Jehovah’s Witnesses—Unworldly or Antisocial?
REVOLUTIONS, assassinations, riots—these rock the globe. But among the rebellious, will one find Jehovah’s witnesses? Do they join in this antisocial behavior and prove to be a threat to their fellowman, his welfare and security?
If they indulged in activities that resulted in destruction of human life or disrupting law and order, it certainly would be antisocial. But Jehovah’s witnesses are not trying to revolutionize this system of things and depose its rulers or crush and replace its governments. Testifying to the peace-loving nature of these Christian witnesses of Jehovah are these words of a resolution they adopted some time ago:
“Figuratively speaking, we have beaten our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning shears and, although of so many nationalities, we will not lift up sword against one another because we are Christian brothers and members of the one family of God, neither will we learn to war against one another any more, but we will walk in God’s paths in peace.” This peace-loving attitude characterizes their dealings with the whole human race.
But because Jehovah’s witnesses are in certain respects different from their neighbors, they are often misunderstood. This is not because they are trying to be nonconformists but simply because they are trying to follow the pattern of conduct of the first-century Christians.
WERE EARLY CHRISTIANS ANTISOCIAL?
The early Christians were not worldly; that is, they were not part of this world; they did not indulge in some of the popular pursuits and pleasures. As a result, one history book says: “Early Christianity was little understood and was regarded with little favor by those who ruled the pagan world. Pagan writers referred to . . . Christians as ‘misguided creatures’ . . . creatures guilty of ‘hatred of the human race.’”—On the Road to Civilization, A World History by Heckel and Sigman, 1937, p. 237.
Why were those charges made against the early Christians? Because they were, as Jesus Christ said, “no part of the world,” they were unworldly. They did not join in with their neighbors in celebrating the holidays of ancient Rome. While the people gaily decorated their houses on such days, the Christians did not. For them to have joined their neighbors in observing holidays dedicated to the gods of Rome would have violated their loyalty to the true God. Their nonparticipation in the celebrations caused many people, including rulers, mistakenly to think of them as antisocial.—John 17:16.
The ancient Romans found great pleasure in attending morally degrading theatrical shows, bloody gladiatorial fights and savage battles among wild beasts in the arenas, and the ruthless chariot races of the circus. But Christians avoided such degrading entertainment. They did not share popular enthusiasm for violent sports that were contrary to Christian teachings of neighbor love and peace, much rather the Scriptural command against murder. This made them unpopular.
Regarding the unworldly position of the early Christians toward the entertainments of ancient Rome, Tertullian, a Christian writer of the second and third centuries C.E., wrote: “Among us nothing is ever said, or seen, or heard, which has anything in common with the madness of the circus, the immodesty of the theater, the atrocities of the arena, the useless exercises of the wrestling-ground. Why do you take offense at us because we differ from you in regard to your pleasures?”
Despite the fact that the early Christians did not join with worldly people in holiday celebrations and entertainment, they were not antisocial. They were not enemies of the State. On the contrary, they were a valuable asset to every community in which they lived. The more Christians there were in a city the safer were the rulers, and the fewer the problems confronting those who ruled. When those Christians strived to help others in the community live morally decent and peaceful lives, they performed a service of inestimable value to the public welfare and the common good. Note the argument Tertullian presented to the Roman authorities in defense of the Christians:
“Whence they who beset Caesar between the two laurel groves? Whence they who practiced wrestling, that they might acquire skill to strangle him? Whence they who in full armour broke into the palace? . . . If I mistake not, they were Romans; that is, they were not Christians. . . . Banded together as we are, ever so ready to sacrifice our lives, what single case of revenge for injury are you able to point to? . . . Yet you choose to call us enemies of the human race, rather than of human error. . . . I will confess, however, without hesitation, that there are some who in a sense may complain of Christians that they are a sterile race: as, for instance, pimps, and panderers, and bath-suppliers; assassins, and poisoners, and sorcerers; soothsayers, too, diviners, and astrologers. But it is a noble fruit of Christians, that they have no fruits for such as these. And yet, whatever loss your interests suffer from the religion we profess, the protection you have from us makes amply up for it.”—Apology, translated by Alexander Roberts, in The Ante-Nicene Christian Fathers, Vol. III.
No, those early Christians, though viewed as antisocial, were not against the common good. Actually, they were simply not worldly persons, but they were not antisocial. They were viewed as misguided, but, actually, they were guided by the highest principles, the commandments of Jesus Christ and his apostles.
THE BIBLE’S TEACHINGS GUIDE THEM
So it is with Jehovah’s witnesses today; they follow the course Jesus Christ commanded his followers to take. This does not make them antisocial. For instance, in reply to a question about paying taxes, Jesus Christ said: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matt. 22:21) Since money is coined by Caesar or the government, a Christian should pay this back to Caesar in return for the many services the government provides. This willingness to pay all taxes makes Jehovah’s witnesses an asset to the community, not antisocial.
Wherever they live, Jehovah’s witnesses follow the Bible’s teachings about being in subjection to the rulers of whatever society they live in. The Bible command to Christians is: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities.” (Rom. 13:1) The Holy Scriptures urge them “to be in subjection and be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers.” (Titus 3:1) Surely they are not being antisocial by obeying this Bible command. Instead, even in times of widespread unrest, they refuse to join in uprisings against the government or to encourage civil disobedience.
Nor does the fact that Jehovah’s witnesses put God first in their lives make them antisocial. If a ruler requires one of Jehovah’s witnesses to do something that violates a law of God, the Witness is faced with a conflict of authorities and can do nothing else than obey the One that is superior. This is what the early Christians did when the rulers of ancient Rome demanded that they burn incense to Caesar. The course they took was expressed by Jesus Christ: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Matt. 4:10) So Jehovah’s witnesses today do as Peter and the other apostles of Jesus Christ did when they were faced with a conflict of authorities. They “obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) This high regard for the law of God on their part sets a wholesome example for others in the community.
UNWORLDLY, BUT WORKING GOOD TOWARD ALL
Rather than being antisocial, Jehovah’s witnesses are unworldly; and this is because Jesus Christ himself said of his followers: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”—John 15:19.
What does it mean to be “no part of the world”? It means that Jehovah’s witnesses are no part of human society that is not dedicated to God and the doing of his will; it means they stay separate from that society’s politics, wars, riots, false religion, debauchery, immorality and other inordinate pleasures. Yet because they shun these things that are so common among the world of mankind that shows little regard for God and his laws, they are not antisocial or haters of mankind; rather, they try to do good to every man.
So Jehovah’s witnesses obey the Bible command: “Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all.” (Gal. 6:10) These Christian witnesses gladly assist others, as Jesus Christ did. He went about doing good and assisting others. In his parable of the Good Samaritan, he told of a man who was beaten, robbed and left half-dead. A priest and a Levite passed by, offering no help. But a certain Samaritan came by and helped bind up the man’s wounds and even took him to an inn and paid his bill. Jesus Christ said: “Go your way and be doing the same yourself.” (Luke 10:29-37) So Jehovah’s witnesses try to do good to all. If they withheld good from others, they would not be acting like God.
Jehovah God loved the world of mankind so much that he gave his only-begotten Son that those showing faith might gain everlasting life; so when Jehovah’s witnesses aid others to avail themselves of that provision, they are not haters of mankind! Rather, they are reflecting the same kind of love that God showed.—John 3:16.
However, because they are unworldly, being “no part of the world,” Jehovah’s witnesses, like the early Christians, are often misunderstood; but the truth is that they are not antisocial. Their obedience to Bible teachings makes them better people, unworldly, yet working good toward all men. Rather than being antisocial, they follow the Bible’s counsel to “go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness.” (1 Tim. 2:2) People everywhere can depend on Jehovah’s witnesses to follow this peace-loving course, for the common good of mankind.