Religion That Leads to Peace and Morality
AN EXAMINATION of the evidence makes this clear: The churches, instead of guiding mankind in the ways of peace and morality, have led them into war and immorality. The truth is, the churches have abandoned the teachings of Jesus Christ. They only profess to follow the Bible, but have actually rejected its guidance.
But is this true of all religion? Have all religions abandoned Christ’s teachings? Is there any one of them that adheres to the Bible’s high standards, leading people toward peace and morality? What about early Christianity?
Early Christians and Peace
The early followers of Jesus Christ were zealous in spreading the Christian faith. Writing in about 60 C.E. the Christian apostle Paul noted that already the “good news” had been “preached in all creation that is under heaven.” (Col. 1:23) Christians by then had spread throughout many nations.
What did these Christians do when ‘nation rose against nation and kingdom against kingdom’ in war? (Matt. 24:7) Did they join the armies of their particular nation and fight? Did they kill fellow Christians living in other countries? How did early Christians view Jesus’ instruction to “love one another,” and to be “peaceable”? (John 13:34; Matt. 5:9) Regarding this, Hastings’ renowned Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics notes:
“The view was widely prevalent in the early Church that war is an organized iniquity with which the Church and the followers of Christ can have nothing to do.”97
Also, the prominent church historian C. J. Cadoux wrote:
“The early Christians took Jesus at his word, and understood his inculcations of gentleness and non-resistance in their literal sense. They closely identified their religion with peace; they strongly condemned war for the bloodshed which it involved; they appropriated to themselves the Old Testament prophecy which foretold the transformation of the weapons of war into the implements of agriculture [Isa. 2:4]; they declared that it was their policy to return good for evil and to conquer evil with good.”98
So early Christians did honor Jesus’ teachings; they actually lived by them. And they did not seek “loopholes,” arguing that Christ did not specifically forbid being a soldier. The German Protestant theologian Peter Meinhold wrote:
“While the New Testament is silent on the question whether Christians may or may not be soldiers and whether they must resign from the army when they become Christians, the old church took a stand in the issue. Being a Christian and a soldier was considered irreconcilable.”99
Nor is this just one historian’s conclusion; it is the consensus. Historians find, explains an Early Church History, that “service in the Imperial armies was irreconcilable with the Christian profession; . . . it contravened the express commands of Christ and the whole spirit of the Gospel.”100
So what was it that led early Christians away from fighting and killing? It was their religion, which was based firmly on the teachings of God’s Word the Bible!
For well over a hundred years Christianity maintained this position of nonparticipation in worldly wars. Professor Roland H. Bainton observed:
“From the end of the New Testament period to the decade A.D. 170-80 there is no evidence whatever of Christians in the army. . . . we have our first testimony of Christians in the army, in the so-called Thundering Legion under Marcus Aurelius in the year A.D. 173. From that day forward the evidence of Christians in the ranks increases.”101
By about 313 C.E. a great change had taken place. Explains one historian: “The Church was allied with the empire, and could no longer maintain her protest against war. Christians were increasingly to be found in the army.”102 By then the teachings of Jesus had been abandoned. Apostasy had set in.
Early Christians and Morality
Prior to this apostasy, Jesus’ followers patterned every aspect of their lives in harmony with Bible teachings. Moved by love for Christ and faith in his word, early Christians actually put away fornication, adultery, homosexuality, lying, stealing and every form of dishonesty. The historian John Lord says:
“The true triumphs of Christianity were seen in making good men of those who professed her doctrines . . . We have testimony to their blameless lives, to their irreproachable morals, to their good citizenship, and to their Christian graces.”103
In the first and second centuries Christianity did indeed lead to peace and morality. But what about today? Since the churches have abandoned Christ’s teachings, does this mean there is no religion that conforms to his teachings?
Jehovah’s Witnesses—Today’s True Christians?
Encyclopedia Canadiana observes: “The work of Jehovah’s Witnesses is the revival and re-establishment of the primitive Christianity practised by Jesus and his disciples during the first and second centuries of our era. . . . All are brothers.”104
Is this really true? When the nations became involved in World War II, did Jehovah’s witnesses obey Christ’s teachings to “love one another” and to remain “peaceable”?
In every country in which they lived Jehovah’s witnesses would not violate Christ’s teachings. “Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain a strict neutrality in time of war,” observed the Australian Encyclopædia. “This led to the banning of the organization in Australia in January 1941.”105 Similar bans were imposed in other countries. Even in the United States thousands of Witnesses were sent to prison because they refused to take up weapons of war. While Jehovah’s witnesses individually take this stand, they do not interfere with the affairs of the government under which they live. They do not tell others what they should or should not do in such matters of conscience. Each one must make his own decision.—Gal. 6:5.
In Germany, Hitler persecuted Jehovah’s witnesses, throwing them into concentration camps. A recent book, based extensively on unpublished Nuremberg documents, explains why:
“They refuse to use the German greeting [Hitler salute], to participate in any National Socialist or State functions and to do military service.”
“Basing their case on biblical commandment, they refused to take up arms even against the nation’s enemies. . . . it was no surprise when a special law was passed in August 1938 laying down that refusal or incitement to refuse to serve in the armed forces was to be punishable by death.”106
When World War II began, the Witnesses in German concentration camps were invited to volunteer for military service. A writer, who himself was in the Buchenwald camp during the war, reports:
“In Buchenwald this appeal to the Witnesses was made on September 6, 1939. First Officer-in-Charge Rödl told them: ‘You know that war has broken out and that the German nation is in danger. New laws are coming into force. If anyone of you refuses to fight against France or England, all of you must die!’ Two SS companies with full equipment were drawn up by the gatehouse. Not a single Jehovah’s Witness answered the officer’s appeal to fight for Germany.”107
Although the German officer did not on this occasion follow through on his threat, at other times such threats were carried out. In fact, thousands of Witnesses in Germany remained faithful to Christ’s teachings to the death, just as early Christians had. J. S. Conway notes this, and draws a sharp contrast between Jehovah’s witnesses and the churches:
“No less than a third of the whole following were to lose their lives as a result of their refusal to conform or compromise. In contrast to the compliance of the larger churches, the Jehovah’s Witnesses maintained their doctrinal opposition to the point of fanaticism. Such opposition was all too rare.”
“No other sect displayed anything like the same determination in face of the full force of Gestapo terrorism. Indeed, many of the smaller groups, aware of their impotence, attempted to purchase their independence by warm professions of support for the political aims of the new Germany.”108
Even church leaders have acknowledged that it is Jehovah’s witnesses who adhere to Christ’s teachings. Martin Niemoeller, a foremost Protestant leader in Germany before and after World War II, wrote:
“It may be as truthfully recalled that Christian Churches, throughout the ages, have always consented to bless war, troops and arms and that they prayed in a very un-Christian way for the annihilation of their enemy.
“All this is our fault and our fathers’ fault, but obviously not God’s fault. And to think that we Christians of today are ashamed of the so-called sect of the serious scholars of the Bible [Jehovah’s witnesses], who by the hundreds and thousands have gone into concentration camps and died because they refused to serve in war and declined to fire on human beings.”109
In addition to adhering to Christ’s teaching on love and being peaceable, Jehovah’s witnesses also are noted for their exemplary moral conduct. For example, an article in the South African publication Personality observed: “Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to be bursting with good qualities and to be almost free from the bad.”110 A Swedish church journal also commended them for their “high moral stature.”111 Truly, how unlike the churches where immorality is running rampant!
The reason for the fine moral conduct noted among Jehovah’s witnesses is their close adherence to Bible teachings. They do not condone or approve of any form of immorality, as the churches of today do. Instead, they cut off from their association anyone among them who persists in practicing wrongdoing, even as did the early Christian congregation.—1 Cor. 5:11-13.
Would you like to associate with persons who really do live by the teachings of God’s Word? That an organization of such persons would exist today the Bible foretold. It says that in “the final part of the days . . . many peoples will certainly go and say, ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’” Concerning these peoples, the prophecy goes on to say: “And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. . . . neither will they learn war anymore.”—Isa. 2:2-4.
Who are the peoples doing this today? Surely not the churches of Christendom, or even religions outside Christendom. It is Jehovah’s witnesses! They imitate the example of the early Christians. Their religion is based firmly on God’s Word the Bible, and it is indeed leading them to peace and morality. But world religion is not doing God’s will. It is not leading to peace and morality. What, then, will happen to her?
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Like the early Christians, Jehovah’s witnesses have in effect ‘beaten their swords into plowshares’