“They Are No Part of the World”
1. (a) What did Jesus pray on behalf of his disciples the night before he died? (b) Why was being “no part of the world” so important?
ON THE NIGHT before he was impaled, Jesus prayed earnestly on behalf of his disciples. Knowing that they would be put under tremendous pressure by Satan, he said to his Father: “I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:15, 16) Why is separateness from the world so important? Because Satan is its ruler. Those who are part of the world are under his control. (John 14:30; 1 John 5:19) In view of this, it is vital for every Christian to understand just what is meant by being “no part of the world.” How was it true of Jesus?
2. In what ways was Jesus “no part of the world”?
2 Jesus certainly did not isolate himself from other people. His being “no part of the world” did not mean lack of love for others. On the contrary, he went from city to city telling them the good news about the Kingdom of God. He healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, raised the dead, even gave his own life on behalf of mankind. But he did not love the ungodly attitudes and wicked deeds of people who were filled with the spirit of the world. He warned against immoral desires, a materialistic way of life and the selfish grasping for personal prominence. (Matt. 5:27, 28; 6:19-21; Luke 12:15-21; 20:46, 47) Instead of imitating the way of life of people alienated from God, Jesus walked in Jehovah’s ways. (John 8:28, 29) As for political controversies involving Rome and the Jews, Jesus, although a Jew, did not take sides.
“My Kingdom Is No Part of This World”
3. (a) What accusation regarding Jesus did Jewish religious leaders make to Pilate, and why? (b) What shows that Jesus had no interest in becoming a human king?
3 The religious leaders of the Jews, however, charged that Jesus was subverting the national interests. They had him arrested and taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. What really disturbed them was that Jesus’ teaching exposed their hypocrisy. But in order to get the governor to take action, they made the accusation: “This man we found subverting our nation and forbidding the paying of taxes to Caesar and saying he himself is Christ a king.” (Luke 23:2) The fact is that a year earlier when the people had wanted to make him king, Jesus had refused. (John 6:15) He knew that he was to be a heavenly King and that the time for him to become King had not yet arrived, and he was to be enthroned, not by democratic or popular action, but by Jehovah God.
4. What do the facts reveal about Jesus’ attitude on “the paying of taxes to Caesar”?
4 As for the paying of taxes, just three days before Jesus’ arrest the Pharisees had tried to get him to say something incriminating on this matter. But in reply to their sly question, Jesus had responded: “Show me a denarius [a Roman coin]. Whose image and inscription does it have?” When they said, “Caesar’s,” he replied: “By all means, then, pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.”—Luke 20:20-25.
5. (a) What lesson did Jesus teach his disciples at the time of his arrest? (b) How did Jesus explain to Pilate the reason for what he had done?
5 What happened at the very time of Jesus’ arrest demonstrated that he was not stirring up rebellion against Rome, and he did not want his disciples to do so. Roman soldiers together with Jews bearing swords and clubs came to seize Jesus. (John 18:3, 12; Mark 14:43) Seeing this, the apostle Peter drew a sword and struck one of the men, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus reproved Peter, saying: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matt. 26:51, 52) The following morning, when before Pilate, Jesus explained the reason for his action, saying: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.”—John 18:36.
6. What was the outcome of that trial?
6 After considering the evidence, Pilate declared that there was “no ground for the charges” brought against Jesus. Nevertheless, he bowed to the demands of the mob and had Jesus impaled.—Luke 23:13-15; John 19:12-16.
Disciples Follow the Master’s Lead
7. How did early Christians show that they avoided the spirit of the world but that they loved people?
7 The record of early Christianity, both in the Bible and in other historical works, shows that Jesus’ disciples understood what being “no part of the world” required of them. They endeavored to avoid the spirit of the world. Because they shunned the violent and immoral entertainment of the Roman circus and theater, they were derided as haters of the human race. However, far from hating their fellowmen, they expended themselves to help others to benefit from God’s loving provisions for salvation.
8. (a) Because of being “no part of the world,” what did those early disciples experience? (b) But how did they view the political rulers and the paying of taxes, and why?
8 As was their Master, they also were the objects of intense persecution, frequently at the hands of misinformed government officials. (John 15:18-20) But in about 56 C.E. the apostle Paul wrote to fellow Christians in Rome reinforcing the counsel that Jesus had given. Paul urged them to “be in subjection to the superior authorities,” the political rulers, “for there is no authority except by God.” Not that Jehovah establishes secular governments, but they rule with his permission. Paul explained that they “stand placed in their relative positions by God,” because God foresaw and foretold the order in which they would come to power. The “superior authorities” therefore constitute the “arrangement of God” for the present time, until God’s own Kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ becomes the only government ruling the earth. So Paul advised Christians to show proper honor to secular officials and to pay taxes that they imposed.—Rom. 13:1-7; Titus 3:1, 2.
9. (a) What is not to be left out of account when being subject to the “superior authorities”? (b) How does history show that early Christians carefully followed Jesus’ example?
9 Paul did not tell them, though, to be in absolute subjection with no regard for God, God’s Word and their Christian conscience. They knew that Jesus had worshiped only Jehovah, that Jesus had refused to let the people make him king and that he had told Peter to put away his sword. They conscientiously adhered to their Master’s lead. The book On the Road to Civilization—A World History (by Heckel and Sigman, pages 237, 238) reports: “Christians refused to share certain duties of Roman citizens. The Christians . . . felt it a violation of their faith to enter military service. They would not hold political office. They would not worship the emperor.”
10. (a) Why did Christians in Jerusalem take the action they did in 66 C.E.? (b) In what way does that provide a valuable pattern?
10 Regarding political and military controversies of their day, Jesus’ disciples maintained strict neutrality. In the year 66 C.E. the Jews of the Roman province of Judea revolted against Caesar. The Roman army quickly surrounded Jerusalem. What did Christians in the city do? They remembered Jesus’ counsel to stay neutral and to get out from between the warring armies. When the Roman army temporarily withdrew, the Christians seized the opportunity and fled across the Jordan River into the mountainous region of Pella. (Luke 21:20-24) In their neutrality they served as a faithful pattern for later Christians.
Christian Neutrals in the Time of the End
11. (a) In what work do Jehovah’s Witnesses keep busy, and why? (b) Regarding what are they neutral?
11 Does the historical record show that any group in this “time of the end,” since 1914 C.E., has pursued a course of Christian neutrality in imitation of those early Christians? Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses have done so. In all the earth they have kept busy preaching that God’s Kingdom is the only means by which peace, prosperity and lasting happiness are possible for lovers of righteousness in all the earth. (Matt. 24:14) But with regard to controversies among the nations, they have maintained strict neutrality.
12. (a) How does the neutrality of the Witnesses contrast with practices of the clergy? (b) What does neutrality as to politics include for Jehovah’s Witnesses?
12 In sharp contrast, the clergy of Christendom are very much involved in the political affairs of the world. In some lands they actively campaign for or against candidates. Some of the clergy themselves hold political office. Others exert great pressure on politicians to favor programs that the clergy approve. Elsewhere the “conservative” clergy are close allies of the men in power while “progressive” priests and ministers may be supporting guerrilla movements working for their overthrow. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not meddle in politics, no matter what the country in which they live. They do not interfere with what others do as to joining a political party, running for office or voting in elections. But, since Jesus said that his disciples would be “no part of the world,” Jehovah’s Witnesses take no part whatsoever in political activities.
13. As to their participating in war, what do the facts show that the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been?
13 As Jesus foretold, during this “time of the end” nations have repeatedly gone to war, and even factions within nations have taken up arms against one another. (Matt. 24:3, 6, 7) But in the face of all of this, what position have Jehovah’s Witnesses taken? Their neutrality regarding such conflicts is well known in all parts of the world. Consistent with the position taken by Jesus Christ and later demonstrated by his early disciples, The Watchtower, in its issue of November 1, 1939, stated: “All who are on the Lord’s side will be neutral as to warring nations, and will be entirely and wholly for the great Theocrat [Jehovah] and his King [Jesus Christ].” The facts show that Jehovah’s Witnesses in all nations and under all circumstances continue to hold to this position. They have not allowed the world’s divisive politics and wars to break up their international brotherhood as worshipers of Jehovah.—Isa. 2:3, 4; compare 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4.
14. (a) Because of their neutral position, what else have the Witnesses refused to do? (b) How do they explain the reason for this?
14 An examination of the historical facts shows that not only have Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to put on military uniforms and take up arms but, during the past half century and more, they have also declined to do noncombatant service or to accept other work assignments as a substitute for military service. Why? Because they have studied God’s requirements and then made a personal, conscientious decision. No one tells them what they must do. Nor do they interfere with what others choose to do. But when called on to explain their position, Jehovah’s Witnesses have made it known that, as persons who have presented themselves to God in dedication, they are obligated to use their bodies in his service and cannot now hand these over to earthly masters who are acting contrary to God’s purpose.—Rom. 6:12-14; 12:1, 2; Mic. 4:3.
15. (a) Because of maintaining separateness from the world, what have Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced? (b) Even when they were imprisoned, how have Christian principles guided them?
15 The result has been as Jesus said: “Because you are no part of the world . . . the world hates you.” (John 15:19) Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been imprisoned because they would not violate their Christian neutrality. Some have been treated brutally, even to the point of death. Others have continued to demonstrate their neutrality during years of confinement. The book Values and Violence in Auschwitz (by Anna Pawelczynska, page 89) reports: “Everyone knew that no Jehovah’s Witness [in the concentration camp] would perform a command contrary to his religious belief and convictions or any action directed against another person, even if that person was a murderer and an SS officer. On the other hand, he would perform every other job, even the most obnoxious, to the best of his ability, if it was morally neutral for him.”
16. (a) To what are all nations marching, and so what are Jehovah’s Witnesses careful to avoid? (b) Why, then, is separateness from the world such a serious matter?
16 Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize that all nations are on the march to the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Armageddon. As a united people, Jehovah’s servants have taken their stand in favor of His Messianic Kingdom. So they exercise care to avoid allowing themselves to be maneuvered into a position in opposition to that Kingdom. (Rev. 16:14, 16; 19:11-21) They appreciate the seriousness of Jesus’ statement that his true followers are “no part of the world.” They know that this old world will soon pass away, and only those who genuinely do the will of God will remain forever.—1 John 2:15-17.
● How did Jesus show what is involved in being “no part of the world”?
● What indicates the attitude of early Christians toward (1) the spirit of the world? (2) secular rulers and the paying of taxes? (3) military service?
● In what ways have Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times given evidence of their Christian neutrality?