Questions From Readers
● Is it permissible for one of Jehovah’s ministers to perform marriages where one is in the truth and the other is not? Where one or both are not Scripturally free to remarry? Where one is in the truth but the other has become of the “evil slave” class?—M. L., Ohio.
If one in the truth wishes to marry someone who is not, it is his responsibility and his decision to make. This act in itself does not render the one in the truth unclean and subject to disfellowshiping. It does not make the organization unclean nor require the purging out of such an individual. It is unwise, and it is contrary to the advice given to Christians, and such a person who goes contrary to this advice may bring considerable troubles and difficulties upon himself; but if he chooses to disregard the divine counsel it is his personal choice and others need not interfere. The one asked to perform the marriage may have considered 1 Corinthians 7:39 (NW) which says, “She is free to be married to whom she wants, only in the Lord”; so he can refuse. The other person’s marriage performer could officiate at the ceremony.
However, if one of those being married or both of them were not Scripturally free to do so, then the witness of Jehovah must refuse to officiate at the ceremony. He would not perform a marriage that was specifically forbidden by God and which marriage would make the married ones unclean and adulterous and subject to disfellowshiping by the congregation in order to keep the organization of the Lord clean. (Matt. 19:9; Mark 10:11, 12; 1 Cor. 5:5-11) The minister of Jehovah would not want to implicate himself in such a matter. Neither would he perform a marriage between one of Jehovah’s witnesses and one of the “evil slave” or “man of lawlessness” class. (Matt. 24:48; 2 Thess. 2:3, NW) Such ones are the same as disfellowshiped ones, and such a marriage would not be at all proper in God’s sight.
But what is here said must not be taken to mean that the minister asked to perform the marriage ceremony must conduct an investigation to pass upon the propriety of the marriage. If in one way or another the knowledge comes to his attention that those asking him to marry them are not Scripturally free to do so and would thereby bring a disfellowshiping action upon themselves if they went ahead with the ceremony, then the minister would properly refuse to involve himself. But he is not obligated to launch an investigation of his own, and he should not do so. He will ask those coming to him for such service whether they are Scripturally free to be married. If the couple being married are deceptive about their status, they are responsible to the Lord.
● The Watchtower Society says to take the children to meetings. But what if they are too small to understand? Or what if those old enough do not want to go?—D. C., New York.
The Society says that children should be taken to the congregational meetings because the Bible says so. Deuteronomy 31:11-13 (AT) states: ‘When all Israel comes to visit the LORD your God at the sanctuary which he chooses, you must read this code in the hearing of all Israel, assembling the people, men, women, and children, and any aliens in your employ that are in your community, that they may hear it, and learn to stand in awe of the LORD your God, and be careful to observe all the provisions of this code; and that their children who do not know it may hear it, and learn to stand in awe of the LORD your God.” And if the young children do not understand, the parents can explain matters to them later.
That was the case in Israel, when religious procedures were not understood by children: “When your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the passover-sacrifice to the LORD, who passed by the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when he struck down the Egyptians, but spared our houses.’” (Ex. 12:26, 27, AT) Again, we read, relative to the law concerning the first-born: “If in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you must say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of a state of slavery; and when Pharaoh put obstacles in the way of letting us go, the LORD slew every first-born in the land of Egypt, the first-born of both man and beast; that is why I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but every first-born of my sons I redeem.’” (Ex. 13:14-16, AT) Israelite children did not understand everything they saw and heard relative to the Law, so they asked questions, which the parents answered, and the result was instruction that might never have been properly emphasized if the children had not been present to observe and listen. So today when small children attend congregational meetings they see and hear things they do not understand, and may make inquiry of their parents later, and thus get instruction.
What about older children who do not want to attend meetings? If you let children, whether very young or in their teens, balk at attending theocratic meetings on the grounds that they do not want to go, then do you let them balk at going to secular public schools when they are very young or in their teens, just because they do not like school? You make them go, do you not, regardless of what they personally prefer? Why do you make them? Because you think public school education more valuable to them than theocratic education? (Prov. 8:10, 11) Or do you insist on their going because the law of the land requires it, and you fear to disobey the secular law? Well, does not God’s law require you to train your children in all the provided theocratic ways? and is not disobedience to his law a more fearsome thing than disobedience to the state? When it comes to a choice between obeying God or the state, do we not obey God as the all-important one?—Acts 4:19; 5:29.
Some parents in the truth make the mistake of adopting a worldly viewpoint on meeting attendance. If the child does not wish to go to the Kingdom Hall the parent may excuse it on the grounds that it is small, or gets nothing out of the meeting if forced to go, or creates a disturbance. The Bible does not allow exceptions on these grounds. If parents with small children sit toward the rear of the hall, the children can be removed until quieted if they cry. If the parents sit with their children and look after them, juvenile disturbances can be checked at the outset. Some parents argue that they do not make their children attend because they do not wish to force them into the truth; they believe in waiting until the child is old enough to take its own stand. When the child reaches an age of responsibility it will take its own stand, but why not give it a good start during its formative years, a start along the right path that leads to life, instead of letting it alone for it to become a prey to childish folly and Satan? Protect the child from itself and others.—Prov. 22:6, 15.
As long as children are under the parental roof and under parental responsibility they should obey the family head. Children must learn that they cannot always have their way, that they have a head over them, just as the wife does, the man does, the church does, and Christ does. (1 Cor. 11:3) Jehovah God is the only one in the universe that has no head over him. If Jehovah’s children in the universal theocratic family do not obey him they are ousted from his household and no longer viewed as sons and daughters, but considered illegitimates. (Heb. 12:4-11, NW) If the head of the human family, the man, is in the truth but does not have his children in subjection—which would certainly include subjection in the most important matter of Jehovah’s worship—then he is not to be used as a servant in the congregation. If he could not preside over his own family, how could he preside theocratically over a congregation? (1 Tim. 3:4, 5, 12; Titus 1:6) So children should be subject to parents, and that includes subjection to the parental requirement that they attend meetings.
So shun the easy and lax worldly view that children may drift until grown and then choose their own religion. Widespread juvenile delinquency does not recommend the world’s standards on child training, nor does its religious delinquency speak well for its methods in that field. Its standards on child training do not nullify God’s, no more so than do its lowered moral standards erase the high moral requirements of God’s Word. We are measured by Bible standards, not those of the world. The Bible is our guide, not the world. We are noticed as different from the world because we follow higher standards. So we should not reason in worldly ways with a worldly mind, but get God’s mind on these matters and make his thoughts our thoughts. (Isa. 55:8, 9) In worldly families the children may boss the parents; in theocratic families they do not do so. Since when is the child the head of the house, to tell the parent what the child will do or will not do? In Israel stubborn children could be stoned. (Deut. 21:18-21) Joshua did not allow each one in his household to choose his own religion, whether to serve Jehovah or some false god. Joshua decided not only for himself but for his entire family, shouldering the family responsibility and choosing wisely for the preservation of all under his headship. (Josh. 24:15) Perhaps some parents need to reconsider their program of training their children, in view of the clearer understanding concerning family merit and family responsibility.