“They Are No Part of the World”
1. (a) Before his death, what did Jesus pray in behalf of his disciples? (b) Why is being “no part of the world” so important?
ON THE night before he was killed, Jesus prayed in behalf of his disciples. Knowing that they would be put under tremendous pressure by Satan, Jesus 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 this world’s ruler. Christians would not want to become part of a world that is under his control.—Luke 4:5-8; John 14:30; 1 John 5:19.
2. In what ways was Jesus no part of the world?
2 Being no part of the world did not mean that Jesus lacked love for others. On the contrary, he healed the sick, raised the dead, and taught people about God’s Kingdom. He even gave his life for mankind. But he did not love the ungodly attitudes and actions of those who manifested the spirit of Satan’s world. Thus, he warned against such things as immoral desires, a materialistic way of life, and grasping for prominence. (Matthew 5:27, 28; 6:19-21; Luke 20:46, 47) Not surprisingly, then, Jesus also avoided the world’s politics. Although he was a Jew, he did not take sides in the political controversies between Rome and the Jews.
“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 Consider what occurred when the Jewish religious leaders had Jesus arrested and taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. In reality, those leaders were disturbed because Jesus had exposed their hypocrisy. To get the governor to take action against Jesus, they accused him by saying: “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) Clearly, this was a lie because a year earlier when the people wanted to make Jesus king, he refused. (John 6:15) He knew that he was to be a heavenly King in the future. (Luke 19:11, 12) Also, he was to be enthroned, not by humans, but by Jehovah.
4. What was Jesus’ attitude toward the paying of taxes?
4 Just three days before Jesus’ arrest, the Pharisees tried to get Jesus to say something incriminating on the matter of paying taxes. But he said: “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 the reason for what he had done? (c) What was the outcome of that trial?
5 No, Jesus did not teach rebellion against secular authorities. When soldiers and other men came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew a sword and struck one of the men, cutting off an ear. But Jesus said: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:51, 52) The next day Jesus explained his actions to Pilate, 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.” (John 18:36) Pilate admitted that there was “no ground for the charges” against Jesus. But bowing to pressure from the mob, Pilate had Jesus impaled.—Luke 23:13-15; John 19:12-16.
Disciples Follow Jesus’ Lead
6. How did the early Christians show that they avoided the spirit of the world but loved people?
6 The disciples of Jesus thus understood what being no part of the world required. It meant avoiding the ungodly spirit and actions of the world, which included the violent and immoral entertainment of the Roman circus and theater. For that, the disciples were called haters of mankind. But far from hating their fellowmen, they worked hard to help others benefit from God’s provisions for salvation.
7. (a) Because of being no part of the world, what did the early disciples experience? (b) How did they view the political rulers and the paying of taxes, and why?
7 The followers of Jesus were persecuted as he had been, often by misinformed government officials. Yet, about 56 C.E., the apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Rome, urging them to “be in subjection to the superior authorities [political rulers], for there is no authority except by God.” Not that Jehovah establishes secular governments, but he allows them to exist until his Kingdom alone rules all the earth. Appropriately, Paul advised Christians to respect secular officials and to pay taxes.—Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1, 2.
8. (a) To what extent are Christians to be in subjection to the superior authorities? (b) How did the early Christians follow Jesus’ example?
8 However, subjection to political rulers is to be relative, not unlimited. When there is a conflict between Jehovah’s laws and man’s laws, those who serve Jehovah are to obey His laws. Notice what the book On the Road to Civilization—A World History says of the early Christians: “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.” When the Jewish high court “positively ordered” the disciples to stop preaching, they answered: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:27-29.
9. (a) Why did Christians in Jerusalem take the action they did in 66 C.E.? (b) In what way is that a valuable pattern?
9 Regarding political and military controversies, the disciples maintained strict neutrality. In 66 C.E., the Jews in Judea revolted against Caesar. The Roman army quickly surrounded Jerusalem. What did Christians in the city do? They remembered Jesus’ counsel to get out of the city. When the Romans temporarily withdrew, the Christians fled across the Jordan River into the mountainous region of Pella. (Luke 21:20-24) Their neutrality serves as a pattern for faithful Christians later.
Christian Neutrals in These Last Days
10. (a) In what work do Jehovah’s Witnesses keep busy, and why? (b) Regarding what are they neutral?
10 Does the historical record show that any group in these last days has pursued strict neutrality in imitation of the early Christians? Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses have done so. All during this time period, they have kept preaching that God’s Kingdom is the only means to bring lasting peace, prosperity, and happiness to lovers of righteousness. (Matthew 24:14) But with regard to controversies among the nations, they have maintained strict neutrality.
11. (a) How does the neutrality of the Witnesses contrast with the practices of the clergy? (b) What view do Jehovah’s Witnesses take regarding what others do about politics?
11 In sharp contrast, the clergy of this world’s religions have been very involved in political affairs. In some lands, they have actively campaigned for or against candidates. Some of the clergy even hold political office. Others have pressured politicians to favor programs that the clergy approve. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not meddle in politics. Nor do they interfere with what others do as to joining a political party, running for political office, or voting in elections. Jesus said that his disciples would be no part of the world, so Jehovah’s Witnesses take no part in politics.
12. What has resulted because the religions of this world are not neutral?
12 As Jesus foretold, nations have repeatedly gone to war. Even factions within nations have fought one another. (Matthew 24:3, 6, 7) The religious leaders have almost always supported one nation or faction against another, urging their followers to do the same. The result? Members of the same religion kill one another in battle just because of differences in nationality or tribe. This is contrary to God’s will.—1 John 3:10-12; 4:8, 20.
13. What do the facts show about the neutrality of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
13 However, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been strictly neutral in all conflicts. The Watchtower of November 1, 1939, stated: “All who are on the Lord’s side will be neutral as to warring nations.” Jehovah’s Witnesses in all nations and under all circumstances continue to hold to this position. They do not allow the world’s divisive politics and wars to break up their international brotherhood. They “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears.” Being neutral, they do not learn war anymore.—Isaiah 2:3, 4; 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4.
14. Because of maintaining separateness from the world, what have Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced?
14 What is one result of their neutrality? 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 of being God’s servants. Some have been tortured, even killed, similar to what happened to first-century Christians. This is because Satan, “the god of this system of things,” opposes Jehovah’s servants, who are no part of it.—2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:12.
15. (a) To what are all nations marching, and what are Jehovah’s Witnesses careful to avoid? (b) Why is separateness from the world such a serious matter?
15 Jehovah’s servants are happy that they are no part of the world, for all of its nations are marching to their end at Armageddon. (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:11-21) We will avoid that fate because we stand apart from the world. As a united people earth wide, we are loyal to God’s heavenly Kingdom. True, by being no part of the world, we are exposed to its ridicule and persecution. Very soon, though, that will stop, since this present evil world under Satan will be destroyed forever. On the other hand, those who serve Jehovah will live forever in his righteous new world under God’s Kingdom.—2 Peter 3:10-13; 1 John 2:15-17.
• How did Jesus show what is involved in being “no part of the world”?
• What was the attitude of the early Christians toward (a) the spirit of the world, (b) secular rulers, and (c) the paying of taxes?
• In what ways have Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times given evidence of their Christian neutrality?
[Picture on page 165]
Jesus explained that he and his followers were “no part of the world”