Christian Conduct in a Divided Household
“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?”—1 Cor. 7:16.
1, 2. (a) What incident involving conduct occurred in Canada? (b) How did the public apology show moral courage, and did it turn into a blessing?
“LETTER TO THE EDITOR: We wish to apologize to the minister whom this concerns. Would this minister, who had eggs thrown at his car while passing through [the town of] Ralph, please accept our humble apology by taking his car to a garage for a wash and by sending us the bill? Would he also step in for our personal apology the next time he passes through Ralph? Though we were not the trigger of this so-called joke, we wish to apologize, and for our three friends who were with us. For, what seemed to be fun at the time was no joke. We would like him and the passing traffic to know there will be no more bad jokes.—MERK AND MERVIN CUGNET.”
2 The minister involved in this attack by a group of juvenile delinquents in Saskatchewan, Canada, was a district minister of Jehovah’s witnesses. After the egg attack the minister stopped his car and went back to the house from where he thought this gang would likely be operating. There he sternly reported the incident to the parents and made a firm protest against such acts of danger and indignities to passing motorists. Without leaving his name the minister went on his way after the mother made an expression of regret. A week later the above letter of public apology appeared in the local newspaper. The district minister along with a local minister made a return call on these repentant parents. They found them discouraged and ones who had lost faith in their religion. Immediately a Bible study was arranged for the household, two new subscriptions were obtained, one for this journal, The Watchtower, and the other for the Awake! magazine. They were also informed that there would be no cost for washing the car as the minister had washed it himself. As these ministers were leaving, the lady remarked how sad it was to have met in this way but, on the other hand, how happy she was that it all turned out that she and her family would now be able to study the Bible. These righteously exercised parents are to be commended for their course of public apology, which courageous act has brought them a blessing.—2 Cor. 7:10.
3. (a) How do some not as yet dedicated Christians demonstrate a deep inner sense of morality? (b) Of what encouragement is this?
3 The above experience demonstrates that there is a deep inner sense of morality in many persons not Jehovah’s witnesses and that upon a sudden jolt to reality such ones are stirred to godly sadness with the result of bringing them blessings of truth and a hope of a happy future. This moves Christians who live in divided households to further perseverance in their right course along with the New World society. A prominent businessman, the nonbelieving husband of a refined wife who is one of Jehovah’s witnesses, tells his business associates, in an expression of his moral disapproval of their aimless, leisure-minded, oft-inebriated wives, that when he comes home he prefers to find his wife active on the “Bible rather than on the bottle.” What, then, are some points of encouragement as to Christian conduct in divided households that will win commendation and possibly bring life to nonbelieving dear ones?—1 Cor. 7:16.
4. Does getting along with nonbelievers always center around obedience to God’s laws?
4 There certainly can be no compromise where obedience to Jehovah is concerned. His Son Jesus prefaced the thought about divided households with the words, “Whoever disowns me before men, I will also disown him before my Father who is in the heavens.” (Matt. 10:32-37) But the matter of getting along with others in the divided family does not always center about a point of obedience to Jehovah’s laws. Sometimes it depends upon helping the other members of the household to understand correctly the Christian’s belief and actions, why he feels the way he does and wants to attend meetings and go out in the public witness work from house to house. Sometimes it may involve a dispute over things that are not really required by God, things that can be done differently or at a different time so as not to conflict with interests and actions of undedicated members of the household. Sometimes the dedicated one may be insisting upon a wish or desire, a view or intention or practice that may be a personal matter not required by God. In order to see the thing in its proper light, let us take up some matters about a Christian’s conduct under these circumstances.
WIFE AN UNBELIEVER
5. In a divided household what responsibilities does a Christian husband accept?
5 When a man is the dedicated Christian and his wife is opposed or indifferent he is in a much more favorable position than if the situation were reversed. He is able Scripturally to exercise headship, and this he is obligated to do. Wives are advised: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife.” This subjection obligates the husband to provide for his wife and for his children, too, even as the apostle writes at 1 Timothy 5:8: “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.” Such is also a legal obligation. Usually wives who oppose the Christian will insist upon the latter measure even if they refuse to grant subjection. Furthermore, a husband owes his wife love and companionship, and this embraces the conjugal dues of sexual satisfaction, for otherwise he may encourage such satisfaction from another and thus promote unfaithfulness on his wife’s part. So even if the wife is opposed or very indifferent, such husbandly obligations are binding upon the Christian.—Eph. 5:22, 23; 1 Cor. 7:3.
6, 7. (a) What are some Scriptural requirements a Christian husband cannot be excused from in order to please a nonbelieving wife? (b) How should he deal with his opposing wife?
6 A husband under such circumstances is not excused from fulfilling the Scriptural requirements laid upon him for the sake of pleasing his wife or lessening her opposition. All dedicated persons are required to study, assemble with other Christians, and perform regular ministerial service. These can be performed without slighting the interests of the wife not in the truth. The husband can invite his wife to accompany him in worship and, if she refuses to do so, he still should participate. Why invite her if he does not insist upon such conduct for himself? And if he gave up in keeping to Christian study and association and ministerial service, would that not encourage his wife in her obstinacy and opposition? If a Christian husband whose wife opposes has children growing up, he must look after not only their physical but also their spiritual welfare, and this would include their attendance at meetings and personal study. The husband’s headship permits him to insist upon their participation in these things. “You, fathers, . . . go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) So a failure to do this would be a failure as provider for the spiritual needs of the family.
7 The father’s looking out for the spiritual interests of his family would also include using all the tact and kindness possible toward his wife in an effort to help her see the truth. There is no need to get angry and yell at her about it. Even as with a non-Christian person outside the family, we are aware of the need to present the truth tactfully and in a way so as to cause least offense. In this same way a Christian husband whose wife has been opposed should present the truth gently and in whatever manner would gain the greatest respect and understanding of it.
HUSBAND AN UNBELIEVER
8. How does a wife with a nonbelieving husband have a greater problem?
8 But now what if the situation is reversed, if it is the wife’s lot to have a nonbelieving husband, one who is not united with her in worship? This may pose a greater problem, other things being equal, for this wife cannot exercise headship just because her husband is not in the truth. Instead, she must show wifely subjection, which means that she will let her husband make the decisions as to employment, place of residence, standards of living, and so forth. Can a woman in these circumstances really love her husband, since he does not choose to accept Christian dedication? Yes, if he shows devotion to her and is morally clean. She loved him before she became dedicated. Dedication does not cause her to quit loving. Must she give him the marital dues? Yes, for they are still married. Dedication does not break a marriage bond. Even if the husband becomes at times violently opposed and tries to arrange things so the dedicated wife cannot enjoy theocratic association and service, still she owes her husband the normal marriage obligations. She must care for the home, prepare the meals and look after his interests to the extent possible. If he becomes so violent as to threaten harm to her, she may then consider separation for the sake of safety.—1 Cor. 7:15.
9. What is the wife to do when her husband opposes her Sunday witness work?
9 What about house-to-house ministerial service when the husband opposes it? Suppose he forbids her to go into this service on Sundays when he is home or perhaps he arranges for the two of them to be occupied elsewhere. Then what? It might be more judicious for the wife to rearrange her schedule of service and perform it at times that would not conflict with her family relationships. This would be the same as altering her field-service schedule in favor of doing home laundry, and so forth. Jesus’ command to preach the good news did not specify that it may be done on Sunday morning only; and, while it may be more desirable, still it is not a matter of unfaithfulness to Jehovah to do her witnessing at other times if husbandly authority dictates it.
10. How will the wife deal with her children as to spiritual matters, and why?
10 A Christian wife with an unbelieving husband can exert much good influence upon their children in spiritual matters even if he strongly disapproves. In doing this she will be careful not to turn the children away from their father merely because he does not see the truth; but, while the children are young and she has them with her during the daytime, she will contrive to see that time is spent each day in talking the Bible to them. While she may not be able to substitute entirely for the lack of a father’s instruction to his children, nevertheless she has an obligation to instruct to the extent possible. The Proverbs say (at Pr 6:20): “Do not forsake the law of your mother,” and (at Pr 10:1), “A stupid son is the grief of his mother,” thus showing that the mother shares the responsibility to teach the children, that later she may not be ashamed of a son’s acting stupidly on account of her failure to teach him. Why should a wife put up with these obstacles and go on skillfully working out means to maintain integrity in a roundabout way? Because it is the way to support the principle of wifely subjection. It shows her faithfulness to Jehovah’s Word and law. It may result in her children growing up instructed in the Christian way despite the husband’s failure to shoulder the responsibility.
11. What is it that is of great value to a discerning though unbelieving husband?
11 This does not prohibit a wife from talking the Bible to her family, including her husband who is not in favor of it. But this latter should certainly be done tastefully and discreetly, at times most favorable for it and not in an irritating manner, rather when he is in a relaxed frame of mind and in a favorable mood. Right conduct by the Christian wife makes a powerful impression upon her unbelieving husband, sometimes even above personal attractiveness. The apostle said: “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 . . . the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.” (1 Pet. 3:1-6) Such has truly great value in the eyes of a discerning though unbelieving husband!
12, 13. (a) What is an improper attitude as to unbelieving children? (b) What experience is related as to dealing with children who seem uninterested in the Bible?
12 Sometimes the division in a household is between parents and children; even minor children may balk at attending meetings and going into the field service. Teenagers at times become rebellious and hateful toward the Bible. Christian parents may feel, “My kids don’t take an interest in the truth. I will cut them off! I’ll do nothing but what the law requires, just feed and clothe them and let them stay under my roof and, when they get old enough, they can go their own way and then my wife and I can pioneer.” Would such be a proper attitude in harmony with Christian principles?
13 No! For Christian parenthood requires something more than physical food, clothing and shelter. “Bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah” means instruction in the Bible. (Eph. 6:4) It includes regular participation in Christian conversation and involves taking the children to meetings where discussions are Biblical. Never underestimate meeting value! While the child may think this not as interesting as the movies or TV, nevertheless experience shows that child instruction pays off in later years. Two boys, both of whom found meeting attendance irksome, were brought to the Kingdom Hall by parents. One boy was then sent to a nearby movie while his parents attended the meetings. The other boy was made by his father to come in and sit through the meetings. The first boy married a worldly girl and left the truth, while the other boy grew up to like the truth, married a girl that was dedicated and later both became members of the Bethel family. So the parents’ oversight and authority require that worldly-inclined children be brought regularly to meetings. It is even more necessary that such children be kept in close contact with Christianity while the children are still legally and Scripturally under the Christian parents’ control. Cases differ. The older and more wayward, obstinate, set against the Bible, the more difficult the correction. More severe measures have to be taken to recover these.—Prov. 23:13.
14. What is it that difficult children need, and how may parents deal with them?
14 It is not necessary that children have Christianity beaten into them. Constant nagging and shaming of a child whose natural inclinations are not toward the Bible may discourage rather than promote acceptance of the truth. So Christian parents have to see that their teaching ability is strengthened and developed to a higher efficiency so as to cope with the problem of children who do not seem to care for the truth. Such children need tactful, understanding treatment, not to be constantly bawled out and shamed by being told they are inferior to children apparently accepting the truth. One thing to help would be to make them feel that they are fortunate for being in a Christian family, looked upon by others as representatives of high-standard people, possessed of better insight and understanding because of being exposed to the enlightenment of the Scriptures. A child’s antipathy to the truth should be minimized. Most children have to be helped along with a little persuasion as far as study is concerned anyway.
15. (a) What problem do believing children whose parents are unbelievers face? (b) What proper course should they take?
15 But now consider the case of children who come to a knowledge of the truth but whose parents have a different religion, or have none at all. What can be done if these parents deny the children privileges of going to meetings and going out into the house-to-house field service? Can the children rebel against parental restraint, completely ignoring parents’ wishes, run away and share in theocratic activities anyway? That would not be Christian conduct, for the rule is that children must honor their fathers and mothers. Complete denial of all association may call for rather extreme measures so as to keep alive spiritually and do God’s will by preaching to others. If orders are given to cease from what Jehovah commands or to go contrary to Christian principles, then the Christian must obey God rather than men. But in most instances the non-Witness parent does not go so far as directly to forbid Jehovah’s will for dedicated children, so such parental restraint is like any other obstacle hindering one, such as health, secular employment or physical disability. Christian conduct requires us to endure it unless some lawful way around the obstacle can be effected, depending upon one’s ingenuity. Christian conduct requires the underage child to be submissive, respectful, considerate, and cooperative with non-Witness parents. Note Jesus’ example on this as found at Luke 2:51, 52. So dedicated children may ‘bide their time,’ progressing in the truth by reason of personal study and whatever association and service, though limited, is allowed them by non-Witness parents, improving their capabilities that can be used when they grow up into less restricted lives.—Ex. 20:12; Acts 5:29.
16. Should such children feel defeated, and how can they be an honor to Jehovah?
16 In the case of children in the truth whose parents do not accept it, their holding to obedience and recognition of parental control is itself an honor to Jehovah. His law is being upheld, His will is being done. A child’s careful endeavor not to compromise on Jehovah’s commands but to accede to parental authority otherwise is obedience to Jehovah. In such circumstances children need not feel defeated by parental restraints that other children’s parents in the truth do not impose. Instead, they should figure out how much theocratic activity is allowable and do that much. Remember, it is not how much one does that counts but rather one’s determination to do all he can that is important. In this way he proves himself pure and upright, and by his life he bears witness. “Even by his practices a boy makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright.” (Prov. 20:11) A young person needs guidance, and a dedicated child whose parents are undedicated should realize this. Nothing is wiser than to pray for guidance.
17-19. (a) How might such children speak to their parents about the Bible? (b) How does the matter of neighbor love enter the picture? (c) What should be used when dealing with the “home front,” and may it be rewarding?
17 Tactfully a dedicated child should witness to his parents and try to explain the Bible to them. Forethought is necessary here. Never should a child be insulting or arrogant to his family, never “tell them off” or “get even” for their opposition, never use the Bible as a club. Instead, he should show that he desires them to understand the Bible. Do not talk down to them but reason with them, ask their advice in such a way as to get them to answer supporting the Bible. “Dad, wouldn’t you rather I’d go to meetings than to get into some devilment with other kids?” When parents explode, “Give up this crazy religion!” you can honestly reply, “All right, I will—if it is crazy. But, Mom, if it’s crazy, why can’t the minister show where it’s wrong?” Thus seeds of truth are placed in parents’ minds. It may not be long until they recognize that the dedicated child has something the clergyman cannot disprove, and something the parents had best look into.
18 “But my case is extreme,” one may say, “and I have tried all this. What else is there for me to do?” Jesus said the first command was to ‘love and obey Jehovah with all you have.’ (Matt. 22:37) So in every instance the ministry, our worship of Jehovah, comes first, ahead of others’ commands. Jesus gave commands that are essentially his Father’s commands, and about these he said: “If you love me, you will observe my commandments.” (John 14:15) We cannot obey our family’s desires for us if it means contradicting or refusing what Jehovah commands. Jesus said the second commandment was: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39) Among our neighbors our family members are nearest and dearest, even though opposed to the Bible. These, then, require our greatest concern. We want to help them into the truth. Just because they do not see the truth as quickly as we did is no reason for cutting loose from them. After all, others in our community who do not accept the truth, are indifferent to it and even mean about it get our loving concern expressed in our continually going to witness to them at their homes. We certainly ought to do as much for our family members, should we not? This means we must do things to win them, not alienate them. Persuade them, do not prejudice them. Endear them to us and do not make them just endure us.
19 So one has to keep on planning and using strategy on the home front in order to win the family over to true Christianity. With one’s family, particularly husbands and wives, one will already know them intimately and can know what will work best and most effectively. The rewards for such loving long-suffering toward opposing dear ones are high!
20, 21. (a) What is it that characterizes those of the New World society? (b) How are such qualities attained? (c) Describe some of them.
20 Truly a wonder is taking place in the earth today as to the members of the New World society, whether they be of divided households or integrated ones of united family circles! Distinct persons of new personality are being developed on a high level regardless of national background. The true, fearless individual man in all his God-designed dignity is becoming manifested globally amid declining social orders. This is something that Soviet society with its product of the collective man and democratic society with its product of the machine man cannot achieve. By means of a program of applying Bible principles to human living the following basic qualities now remarkably characterize those of the New World society.
Love: an unselfish interest in others based on Bible principles.
Joy: a deep inner sense of delight, pleasure, satisfaction, contentment.
Peace: an inner state of tranquillity, ease, calm; unanxious, harmonious.
Long-suffering: an endurance, tolerance, patience, ability to put up with persons and circumstances.
Kindness: being gentle, sympathetic, obliging, well mannered, considerate.
Goodness: performing deeds of generosity, liberality, hospitality.
Faith: possessing firm conviction, solid assurance, complete confidence.
Mildness: control of temper, spirit, anger; a teachable disposition.
Self-control: keeping physical and mental forces restricted, poised, balanced.
Virtue and Chastity: being honest, upright, just, and keeping moral sex integrity.
Reasonableness: being open-minded, approachable, not opinionated, undogmatic.
Readiness to obey: being quick to follow leadings of the divine will, not stubborn.
Mercy: being compassionate, withholding just censure upon repentant ones.
Impartiality: granting equal dignity, unprejudiced, no favoritism.
21 All these add up to one’s growing in the image of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, who excel in all these qualities. Seek now active association with the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses to be transformed, that you may qualify to live forever on this paradise-destined earth!—Eph. 5:1, 2.