays is death” (Romans 6:23). Should he have written: “The wages major sins pay is death, but the wages minor sins pay is a really nasty cold”? And come on, guys! Slander is a minor sin? Really? Wasn’t slander (which is lying about a person’s character) the essence of the very first sin? Satan was the first one to sin by slandering Jehovah’s character. Isn’t that why Satan is called “the devil” which means “slanderer”. Is the Governing Body saying that Satan only committed a minor sin?
Once Jehovah’s Witnesses accept the unscriptural premise that there are two types of sin, minor and major, Watch Tower leaders get their flock to buy into the idea that what they qualify as major sins can only be dealt with by elders that they appoint. But where does Jesus authorize judicial committees of three elders? Nowhere does he do so. Instead, he says to take it before the entire congregation. That’s what we learned from our analysis of Matthew 18:
“If he does not listen to them, speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:17)
Furthermore, the Governing Body’s judicial system on dealing with sin is entirely based on the false premise that there is some equivalence between the Christian Congregation and the Nation of Israel with its Mosaic Law. Observe this reasoning at work:
Under the law of Moses, some grave sins, such as adultery, homosexuality, manslaughter and apostasy, could not be settled merely on a personal basis, with a wronged individual accepting the wrongdoer’s sorrow and efforts to rectify the wrong. Rather, these grave sins were handled through the older men, judges and priests. (w81 9/15 p. 17)
Their self-serving reasoning is flawed because Israel was a sovereign nation, but the Christian congregation is not a sovereign nation. A nation needs a ruling elite, a judicial system, law enforcement, and a penal code. In Israel, if someone committed rape, child sexual abuse, or murder, they would be stoned to death. But Christians have always been subject to the law of the land where they have resided as “temporary residents.” If a Christian were to commit rape, child sexual abuse, or murder, the congregation is required to report these crimes to the appropriate superior authorities. If the Governing Body had directed all the congregations around the world to do that, they would have avoided the PR nightmare they are now living and would have saved themselves millions of dollars of court costs, fines, penalties, and adverse judgments.
But no. They wanted to rule over their own little nation. They were so sure of themselves that they published this: “There is no doubt that Jehovah’s organization will be preserved and will prosper spiritually.” (w08 11/15 p. 28 par. 7)
They even link the outbreak of Armageddon to their prosperity. “How thrilling to know that by prospering and blessing his visible organization, Jehovah inserts hooks into Satan’s jaws and draws him and his military force on to their defeat!—Ezekiel 38:4.” (w97 6/1 p. 17 par. 17)
If that were truly the case, then Armageddon would be a great way off because what we are seeing in the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses isn’t prosperity, but diminishment. Meeting attendance is down. Donations are down. Congregations are being merged. Kingdom halls are being sold by the thousands.
In the 15th century, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. The first book to be printed was the Holy Bible. In the years to follow, Bibles were made available in the common tongue. The hold the Church had over the spread of the good news was broken. People became informed about what the Bible really taught. What happened? How did the Church react? Ever heard of the Spanish Inquisition?
Today, we have the Internet, and now everyone can inform themselves. What was hidden is now coming to light. How is the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses responding to the unwanted exposure? It’s sad to say, but the reality is that they have chosen to deal with the situation much as the Catholic Church did back in the fourteen hundreds, by threatening to shun anyone who dares to speak out.
In summary, what does all of this mean for you and for me? As we stated in the beginning, if we want to continue to worship Jehovah God in spirit and in truth, we have to overcome the cognitive dissonance, or the mental confusion, that comes from holding on to two contradictory ideas. If we can see the men of the Governing Body for what they truly are, we no longer have to grant them any say in our lives. We can ignore them and move on with our study of Scripture free from their influence. Do you have any time for a liar? Is there any place in your life for such a person? Will you grant a liar any authority over you?
Jesus said: “. . .with the judgment you are judging, you will be judged, and with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you.” (Matthew 7:2)
This goes in line with what we read earlier: “I tell you that men will render an account…for every unprofitable saying that they speak; for by your words you will be declared righteous, and by your words you will be condemned.”” (Matthew 12:36, 37)
Fine, now listen to the words of the Governing Body as fed to you by Gerrit Losch. [Insert Gerrit Losch Clip on Lying EN.mp4 video clip]
That German proverb that Losch quotes says it all. We’ve seen how the Governing Body, through half-truths and outright lies, misleads the flock. We’ve seen how they’ve redefined sin so that they can get their flock to persecute by shunning those sincere Christians who resign.
Do they still deserve your devotion? Your obedience? Your loyalty? Will you listen to and obey men rather than God? If you shun your brother based on the rules and judgments of the Governing Body, you become complicit in their sin.
Jesus’ condemned the Pharisees predicting they would persecute his faithful disciples who would courageously speak truth to power and reveal their sinful conduct to the world.
“Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are YOU to flee from the judgment of Ge·henʹna? For this reason, here I am sending forth to YOU prophets and wise men and public instructors. Some of them YOU will kill and impale, and some of them YOU will scourge in YOUR synagogues and persecute from city to city. . .” (Matthew 23:33, 34)
Can you not see the parallel with what we are experiencing as we wake up to years of false teachings? Now that we are rejecting the unscriptural authority that the men of the Governing Body have falsely assumed for themselves, what are we to do? Of course, we want to find fellow Christians, children of God, and associate with them. But we are going to have to deal with some who will use their freedom in the Christ to “turn the grace of our God into a license for immorality”, as Jude 4 states happened in the first century.
How are we to apply Jesus’ instruction at Matthew 18:15-17 to every case of sin within the body of Christ, the real Christian Congregation of the holy ones?
To understand how to deal with sin in the congregation in a practical and loving way, we’ll need to analyze what the inspired Bible writers did when similar situations arose in the first century congregations.
We’ll get into that in the final videos of this series.
Thank you all for your emotional and financial support without which we could not continue this work.