Theocratic Tact in Divided Households
“Do you imagine I came to give peace on the earth? No, indeed, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on there will be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Indeed, a man’s enemies will be persons of his own household.”—Luke 12:51-53; Matt. 10:36, NW.
1. When is theocratic conduct in the family circle more difficult?
WHEN all members of the family are dedicated to Jehovah theocratic conduct is possible. The family recognizes the man’s headship and parental authority, and both are exercised in love. The family studies together, attends meetings together, serves in the field together, and shares household duties. But what if not all family members are witnesses of Jehovah accepting his principles?
2. If the wife is not in the truth and the husband is, what is his responsibility toward her, and what counsel by Jesus can he apply?
2 What if the husband is one of Jehovah’s witnesses but the wife is not? It does not alter the husband’s responsibility as head of the house. He must provide food, clothing and shelter. More than that, he still has the husbandly role to love his wife, be a companion to her, see that she has some recreation, and when it is opportune he will try to help her see the truth. When Jesus sent out his apostles to preach he told them not to try to force the message on any household, but to leave off speaking when the truth was rejected. Moreover, they were to be “cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16, NW) This counsel also applies in the home. The truth is to be forced on no one. When it is timely present it tactfully. It is not a club with which to belabor your mate. It is not something to be driven in by sheer force and persistent pounding. Rather than using such bludgeoning methods, follow up tactfully sowing of truth by the wordless preaching by example, letting your Christian conduct speak in recommendation of the truth.
3-5. What is written at 1 Peter 3:1-5, and what is its application?
3 This wordless preaching by example is specifically recommended to wives whose husbands are not in the truth: “In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect. And do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments, but let it be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God. For so, too, formerly the holy women who were hoping in God used to adorn themselves, subjecting themselves to their own husbands.”—1 Pet. 3:1-5, NW.
4 Even if the husband is not in the truth, is “not obedient to the word,” the wife devoted to Jehovah must still be subject to her husband. When the above scripture speaks of winning over the unbelieving husband without a word, and of the wife not braiding her hair or putting on ornaments or wearing outer garments, it does not mean that she will never speak the truth, that she will never comb or fix her hair attractively, that she will never use jewelry, and certainly it does not mean she will never wear outer garments. Rather, by this forceful expression it is showing where chief emphasis belongs, that the most important ornamentation is a quiet and mild spirit, a chaste course of conduct, a deep respect for her husband. More important than the outward appearance of her person is “the secret person of the heart,” what she is inside, inwardly, in the heart. What kind of person dwells there, what motives are there, what disposition or spirit is there? This secret person of the heart manifests itself by her conduct, and if it is good it will clothe her with chaste deeds and respectful bearing. (Rom. 7:22; 2 Cor. 4:16; 1 Tim. 2:9, 10, NW) Holy women of ancient times so adorned themselves, but they also used jewelry and fine garments, and on occasion Jehovah referred to his people under the symbol of a woman and he himself adorned such woman with rich apparel and costly jewelry. (Gen. 24:22, 53; Ex. 3:22; 35:22; Esther 5:1; Isa. 61:10; Ezek. 16:10-14) So we should not try to confine the meaning of this text in a strait jacket of literalness, but recognize that it is showing forcefully where primary emphasis belongs.
5 So the wife devoted to Jehovah will show the good effect of the truth upon her by her Christian conduct, and that may win over the unbelieving husband without any words, or have more effect than words. Sometimes husbands are lost because of words, too many words. She will, of course, explain the truth as she has opportunity and show why she attends meetings and goes out in the service, but never pressing matters too hard or becoming tactless. She will be specially careful to perform her wifely duties, keep the home clean, prepare good meals, look after her children and devote some time to her husband as a companion. She will fit her witnessing work into her schedule when it least conflicts with her wifely obligations.
6. If your marriage partner is not in the truth, is it grounds for separation? or when could you separate, with what limitations?
6 Your marriage mate’s not being in the truth is not grounds for separation: “If any brother has an unbelieving wife, and yet she is agreeable to dwelling with him, let him not leave her; and a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and yet he is agreeable to dwelling with her, let her not leave her husband.” Your unbelieving mate may eventually accept the truth because of observing your good conduct or hearing your tactful testimony: “Wife, how do you know but that you will save your husband? Or, husband, how do you know but that you will save your wife?” But if the unbelieving one wishes to separate, the believer need not try to prevent it, but may “let him depart.” Sometimes the unbeliever makes conditions intolerable, yet remains with the believer. It may become so difficult that the believer decides to separate, being unable to continue. The husband may use extreme physical violence on his wife or may fail to provide material support, or the wife may oppose the husband’s theocratic service or otherwise put in jeopardy his spiritual welfare, endangering his prospects of eternal life. If the believer decides this is the case with his marriage he may separate, but since adultery or death is the only way a marriage is canceled in Jehovah’s sight the believer is not free to remarry, even if a legal divorce is obtained: “If she should actually depart, let her remain single or else make up again with her husband; and a husband should not leave his wife,” without being under similar restrictions.—1 Cor. 7:12, 13, 16, 15, 11; Matt. 19:9; Mark 10:11, 12; Rom. 7:2, 3, NW.
7. What will parents do whose children are not in the truth?
7 Frequently the division in a household is between parents and children. If the parents are dedicated servants of Jehovah but their children are not, the parents will endeavor to teach their children, using patience and tact. They must present the truth in a way that their children can grasp it, and also bring their children to the congregational meetings with them. Though in many modern families it has been reversed, parents are still obligated to have their children in subjection and under control, and if a family head cannot do this he is considered unfit to be a special servant in the Christian congregation. Just as servants in the congregation perform their duties lovingly and tactfully, so the parents must exercise their parental authority with a firmness that is tempered by love and tact. If only one parent is in the truth, then that one must instruct the children to the extent possible, and thereby hope to save the children.—1 Tim. 3:4, 5; 1 Cor. 7:14.
8. What course will children take when their parents are not in the truth?
8 The situation is more delicate when the children accept the truth but the parents do not. The children are still under the control of their parents and must submit to it, as Jesus did. Yet at the same time they must keep Jehovah’s service in mind, as Jesus did when he was a child. Children will certainly try to explain the truth to their parents and show the obligation they feel to study and serve, and, even more important, they will try to show by their improved conduct and co-operation the change for the better that the truth has made in them. Maybe they can thereby win over their parents. It has happened before. Perhaps their parents will allow the children to bring adult witnesses mature in the truth to the home to present a more thorough witness concerning the New World hope.—Luke 2:48, 49, 51.
9. The heeding of what counsel is especially important in divided households?
9 It is especially important to keep a tactful tongue in our head when living in a divided household. Divine counsel is, “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.” If this applies to outsiders, it certainly does to those inside the family circle. “Return evil for evil to no one,” including evil speech. To answer back in an angry rebuttal may not be to the personal interest of an unbelieving member of the family, but the one loving Jehovah will be “doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” Refuse to become provoked or loud, and realize it is better to take abuse than to give it: “Let the sun not set with you in a provoked state. Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers. Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all injuriousness.”—Col. 4:6; Rom. 12:17; Phil. 2:3, 4; Eph. 4:26, 29, 31, NW.
10. Where must compromise and concession end, and why not feel unduly depressed if all our efforts to win over family members fail?
10 The believers in a divided household should make many concessions to preserve peace and perhaps win over the unbelievers, but there is a point where compromise must end, and that is when integrity to Jehovah is put in jeopardy. Study, meeting attendance and service may be curtailed, but they must never cease. We may yield on many points, but to yield integrity is to yield everything, including life itself. When it comes to a showdown, even with family members, “we must obey God as ruler rather than men.” The showdown will constitute a sore trial. Peter wrote: “Beloved ones, do not be puzzled at the burning among you which is happening to you for a trial, as though a strange thing were befalling you.” Surely it is a fiery trial when we must endure the abuse of loved ones, when our foes are within our very family circles; but we should not think it strange. Did not Jesus himself warn: “Do you imagine that I came to give peace on the earth? No, indeed, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on there will be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Indeed, a man’s enemies will be persons of his own household.” So if all our efforts to win over unbelievers in our household fail we should not let ourselves be depressed or downhearted about it. It is in fulfillment of Jesus’ words. And just as the Bible says a leopard cannot change its spots, we need not expect to change a goat into a sheep nor should a sheep act like a goat; keep being a sheep.—Acts 5:29; 1 Pet. 4:12; Luke 12:51-53; Matt. 10:36, NW.
EXEMPLARY INTEGRITY ON THE HOME FRONT
11. How did one young girl meet family opposition, with what outcome?
11 Listen to just a couple of the thousands of cases of one’s enemies being in one’s household. A young girl sixteen years old was called on at her home; then there were some back-calls on her, finally a Bible study with her. Family opposition increased, and finally the father and mother put it up to her either to give up her new religion or to leave home. She refused to drop the truth, and they drove her from the house without giving her even time to get her clothes. When she went to live with other witnesses the father and mother became even more enraged, went to the juvenile court judge and charged her with criminal delinquency. At her trial her parents testified against her, charged her and the organization with many false accusations. The odds looked in favor of the parents, but Jehovah gave the victory and freed the girl from the custody of her parents. Today she is married to a witness and is raising children to be witnesses also. But that is not all. The cruel and inhuman procedure taken by the parents swept her brother to her side as one of Jehovah’s witnesses. He was driven from home and put in an orphanage. When he became old enough to gain his freedom he left, took up witnessing, became a full-time worker and now is serving full time at Brooklyn Bethel.
12, 13. What test confronted a young man, how did he meet it, and what finally resulted?
12 Consider the trial of faith of a young man when he was just learning the truth. His entire family opposed him. As he read the literature and talked the truth, his father, mother, brother and sister all said he was going crazy. He finally had to quit talking the truth to them to avoid continual battles. After he attended his first meeting at the local Kingdom Hall his father made one last desperate effort to break the man’s association with the truth. There was a family discussion over the demand that he give up the truth, this hated and despised new religion. He stood alone against the family, and in the presence of his father and mother refused to quit reading the truth and associating with Jehovah’s witnesses. When he said this his father, who was a state police officer, whipped out his .45 automatic pistol, pushed it between the eyes of the young man, and yelled, “You either give up this blank-blank religion or I’ll blow your brains out!” Putting his trust in Jehovah, the son said, “No, I’m not quitting and if you’ve got the nerve to pull the trigger go ahead and pull it!” The father lacked the nerve, slammed the gun back in its holster, and ran cursing from the room.
13 The young man was later baptized, became a publisher, then a servant in the local congregation, and is now at Bethel. But the tests were not over. When he entered full-time service his wife quit him and sued for divorce because he chose to serve Jehovah with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. Job of ancient times is not the only one that had a wife tell him to curse God and die, and he is not the only one to refuse and say he would keep his integrity till he died! (Job 2:9; 27:5) In the meantime the mother was impressed by her son’s course, and when the father divorced her and left her without support she took her stand for Jehovah, went into the pioneer work and died faithful in the service. The son is still serving at Bethel.
14, 15. In what spectacular maintenance of integrity do we glory? yet what other fight for the faith must we never forget?
14 We often hear of the trials of faithful witnesses behind the iron curtain, in labor camps, in concentration camps, suffering cold and hunger and torture, facing firing squads. We shudder at their trials, marvel at their integrity, rejoice in their stanch stand and unflinching zeal through it all. We glory in the striking contribution they make to Jehovah’s vindication and pray for their continued courage in the face of mounting tortures and deaths inflicted on them. Let us remember also others behind the iron curtain or under dictatorial governments who, besides the risk of suffering such things, are being sorely tried in other ways. What of those whose home is a divided front with a constant clash of wills, with a war of nerves and a battle of attrition ceaselessly raging, and in danger of being exposed or betrayed to the government? Is such life easy? Is it not a sore trial to love a mate, yet see that mate going against you, opposing Jehovah, heading for destruction? Maybe children turn against parents, bringing on untold heartache. Most excruciating is the pain from wounds inflicted by loved ones.
15 It is not easy to endure physical torture, likewise with mental anguish; it is trialsome to face a firing squad once, likewise with a barrage of abuse daily, year in and year out, and be continually nagged and ridiculed in your own home, left out of the family circle and its affairs because you serve Jehovah. In many cases one can walk out of this more easily than out of a prison or concentration camp. However, let us not forget the cold war that chills the family circle where some are in the truth and some not, where a constant 24-hours-a-day fight for the faith unfolds on the home front So let us not forget the patient outworking of such lives over the years. While perhaps not so spectacular, yet these trials and persecutions can be very trying. The sharpest daggers that can be plunged into the heart of man are those propelled by loved ones of his own household, but even they are not able to turn Jehovah’s dedicated servants from faithful service!
16. What comfort is there for those who have lost families because of their stand for the truth?
16 Are there any now reading these lines that have lost their families because of the truth, as in the two cases above mentioned? Are you like them? Do you think you have lost a family? If so, just look and see your new brothers and sisters of the New World society united with you in Jehovah’s service, and as you look realize that you are experiencing the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise: “No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the coming system of things everlasting life.” (Mark 10:29, 30, NW) And it is not just the dozen or hundred brothers and sisters around you now in your local congregation that you have gained. No, but there are hundreds of thousands of them all over the earth, ready to receive you with open arms, open doors, and, above all, with open hearts. And this great theocratic family circle will not be broken by nagging, by fussing, by fighting, by rebellion or by godlessness, for it is a family united under Jehovah God and his King Christ Jesus, and every member in it is intent upon maintaining unending theocratic conduct within this joyous family circle! May Jehovah help us to do so always!