Why It Should Be Discussed
“By iron, iron itself is sharpened. So one man sharpens the face of another.”—Proverbs 27:17, the Bible.
BLADES are not sharpened by being hit together. Sharpening is a more gentle process. Likewise, there are right and wrong ways to sharpen the mind through conversation, especially on sensitive topics such as religion.
To begin with, we must respect the dignity of the other person and demonstrate that respect in our words and manner. “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt,” says the Bible. (Colossians 4:6) Graciously spoken and seasoned speech is not dogmatic in tone, even when the speaker is convinced that he is correct and that the other person is in error.
Graciousness is also reflected in the way we listen. We cannot be listening graciously if we interrupt or if our mind is not tuned in because we are preparing our next argument. The one speaking will most likely sense our apparent lack of interest in his or her viewpoint and perhaps end the discussion. Also, we should never force or browbeat another into changing his views. After all, it is ‘God who makes the seed of truth grow’ in a responsive listener’s heart.—1 Corinthians 3:6.
We have the fine example of the apostle Paul, who employed “reason” and “persuasion” in his ministry. (Acts 17:17; 28:23, 24) Paul discussed religion with people wherever he found them, such as in the marketplace and at their homes. (Acts 17:2, 3; 20:20) Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to imitate that example by going wherever people may be found and reasoning with them from the Scriptures.
The nation of Israel had just settled into the Promised Land when a misunderstanding over an altar took them to the brink of civil war. The people settling to the east of the Jordan River built an altar, yet the other tribes mistakenly thought that it was an altar for false worship. Therefore, they prepared for military action to discipline their brothers. But prudence prevailed. The would-be aggressors first sent a delegation to inquire as to the reason for the altar. Much to their relief, they learned that it was simply a monument—“a witness”—to remind all the tribes of their unity before Jehovah God. Talk saved the day—and many lives!—Joshua 22:9-34.
Similarly, misunderstandings today often result in estrangement and even prejudice. For example, a few people have viewed Jehovah’s Witnesses as religious fanatics because of reports about their refusal to take blood transfusions. Yet those who have personally inquired of the Witnesses about this matter have often been pleasantly surprised to learn that there is a Biblical basis for their position and that there are safe, effective alternative treatments. (Leviticus 17:13, 14; Acts 15:28, 29) In fact, because of problems with the blood supply, one columnist wrote: “Thank God the Jehovah’s Witnesses are pioneering research in blood substitutes.”
Likewise, some have refused to speak with the Witnesses because they have been told that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in Jesus Christ. How far from the truth that is! The Witnesses, in fact, emphasize the role of Jesus in our salvation, explaining that he is God’s Son, whom God sent to earth to ransom humans from sin and death. By speaking with the Witnesses on this matter, people have had misunderstandings cleared up.—Matthew 16:16; 20:28; John 3:16; 14:28; 1 John 4:15.
Truth—Popular or Unpopular?
What is perhaps surprising to many is that when it comes to religion, the popular way is generally the wrong way. Jesus Christ himself taught: “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”—Matthew 7:13, 14.
In Noah’s day, only eight persons spoke spiritual truth—Noah, his wife, his three sons, and his sons’ wives. Their warning message and their work of building the ark no doubt made them objects of ridicule, even abuse. Yet Noah and his family were not intimidated; they continued preaching and building. (Genesis 6:13, 14; 7:21-24; 2 Peter 2:5) Similarly, only three persons obeyed God’s directions and survived the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.—Genesis 19:12-29; Luke 17:28-30.
What about our time? “Were Christ to return in the flesh today, people would probably kill him again,” said a householder to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This person felt that Jesus’ teachings and lofty moral standards would be as unpopular today as they were 2,000 years ago. Do you agree?
If so, you are correct, for Jesus warned his disciples: “You will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name”—a prediction that has proved true. (Matthew 24:9) Jewish leaders in Rome said to the apostle Paul concerning Christianity: “As regards this sect . . . , everywhere it is spoken against.” (Acts 28:22) The unpopularity of Christianity, however, did not stop Christ’s followers from sharing their beliefs with others. Nor did it stop honesthearted people from talking to the Christians.—Acts 13:43-49.
Today Jesus’ message is more important than ever. Why? Because world conditions indicate that we are now living in “the last days” of this system and that these days will culminate in a cleansing of wrongdoing from the earth. Jesus compared our time with the days of Noah. (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Matthew 24:37-39) So this is no time to take our beliefs for granted, for everlasting life will be given only to those who know God and who “worship [him] with spirit and truth.”—John 4:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.
How to Find the Right Path
Francis Bacon, a 17th-century English philosopher, essayist, jurist, and statesman, advised searchers for truth “to weigh and consider.” And an early U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson, said: “Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error. . . . They are the natural enemies of error.” So if we are genuinely searching for truth, we will “weigh and consider” and pursue “reason and free inquiry.”
Identifying why such an approach is vital, British scientist Sir Hermann Bondi noted: “Since at most one faith can be true, it follows that human beings are extremely liable to believe firmly and honestly in something untrue in the field of revealed religion. One would have expected this obvious fact to lead to some humility, to some thought that however deep one’s faith, one may conceivably be mistaken.”
How can a person, therefore, determine if he is indeed on the ‘cramped road leading off into life’? Jesus taught that God must be worshiped ‘with truth.’ So reason dictates that if two teachings are opposed to each other, both cannot be true. For example, either humans have a soul that survives death or they do not. Either God is going to intervene in human affairs or he is not. Either God is a Trinity or he is not. Truth seekers want factual answers to such important questions. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God has given us the answers in his Word, the Bible.*
Since “all Scripture is inspired of God,” the main way to test various teachings is to measure them against the Bible. (2 Timothy 3:16) In so doing, you “prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) Can you ‘prove to yourself’ that your beliefs are rooted in the Bible? Being able to do so is important because God does not want you to be misled along with “the entire inhabited earth.”—Revelation 12:9.
Are Teachers Necessary?
Jesus did not hand his disciples a few scrolls and say: “The answers to your questions are all in there. Go home and find them for yourselves.” Rather, he patiently and kindly taught them God’s word. In turn, those who accepted his teachings adopted his methods when they taught still others. Take the example of the disciple Philip. He spoke to an honesthearted Ethiopian official who had earlier become acquainted with the Scriptures from his contact with the Jews. But the man needed help. So Philip—a representative of the Christian congregation—was directed to help him. Had this official been unwilling to discuss religion, he would not have learned about Jesus’ role in God’s purpose. What a fine example this Ethiopian is to all who are searching for the truth!—Acts 8:26-39.
Are you willing to discuss your beliefs and ask questions as this Ethiopian did? You certainly have much to gain by doing so. Jehovah’s Witnesses are happy to discuss the Bible with people who sincerely want to know what it says. The Witnesses do not proffer their own personal opinions. Rather, they strive to show people what the Bible itself says.
The Ethiopian official learned some remarkable things about Jesus Christ, such as how he would be used by God in connection with our salvation. Today, the outworking of God’s purpose is much closer to its completion. Fear-inspiring, wonderful things are about to happen right here on earth. The following article will show that everyone on earth will be affected. Of course, how we will be affected will depend on our attitude and the action we take.
For evidence that the Bible is the Word of God, please see the book The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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An Ethiopian official welcomed a Bible discussion