Christianity—Where Opposites Meet
The true worship of God is both well balanced and inclusive. Is your worship of that kind?
IT WAS autumn, 1961. The air was tense in a certain town of a British West African colony. Expecting the worst because a change of government was imminent, the British ringed the town with thousands of troops. All Europeans were ordered to leave the city and especially the womenfolk. However, one missionary couple, much to the chagrin of the officials, saw no reason for them to leave the town. Eventually the storm blew over, the transfer was made without any violence.
Why did this couple not consider it foolhardy to remain? Because, due to their unselfish work among the Africans, they had real friends among them. To them the Africans were their brothers, and the Africans to whom they ministered considered the missionaries as their brothers, despite the difference in skin color. Needless to say, their remaining created much favorable comment among the Africans. This is just a single, minor incident, but one very typical of true Christianity, which recognizes no race distinctions and where, in this respect also, it may be said that what some call opposites, whites and blacks, meet.
In fact, this meeting of opposites within Christianity is true of every sphere of human relations. For example, in Christianity opposites as to education meet on a common footing. Thus the highly educated Pharisee, the apostle Paul, cooperated with such “unlettered and ordinary” men as Peter and John, even as today at assemblies of dedicated Christians college professors serve side by side with or sit beside others who first began to learn to read and write upon coming in touch with the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses. The highly educated do not look down upon these with little formal education nor do the latter despise the former as “eggheads.”—Acts 4:13; Prov. 14:17; Acts 17:34; 22:3.
Then, again, true Christianity unites nationalities that long have had antipathies toward one another, such as the Irish of Eire and the Irish of Ulster. For Christians “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female.” The same also applies to such divisive factors as wealth and culture, not that the two necessarily go together. They heed the counsel of the disciple James: “Let the lowly brother exult over his exaltation, and the rich one over his humiliation,” thus the two will come on a common level.—Gal. 3:28; Jas. 1:9, 10.
In true Christianity there is not even a segregation according to age, no religious kindergartens for children or Sunday schools, but all meet together as did the Israelites of old in obedience to the command: “Congregate the people, the men and the women and the little ones . . . in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn.” Youth has respect for what maturity and years of experience has to offer, and old age appreciates the eagerness of youth. As some Brazilian Witnesses like to put it, “We have no old folks among us, only some have been young longer than others!”—Deut. 31:12.
OPPOSITE QUALITIES MEET
In true Christianity not only do persons of opposite characteristics meet, but what are generally considered as opposite qualities meet within the same individual Christian. How so? In that it produces well-balanced personalities. For example, as a rule people do not associate the qualities of tenderness, gentleness, meekness and mildness with a forceful, bold and fearless dynamic personality. Yet in true Christianity these opposite qualities meet in the individual.
Setting the pattern for this was none other than Jesus Christ himself. Bold, fearless and dynamic, he minced no words in driving home his points to the assembled multitudes or to his foes. “Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye.” “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! . . . Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?” As a man of action he on two occasions ‘drove all those with sheep and cattle out of the temple precincts, pouring out the coins of the money-changers and overturning their tables.’—Matt. 7:5; 23:29-33; 21:12; John 2:15.
Yet he had it within himself to manifest kindness, mildness and compassion: “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” To such he extended the invitation: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matt. 9:36; 11:28-30.
Of that able imitator of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul, the same can be said. Both in the book of Acts and in his letters we read of his fearless steadfastness; he boldly stood for the truth and expressed it regardless of whom it affected, whether a fellow apostle or other fellow Christians, whether hostile mobs or governors and kings, and he took them all in his stride, as occasion demanded.—Acts 13:9-11; 14:19; 15:39; 17:23-32; 21:30-40; 24:10; 25:8-11; Gal. 2:11-14.
At the same time Paul could write of himself: “We became gentle in the midst of you, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, having a tender affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the good news of God, but also our own souls, because you became beloved to us.” “As a father does his children, we kept exhorting each one of you, and consoling and bearing witness to you.” Yes, in the apostle Paul as well as in Jesus Christ the opposite qualities of the hardy soldier and the gentle shepherd met, bold fearlessness, righteous indignation, and tenderness, mildness and kindness.—1 Thess. 2:7, 8, 11.
Since this is so, it is to be expected that Christians would be counseled to cultivate these opposite qualities within themselves, and so we find it: “Stay awake, stand firm in the faith, carry on as men, grow mighty.” “Finally, go on acquiring power in the Lord and in the mightiness of his strength.” “As a fine soldier of Christ Jesus take your part in suffering evil.”—1 Cor. 16:13; Eph. 6:10; 2 Tim. 2:3.
At the same time we also read: “Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.” “If, then, there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any sharing of spirit, if any tender affections and compassions, make my joy full in that you are of the same mind and have the same love, being joined together in soul, holding the one thought in mind.”—Eph. 4:32; Phil. 2:1, 2.
A MESSAGE OF OPPOSITES
The good news of God’s kingdom that Christianity publishes may also be said to be an instance where opposites meet. Thus the prophetic command from which Jesus quoted, when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth, contained a twofold, contrasting commission: “Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening of the eyes even to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of good will on the part of Jehovah and the day of vengeance on the part of our God; to comfort all the mourning ones.” Even as Jesus did both while he was on earth, so his followers on earth today do the same—they preach the good news of an earthwide Paradise and warn of Armageddon, the war of the great day of God the Almighty.—Isa. 61:1, 2; Rev. 16:14, 16; 21:4.
Note how forcefully this point is driven home in the prophecy of Micah 5:7, 8, which finds its fulfillment in our day: “The remaining ones of Jacob must become in the midst of many peoples like dew from Jehovah, like copious showers upon vegetation, that does not hope for man or wait for the sons of earthling man. And the remaining ones of Jacob must become among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like the lion among the beasts of a forest, like a maned young lion among droves of sheep, which, when it actually passes through, certainly both tramples down and tears in pieces; and there is no deliverer.”
Certainly a greater contrast or set of opposites could hardly be imagined. What fall more gently and are more refreshing than the dew and copious showers that are so life-sustaining, and especially in the land of Palestine where those words were written? And what is more destructive than a young lion in the midst of a drove of helpless sheep? True Christians fill both roles. For persons of goodwill toward God they have a refreshing, life-sustaining message. But for the enemies of the truth, the message true Christians bring is as devastating as a young lion because of the havoc they play with false doctrines, which they slash, to use another figure of speech, with the “sword of the spirit,” the Word of God.—Eph. 6:17.
Why is it that these opposites meet in Christianity? Because it is the religion of the one true God, Jehovah, who is impartial and whose qualities are perfectly balanced. Because of his power and justice he is “a consuming fire” to the wicked, but to the lovers of righteousness he shows his other side: “It is the acts of loving-kindness of Jehovah that we have not come to our finish, because his mercies will certainly not come to an end. They are new each morning.”—Heb. 12:29; Lam. 3:22, 23.
Truly Christianity recommends itself to all lovers of truth and righteousness. Having “the wisdom from above,” it is “first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.”—Jas. 3:17.