Maintaining Right Conduct Among the Nations
“Maintain your conduct right among the nations, that . . . they may as a result of your right works . . . glorify God.”—1 Pet. 2:12.
1. In what respects are Jehovah’s witnesses different from other peoples of the world?
THE whole world quickly and easily recognizes that Jehovah’s witnesses are different from all other peoples. This fact certainly poses some very interesting questions. How is such an unusual and remarkable thing as this made possible? What is it that physically distinguishes these devoted ministers of Jehovah from all others? Is it their physical beauty or good looks? Is it because they are outstanding social, political or theatrical figures in the community? Is it because they wear some peculiar garb, dress or costume? Do they physically separate themselves from other people and shut themselves up in isolated retreats? No, these are not the things that make the witnesses of Jehovah unusually different, for in all these respects they are only ordinary people, coming as they do from a cross section of the undistinguished masses of human society. It is true the Witnesses hold to doctrines, beliefs and teachings that are very much different from those professed by Christendom, but what quickly and openly distinguishes Jehovah’s witnesses from other people in a physical and tangible way is their genuine Christian conduct and their constancy and consistency over the years in maintaining this righteous conduct among all the nations of the earth, regardless of local language, customs or political differences existing in the various countries.
2. How did the Founder of Christianity prove he was no part of this world?
2 Now this recognizable difference in the conduct of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses is not something modern and peculiar to this twentieth century. More than nineteen hundred years ago the Founder of Christianity, Jesus the Christ, showed in all his conduct that he was no part of this Devil-controlled system of things. When proffered the rulership of the world together with all the gilded honor and glory that went with it, he did something different from what most men would do under similar circumstances. He flatly turned the offer down. “My kingdom is no part of this world . . . my kingdom is not from this source,” he said. Jesus therefore remained free of all political and military affairs, made no alliance with the established orthodox religions and took no part in the social reforms of his day. Moreover, Jesus distinguished himself from other men by the righteous life he lived and by what he preached to others. In all his conduct he was truly “one of loving-kindness, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners.”—Matt. 4:8-10; John 18:36; Heb. 7:26.
3, 4. What did Jesus mean when he said his followers were “no part of the world”?
3 To those who became his disciples Jesus said: “You are no part of the world.” Concerning these he prayed 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.” Since Satan the Devil is still “the god of this system of things,” Jehovah’s witnesses, if they are to be true disciples of Jesus, must likewise conduct themselves accordingly. They must maintain strict neutrality toward all political, military and social affairs of this evil world, and they must have absolutely no part in its religious interfaith activities.—John 15:19; 17:15, 16.
4 When Jesus said that his followers would be no part of this world he certainly did not mean that they were to become recluses and shut themselves up in monasteries and nunneries in isolation. Jesus never did that in imitation of the Buddhist priests and monks of his times. As Jehovah’s ambassador sent to “bear witness to the truth,” he had to live and move among the people of the world. So also, as “ambassadors substituting for Christ,” his true disciples today must do the same thing; otherwise how will people of the nations see their right works and glorify Jehovah? This, too, was the point Jesus had in mind when he said: “Let your light shine before mankind, that they may see your right works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.”—John 18:37; 2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Pet. 2:12; Matt. 5:16.
5. As commanded by Jesus at Matthew 5:16, how have Jehovah’s witnesses been letting their light shine?
5 Everyone observes Jehovah’s witnesses carrying out this Scriptural command. Openly, from house to house and city to city, in populated and isolated places, they keep going year after year during all kinds of weather and at great personal expense in time and money, just to let the glorious light concerning God’s King and kingdom shine upon the hearts and minds of men of good will so that they in turn may glorify Jehovah. Why, just think of it, in only one year’s time, the 1959 service year, they spent a total of 126,317,124 hours in doing such right works among people speaking 125 languages and who are living in 175 different countries and territories of the earth. To equal this great amount of time a sole individual working forty hours a week and taking a yearly two-week vacation would have to labor and toil over 63,000 years!
UNAVOIDABLE ASSOCIATION WITH UNGODLY
6. What kind of people are contacted by God’s ambassadors, and with what results?
6 In performing this good work Jehovah’s faithful witnesses of necessity come in contact with all kinds of people, some being fornicators, some drunkards, others extortioners and idolaters. But here, too, by their right conduct in the presence of such persons they prove themselves to be true Christians. Just because the Witnesses speak the good news of repentance to such unfortunate people does not mean that they must copy or imitate their immoral standards of living. So it is that after spending some time trying to help these sick people to change their evil course of conduct, and after no progress is made, Jehovah’s upright witnesses discontinue calling on them. That such physical contact with unclean persons would be necessary was recognized by the apostle Paul. “I wrote you to quit mixing in company with fornicators, not meaning entirely with the fornicators of this world or the greedy persons and extortioners or idolaters. Otherwise, you would actually have to get out of the world.”—1 Cor. 5:9, 10.
7. What other circumstances often force the dedicated ministers of God to associate with unclean persons?
7 Unavoidable contact with those who are unclean in their habits and unrighteous in their conduct often occurs when Jehovah’s witnesses seek employment for the support of themselves and their dependents. This too is a necessity forced upon them by circumstances, for it is written: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Tim. 5:8) To serve Jehovah one must have food, and it takes money to buy food. One cannot steal either food or money; so it is necessary to work. Working, therefore, in the world is to enable the dedicated servant of Jehovah to keep alive in order that he can praise, worship and serve his Creator and Life-giver. “The dead themselves do not praise Jah, nor do any going down into silence.”—Ps. 115:17.
8. (a) What form of economic slavery exists today? (b) In this regard what Scriptural commands governing conduct must God’s witnesses obey?
8 If during secular employment the Christian falls into the unpleasant circumstances of being closely associated with ungodly and immoral persons, this is no cause for undue alarm. Rather, it is an opportunity to distinguish oneself by upright and godly conduct toward both employer and fellow employees. When working for an unbeliever the Christian cannot take the attitude, ‘Oh, well, he and his business are going down at Armageddon, so what’s the difference?’ The Scriptural injunction reads: “Let slaves be in subjection to their owners in all things, and please them well, not talking back, not committing theft, but exhibiting good fidelity to the full.” Why so? In order that the employee “may adorn the teaching of our Savior, God, in all things.” We may not have the same form of slavery now as when Paul wrote these instructions to Titus but the principles still apply, for actually persons engaged in worldly employment are in economic slavery to this system of things. “You slaves, be obedient in everything to those who are your masters in a fleshly sense, not with acts of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, with fear of Jehovah. Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward of the inheritance.” Yes, not in the weekly pay envelope handed out by the secular employer, but from the ever-loving hand of Jehovah his witnesses receive an inheritance in His kingdom for their righteous conduct among peoples of the nations. Let all of God’s witnesses therefore be found honest, trustworthy, dependable, loyal and respectful toward their employers, managers and job foremen, including those “difficult to please.”—Titus 2:9, 10; Col. 3:22-24; 1 Pet. 2:18.
9. How should we treat our neighbors, according to the Scriptures?
9 What should the conduct of Christians be toward neighbors and strangers in the community? Jesus laid down good rules governing this matter when he said: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 7:12; Mark 12:31) The apostle Paul wrote, at Romans 12:17-21; 13:8, 9: “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath. . . . If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals upon his head. Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good. Do not be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another. . . . You must love your neighbor as yourself.”
10. How do Jehovah’s witnesses show love in a very practical and genuine way toward total strangers?
10 When riding on buses to and from work or when traveling to and from assemblies, Jehovah’s witnesses show love to strangers, as opportunities afford, by talking about the greatest personality in the universe, Jehovah, and about the most interesting and thrilling topic of the day, the kingdom of the heavens. It is showing neighbor love when these witnesses go from house to house comforting bereaved widows and orphans by telling them about God’s purposes, and then making return visits and aiding these despondent people in private home Bible studies. This is not meddling in other people’s affairs. Rather, it is because the Witnesses are minding their own business, for their business is Christ the King’s business.—1 Thess. 4:11.
11. In keeping with what the Bible writer James says, how must we conduct ourselves in the community as a whole?
11 On a larger scale, in the community as a whole, Jehovah’s witnesses are recognized as a socially distinct and different group. Not only do they refrain from neighborhood gossip, spite fights and racial feuds; their godly neutrality also prohibits their participation in political revolutions, military exploits and so-called “brotherhood” or interfaith movements. They keep free from all party issues and social reforms. They take no part in charity drives, bazaars or community fund-raising campaigns. They do not support popular lotteries or gambling syndicates, even if such are “legalized” or operated by the State. Thus they keep themselves unspotted from the affairs of this sordid old world in order to worship God as clean and faithful Christians. “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.”—Jas. 1:27.
PAY BACK TO GOD AND TO “CAESAR”
12. When must Jehovah’s faithful witnesses be particularly careful to maintain right conduct, and why?
12 This seems strange to some: that even though Jehovah’s witnesses pursue a quiet and peaceful life in the community it often occurs that they are the object of much controversy, public criticism and ridicule. Such difficulties, however, are not due to wrong conduct on the part of the Witnesses. Rather, it is because of their godly stand on such burning issues as the sanctity of blood, pagan rites and customs, or regimented service to the totalitarian state or compulsory worship of its images. Particularly under such trying circumstances it is absolutely necessary for true Christians to be uncompromising in maintaining the right conduct as set forth in the holy Scriptures, for only in this way can they share in the vindicating of Jehovah’s precious Word and name.
13. What are the things belonging to “Caesar,” and how do Christians pay for them?
13 Before political and government authorities, before judges of the courts, before military men of power and before police officers of the land God’s people must maintain proper Christian behavior. Paul admonished that suitable respect be given public officials of all kinds when he said: “Render to all their dues. . . . to him who calls for fear, such fear; to him who calls for honor, such honor.” And Jesus it was who said: “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” The questions, however, arise: ‘What are “Caesar’s” and what are God’s things? Where does one draw the line between the two?’ For a person who is wholly dedicated to God these are not hard questions to answer. “Caesar” gives city water and sewage systems. He gives roads and highways to travel upon. He gives a certain degree of police protection. He gives weather forecasts and storm warnings. He gives limited educational facilities for children. All of these things and many others belong to “Caesar,” for he provides them. Jehovah’s witnesses therefore pay him for these things, not only in the form of very handsome taxes, but also in giving conformity to and abiding by the regulations he lays down governing the use of such facilities; and rightly so, for Jehovah commands that such payments be made.—Rom. 13:7; Mark 12:17.
14. (a) How can we pay to God what belongs to Him? (b) What similar stand did first-century Christians take, and with what results?
14 On the other hand, God gives life and all the necessary means for sustaining that life, such as food, water, air, and so forth. So sound-minded creatures pay back to their Creator what is His by dedicating the life He gives them to His service and by using the means of life He gives them to the praise and honor of the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. And here is where Jehovah’s witnesses often get into trouble; for not only do ruthless and greedy rulers demand what is theirs, but they also covet the creature’s devotion, worship and service, which rightfully belong to the Creator. On this issue Jehovah’s witnesses adamantly maintain the same Christian stand that Peter and the early Christians took when they told the swinelike rulers of their day: “Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, make your decision.” “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” Who knows, by maintaining this correct Scriptural course many reasonable-minded rulers, judges, lawyers and police officers may yet admit, as King Agrippa did: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.”—Acts 4:19; 5:29; 26:28.
RIGHT CONDUCT BEHIND PRISON WALLS
15. Have the many thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses been thrown into prison because they are political agitators?
15 In many parts of the earth Jehovah’s witnesses languish in prisons and concentration camps. Under such trying circumstances how should they conduct themselves toward the prison officials and keepers? Should they plot secret escape or open rebellion? Absolutely not! In the first place these witnesses of Jehovah have done no wrong deserving of the treatment they receive. They are not political agitators or revolutionists. Testifying to the truthfulness of this is the historical record of tens of thousands of Witnesses who were thrown into Hitler’s foul concentration camps and into the jails of such Catholic lands as Quebec Province, Canada, the Dominican Republic and Franco’s Spain, as well as the living testimony of many, many thousands of Witnesses who are at this very moment being tormented in the penal camps of Communist-dominated countries. Not a single instance is there where any of these faithful witnesses of Jehovah ever attempted to overthrow the rulers or their political governments. Each one of these imprisoned Witnesses says, as did the prisoner Paul: “I have done no wrong . . . as you also are finding out quite well. If, on the one hand, I am really a wrongdoer and have committed anything deserving of death, I do not beg off from dying.”—Acts 25:10, 11.
16. (a) So why have so many of the Witnesses suffered imprisonment? (b) According to the Bible, how should one conduct himself when wrongfully persecuted?
16 Actually these witnesses of Jehovah have been thrown into prison because they were following a good conscience toward God. This is another reason why they are willing to endure unjustified imprisonment if it be Jehovah’s will. “If someone because of conscience toward God bears up under afflictions and suffers unjustly, this is an agreeable thing. For what merit is there in it if, when you are sinning and being struck blows, you endure it? But if, when you are doing good and you suffer, you endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God.” “For it is better to suffer because you are doing good, if the will of God wishes it, than because you are doing evil.” (1 Pet. 2:19, 20; 3:17) The Founder of Christianity himself set the correct pattern in this regard, leaving the perfect model to be copied, for “when he was being reviled, he did not go to reviling in return.” Jesus also gave definite instructions to those who would have the distinguished honor and privilege of being fellow witnesses for Jehovah, saying: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens.” One of these disciples of Jesus, the apostle Paul, the one who wrote, “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ,” echoed these instructions of the Master when he wrote: “Keep on blessing those who persecute; be blessing and do not be cursing.” “Return evil for evil to no one.”—1 Pet. 2:19-23; Matt. 5:43-48; 1 Cor. 11:1; Rom. 12:14, 17.
17. This righteous conduct on the part of imprisoned Witnesses has resulted in what?
17 In the light of all the above scriptures it is understandable why the witnesses of Jehovah when imprisoned ‘because they are doing good’ never mutiny, never go on sit-down or hunger strikes, never become part of organized prison mobs and never join in any jail-breaks. Seeing their “conscience toward God,” prison officials are very much aware of these facts, and often their remarks are to this effect: ‘We are sorry to see Jehovah’s witnesses leave our institutions, for they can always be trusted with responsibility.’ Thus it is because of their righteous conduct, whether inside or outside prison walls, that a great amount of testimony is heaped up as evidence that Jehovah’s faithful people belong to an entirely new and better world society.
18. To live under the rule of this righteous new world, what must one do now?
18 If anyone hopes to live under the rule of such a righteous new world, that theocratic heavenly kingdom that Jesus said to pray for, he must first overcome and conquer this old satanic world and all its evil behavior and practices, come though terrible persecution does upon the conquerors. There is no question about this trouble coming, for the anointed King of this new world declared: “In the [old] world you will have tribulation, but cheer up! I have conquered the world.” It is therefore inescapable; Jehovah’s genuine Christian witnesses must continue following this same course. They must continue walking in their faith and integrity and must continue backing up their faith with works of righteousness. “Everything that has been born from God conquers the world. And this is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.”—John 16:33; 1 John 5:4.
19. What must the persons who are wise and understanding now do?
19 Laughed at and ridiculed as it is by the old world, really this is the only worthwhile way of life. It is the only intellectual and reasonable course to follow. It is one of practical wisdom. The inspired Bible writer James asks: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” To those qualified to answer in the affirmative he gives this counsel: “Let him show out of his right conduct his works with a meekness that belongs to wisdom.” (Jas. 3:13) So it is not in a boastful way, not with pride and arrogance, but it is with sincere humility and Christlike meekness that the Witnesses distinguish themselves by their godly conduct.
20. Why is this no time to give up in doing what is right among the nations?
20 The climax of all the ages is here! Time is running out. Certainly this is not a time to compromise or think of giving up in doing what God says is right. In fact, never has there been a more favorable opportunity than in this day of Jehovah’s vindication to prove under test one’s right works toward both God and man. “So let us not give up in doing what is right, for in due season we shall reap by not giving out. Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all.” (Gal. 6:9, 10) And by doing this Jehovah’s witnesses will save from destruction at Armageddon, not only themselves, but many others too who observe their right conduct; for these also will join in glorifying and praising the great Jehovah!—1 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet. 2:12.