Unity in New World Living a Reality
1, 2. How can it be seen that family life plays an important part in theocratic structure?
FAMILY life plays an important part in the theocratic structure of the Christian congregation. That is because Jehovah God has theocratically ordered the family arrangement just as he did in the beginning with Adam and later in the nation of Israel. While on the one hand it was true as regards the Israelites that they were Jews by birth and on the other it is true that Christians today are Jehovah’s witnesses by choice and association, still the family order prevails throughout the entire organization. As one leaves the old-world society and separates himself from the dying family that is under Adam’s condemnation he must of necessity, if he is to receive life, associate with the New World society and become a member of the family of God. This he does by accepting Jesus Christ as his father in the place of Adam and, if he is received by God, he is justified and made God’s own spiritual son or he is reserved for life everlasting on the earth and given this righteous standing at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ.
2 Even those in the congregation that are placed in responsible positions as overseers are selected according to the manner of their control over their own families if they are married. (1 Tim. 3:4, 5) And when Paul shows the proper attitude for those in such positions he likens it to the family association. “Do not severely criticize an older man. To the contrary, entreat him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all chasteness.” (1 Tim. 5:1, 2, NW) So it is that the theocratic organization is in reality a family and God requires those who share in the activity and benefits of the family to share also in its responsibilities and to work for the best interests of the family.
FALSE FAMILY PRIDE A SNARE
3. What attitude toward family ancestry is taken by some, and why is it unwise?
3 Some might conclude that since God did set in order the human family arrangement, such family relationship is inviolate and that absolute loyalty to fleshly ties is a requirement; that nothing should be allowed to disrupt or break up the family peace or unity and that anything that threatens it, no matter from what source it might come, should be resisted with whatever measures are necessary to repel it. As a result of this belief persons of this mind become extremely “family”- conscious and jealously guard the family name at any price, sometimes even violating righteous principles to do so. They frown upon any association or marriage with anyone not of equal “prominence” and thereby erect for themselves what amounts to class distinction, a self-imposed caste society. However, the reasoning that prompts such a course of action is not based on the sound and unchanging principles of the Most High. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Command certain ones not . . . to pay attention to false stories and to genealogies which end up in nothing, but which furnish questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith.” (1 Tim. 1:3, 4, NW) Anyone who is more interested in family ancestry than the life-giving message of faith should consider well this point. All family genealogies, if pursued far enough, end up in Adam; and what real or supposed “superiority” is there to be had in relationship with him? The only thing that can be of real value to receive as an inheritance, namely, everlasting life, was not his to give. So none of his descendants, however “prominent” they may have been in world affairs, are able to make any real claim of superiority in themselves or demonstrate any permanent advantages to be had through relationship to them.
4. What claim was made by the scribes and Pharisees, and yet what, in reality, did it mean for them?
4 Perhaps one of the outstanding examples of such family pride is to be found with the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day and, it might be reasoned, if anyone had justification for such pride they did because of the relationship of their nation to God through their forefather Abraham. However, it has already been demonstrated in the preceding article (¶12) that this relationship was not in itself any cause for boasting nor could the family association that the Jews had as descendants of Abraham assure them salvation. (John 8:31-36) If any wish to be children of Adam or of any of his offspring, and wish to boast of such fleshly ties, let them realize that beyond all question of contradiction they are thereby disclaiming a permanent legacy of eternal life in favor of a transient one of extreme poverty and death.
5. What is the responsibility of believing children toward unbelieving parents?
5 On the other hand the Christian may not go to the other extreme and claim no respect at all is due fleshly parents. Paul left no room for doubt on this point when he wrote to the Ephesians, “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous: ‘Honor your father and mother’; which is the first command with a promise: ‘That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.’” (Eph. 6:1-3, NW) It should not be overlooked on this point, however, that Paul does say that obedience is to be rendered to those parents “in union with the Lord”. Does this mean, then, that believing children are not responsible to unbelieving parents? No; in the normal matters of life they would certainly be required to obey their parents as long as they were dependent and to show proper respect for them even though they were not dependent. But, in the event that an issue arose over the true worship of God or the rendering of sacred service to him, certainly the Scriptural rule would apply, “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29, NW) But, you say, that might lead to dissension in the family and perhaps even lead to a division! Perhaps, but Jesus stated quite clearly, “He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:37, NW) In fact, he said even more pointedly in this matter, “I came to cause division, with a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a young wife against her mother-in-law.”—Matt. 10:35, NW.
6. Why does God allow divisions to occur within families?
6 Is it not strange, some might argue, that since God has authorized the family arrangement he would allow it to be broken up in this way? Again we answer, No. Remember, all families are now outcasts from God’s own great family because of Adam, but it is not reasonable to expect that all in a family would desire to remain outcasts. Yet if some wish to come into God’s family it would not be reasonable either to expect that all others would thereby be acceptable. So it means a separation. But it is to be noted that God does not indiscriminately divide family groups. Rather, it is the unwillingness of some in the home to meet the necessary requirements and to join with those who are taken along into harmony with Jehovah. (Luke 17:34, 35) Since God is no respecter of persons and since he recognizes no class distinctions and has erected no society of castes, he has made provision for those taken along to enter his own select family group and there find peace. “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” “And everyone that has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive many times more and will inherit everlasting life.” (Acts 10:34, 35; Matt. 19:29, NW) What conclusion do we draw from this point, then? We recognize that although God provided for family relationships from the beginning and although he established the family arrangement and even has his own great family organization, still he has not established nor has he authorized the setting up of families or nations as a caste society; nor does he hold himself subject to existing class distinctions simply because men have themselves erected them through their own discriminations. All of this emphasizes the importance of recognizing and fully appreciating relationship to God, that it supersedes all closest human ties and is the only way to salvation.
CLERGY PROVIDE CLASS DISTINCTIONS
7. What admonition did Jesus give his disciples as to position in the congregation?
7 What, then, of the position taken by the clergy of Christendom? Not only is the prominence that they have assumed in the congregation a violation of the righteous principles of God, but it was expressly forbidden by the Founder of the congregation, Christ Jesus himself. When a controversy arose among the disciples as to position in the Kingdom, “Jesus, calling them to him, said: ‘You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them and the great men wield authority over them. This is not the arrangement among you; but whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister.’” Then in his stinging rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees, which was his last public discourse, he gave stern admonition to his disciples and to all the crowds listening, “But you, do not you be called ‘Rabbi’, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Neither be called ‘leaders’, for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt. 20:25-28; Matt. 23:8, 10-12, NW) It was these leaders in the Jews’ religion at that time that had exalted themselves; so high indeed, that when the Son of God came to them in fulfillment of the Law of Moses they could not see or recognize him. They were a law to themselves.
8. What example have the clergy of Christendom followed, and what is God’s attitude thereto?
8 Following their example the clergy of Christendom have made their own regulations as to how the congregation is to be set up and what authority they are to exercise over their “brothers”. Completely ignoring the sound direction of Jesus that the first or foremost among them should be slaves, they have made the same mistake as their Jewish prototypes and have firmly established themselves in an extremely preferred position in society. The wisdom of the Proverbs speaks against such. “As a dog that returneth to his vomit, so is a fool that repeateth his folly. Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him. The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.” (Prov. 26:11, 12, 16, AS) The class distinction that has been made by Christendom’s leaders and that is condoned and upheld by the masses of deceived adherents is as distasteful to Jehovah God as was that of the scribes and Pharisees, and it is certain to bring the same adverse judgment.
9. What course was followed in the early congregation, and what evidence is there for it?
9 In direct contrast with this was the early congregation that Christ Jesus began with the first company of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses in Jerusalem. Certainly Christ’s words and commandments would be brought to mind by the refreshing power of God’s active force, just poured out. “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35, NW) That this principle did exist and was emphasized in the early congregation is shown by the admonition of one of the twelve pillars who was himself present with Jesus when the commandment was given. “Shepherd the flock of God in your care, not under compulsion, but willingly, neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly, neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:2, 3, NW) What a difference, indeed, this must have been to the honest-hearted Jews separating themselves from the arrogance and pride of the then caste-ridden Jewish nation! In their new-formed relationship there was no class distinction, no partiality or favoritism among them. The principles of justice and impartiality were firmly implanted in this early beginning, the true body of Christ, for now a new planting was being made, not on sinful dying flesh, but this time on the permanent Seed of Abraham, Christ Jesus.
JESUS’ FRIENDSHIPS NOT FAVORITISM
10. How did Jesus show his impartiality and lack of personal favoritism?
10 But had not Jesus shown special consideration to certain ones of his disciples? And had he not displayed favoritism in limiting his preaching and healing work to the Jews and spending much of his time in certain homes? Some believe that John, the apostle of Jesus, was Jesus’ favorite disciple. Whatever love Jesus may have had for him he did not give him a favored position in his kingdom. This is revealed in the account of the controversy among the disciples, which was previously referred to. At that time Jesus showed that such positions of favor were not his to give and he refused to show any partiality. (Matt. 20:20-23, NW) Furthermore, although he was specifically sent only to the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24), he did not use this as an excuse to discriminate against honest and sincere persons of the nations, for during the third year of his ministry he made a brief tour into Phoenicia, and performed cures.—Mark 7:24-30; Matt. 8:5-13.
11. What position did Jesus take as to making one home a headquarters in a city?
11 Jesus spent almost the entire first three years of his ministry in and about Galilee and made his headquarters in Capernaum at the home of Peter. (Matt. 8:14; Mark 1:29; Luke 4:38) So much was he here, in fact, that Capernaum, not Nazareth, where he was raised, came to be called his “own city”. (Matt. 9:1; 4:13) That this was a convenience not only to himself but to the multitudes who were interested in his message is evidenced by Mark’s words. “However, after some days he again entered into Capernaum and he was reported to be at home. Consequently many gathered.” (Mark 2:1, 2, NW) Jesus admonished this same course on the seventy disciples when he sent them out to do advance advertising in his public-speaking campaign. He said, “Wherever you enter into a house say first: ‘May this house have peace.’ And if a friend of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. . . . So stay in that house, eating and drinking the things they provide, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Do not be transferring from house to house.” (Luke 10:5-7, NW) This would prevent misunderstandings from arising and was not an evidence of favoritism.
12. How is it possible for close associations to exist today without forming cliques?
12 In the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses today many close relationships exist that are apart from association together as brothers in Christ or as fellow witnesses. Are such to be condemned as cliques or as a violation of the principles that have been outlined in this discussion? Those who have the unity of the congregation at heart will be slow to make accusation in this regard as in any other matter relative to judging. They will recognize that long-time friendships are certain to exist among those who have been mature Christians together for many years, no doubt having had many endearing theocratic experiences together. Further, many who are neighbors or who are employed together are naturally drawn into an association of everyday affairs in addition to their association at the Kingdom Hall or in the service. The same situation may exist, though perhaps to a lesser degree, even among those who attend the same congregational book study, especially since they might reasonably travel to and from the Kingdom Hall together and since they, no doubt, form regular car groups in the service. Such associations bind the brothers together and such intimate relation enables them to understand one another better and therefore be of more loving assistance to one another. (Eccl. 4:9, 10) Is it not reasonable, then, that although a sincere love exists in their hearts for the rest of the congregation they still feel especially drawn to these intimate associates?
MODERN CONGREGATION CASTE-FREE
13. What care is exercised particularly by the servants to avoid excluding the stranger?
13 How might it be, then, that divisions could occur and distinctions be made among God’s consecrated and dedicated people today? What are some of those practices or conditions that might be considered as improper or showing partiality, and how should they be dealt with? Certainly it would be improper for the servants in the congregation to assume positions as the false shepherds. While they might of necessity be drawn into a closer relationship with certain ones in the organization due to their work, still they will never lose sight of their responsibility toward the weaker ones and the opportunity to be of assistance to them by their association especially in the field. And those who are truly mature, both of the servants and others, even though their very maturity makes for a full schedule, will show their interest in the expansion of the organization by taking as active an interest in those new ones attending meetings as is possible. Many times this can be done by merely sitting with different ones in the meeting and assisting them in this way, or by a few minutes’ greeting after each meeting before the usual assigned duties are cared for. This friendly interest by those taking the lead in organizational activity is very much appreciated by these newcomers and is a loving expression of the principle in the law of Moses regarding the stranger’s right.—Lev. 19:33, 34.
14. What problems of class distinction and division might arise and how could they be dealt with?
14 Neither will “acts of favoritism” be shown toward some who may have a certain social prominence in the community. It must not be overlooked that the problems of such entering the truth are no greater to them than those being experienced by many others whose presence in the organization means just as much to Jehovah and whose need for the loving attention of the brothers is just as acute. Therefore “class distinctions” cannot be allowed to exist. (Jas. 2:1-9) Neither can “divisions” be permitted to enter if the unity of the congregation is to be maintained. (1 Cor. 1:10-13) Dissension over company matters may cause groups to form holding a closer relationship to certain ideas than to the main body of the congregation. This is sectarianism and has no place in the theocratic structure. Occasionally, too, some who are of a certain age in the company may, by constant association together, become somewhat intolerant of the viewpoint of those differing considerably in age and perhaps even begin to exclude such from their friendship. This again can be avoided by sharing field experiences or by trying to find occasion to work together in the service. James sums up the matter by saying, “For where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are. But the wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.”—Jas. 3:16, 17, NW.
15. What attitude and relationship should exist between employer and employee?
15 Now the question might arise as to the proper relationship between an employee and his employer, especially if that one is a brother in the truth. Should the employee expect or demand that his brother grant him certain rights or immunities not given to other workers while he is on the job? Or should the employer expect that the employer-employee relationship should be maintained at congregational meetings? The Scriptural answer is, Neither is proper. “Let as many as are slaves under a yoke keep on considering their owners worthy of full honor, that the name of God and the teaching may never be spoken of injuriously. Moreover, let those having believing owners not look down on them, because they are brothers. On the contrary, let them the more readily be slaves, because those receiving the benefit of their good service are believers and beloved.” (1 Tim. 6:1, 2, NW) Paul’s counsel here given is not contradicted by his words spoken on another occasion when he said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28, NW) Rather, he was here showing the proper relationship one with another.
16. What attitude do true Christians take toward class distinctions enforced by law of the nations?
16 Whereas in the sight of God, and according to his dealing with his anointed sons, all have an equality of relationship in the body of Christ, still in the present wicked system of things it is recognized that certain class distinctions and divisions are made and often enforced by laws of the land. Acceptance of such legal standards does not mean a compromise with God’s law on the part of the Christian. Rather he is heeding Paul’s further admonition: “You slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters in a fleshly sense, with fear and trembling in the sincerity of your hearts, as to the Christ, not by way of eye-service as men-pleasers, but as Christ’s slaves, doing the will of God whole-souled. Be slaves with good inclinations, as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that each one, whatever good he may do, will receive this back from Jehovah, whether he be slave or freeman. You masters, too, keep doing the same things to them, letting up on the threatening, for you know that the Master of both them and you is in the heavens, and there is no partiality with him.”—Eph. 6:5-9, NW.
17. What issue for contention will Jehovah’s witnesses reject and what will they continue to uphold?
17 So, regardless of what restrictions of activity or discrimination may be exacted by worldly governments, Jehovah’s witnesses will not make this the issue for contention, knowing that the righting of social wrongs is not their commission. But while they wait upon Jehovah for this deliverance they will continue to hold high God’s banner of freedom in a new world soon to be ushered in and will continue to insist that within the nucleus of this society already being formed an example be set for all sincere peoples of the world. “Now I exhort you, brothers, to keep your eye on those who create divisions and causes for stumbling contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and avoid them. For men of that kind are slaves, not of our Lord Christ, but of their own bellies, and by smooth talk and complimentary speech they seduce the hearts of guileless ones. For his part, the God who gives peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” (Rom. 16:17, 18, 20, NW) Only then will true justice and impartiality and the unity which is now a reality within the family of God exist throughout the earth.