Conquering the Evil with the Good in Modern Times
1, 2. (a) What have been some of the evils suffered by Jehovah’s witnesses in this century? (b) Have these things drawn them away from doing their work? (c) Why have Jehovah’s witnesses gone into the courts? (d) What words of Jesus have comforted them?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES of the present day have an obligation to spread the good news of God’s kingdom and live in accord with God’s Word and law. Because of their sincere worship of Jehovah God, they have often been subjected to strong persecution. Some have been killed because of their faith. Others have been forced to endure many reproaches and suffer injustices. They have been lied about and denied their lawful rights. Their children have been expelled from schools. Their homes and properties have been destroyed. Illegal blood transfusions have been forced upon them. Some have had their business ruined or have lost their secular employment because of their faith. Theirs has been an outstanding history of being done evil. But through it all the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses have not lost sight of their commission to preach the good news of the Kingdom. Christians do have the right to defend themselves legally in times of persecution and Jehovah’s witnesses have gone to great expense to defend and legally establish the good news.—Phil. 1:7.
2 Jehovah’s witnesses are thankful for the good counsel and instruction of God’s Word, which has helped them to avoid having a spirit of vengeance, so that they have not gone into the courts of the land with the purpose of taking vengeance but have remembered the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:18-28: “Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations. However, when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you are to speak; for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour; for the ones speaking are not just you, but it is the spirit of your Father that speaks by you. Further, brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise up against parents and will have them put to death. And you will be objects of hatred by all people on account of my name; but he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved. When they persecute you in one city, flee to another; for truly I say to you, You will by no means complete the circuit of the cities of Israel until the Son of man arrives. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple to become as his teacher, and the slave as his master. If people have called the householder Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household so? Therefore do not fear them; for there is nothing covered over that will not become uncovered, and secret that will not become known. What I tell you in the darkness, say in the light; and what you hear whispered, preach from the house-tops. And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” They appear before rulers and courts to give a witness even as Jesus himself did.
3. Give an example showing why it is practical not to assault persecutors.
3 While Christians rely entirely upon Jehovah God and are not fearful of those who kill the body, they never become so fleshly minded as to organize assaults against their persecutors. One of the outstanding persecutors of the early Christians was Saul the Pharisee of the tribe of Benjamin. While the Christians knew Saul as an enemy and persecutor, never did they try to kill him. If the Christians had struck the persecutor Saul and killed him in retaliation, it would indeed have been evil. As long as men are alive, even though they may be persecutors, the Christian can live in hope that the persecutor may someday learn the facts about the ones he is persecuting and, if he has a good heart, he may become like Saul, who, when he saw the light, took up pure worship as a Christian. We can always hope there will be many more like him who may turn around and worship the true God, Jehovah.—Acts chap. 9.
4. What is the proper viewpoint of God’s servants toward evildoers?
4 As for those who do not have the kind of sincere heart that Saul had and are really wicked men, incorrigible evildoers, even in the case of these men it is important for a Christian to keep the right position of faith, waiting on Jehovah, who says: “Do not show yourself heated up because of the evildoers. Do not be envious of those doing unrighteousness. For like grass they will speedily wither, and like green new grass they will fade away. Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil. For evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.” (Ps. 37:1, 2, 8, 9) There is no doubt that Jehovah will take action. Jehovah knows what is in the hearts of all men and will deal with the evildoers in his good way. We can be certain about it. Jesus encouraged us to think this way: “Certainly, then, shall not God cause justice to be done for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night, even though he is long-suffering toward them? I tell you, He will cause justice to be done to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”—Luke 18:7, 8.
ADVANTAGES OF SELF-CONTROL
5. Why is self-control desirable?
5 Jehovah’s being long-suffering with evildoers has been outstanding and is the example for us, his creatures on the earth. Jehovah knows man’s frame, that he is weak and imperfect, but he judges each one according to what is in his heart. If Jehovah can be long-suffering toward imperfect men, then this is something we must also try to learn. It is part of the fruitage of the spirit that goes along with self-control. There are definite advantages in our learning to put up with the offenses of others and to have self-control. Even Christians are imperfect men and have the possibility of committing an offense against others. A little self-examination may help to illustrate the point. Is there anyone who can say he has never lost his temper with someone in his own family? Do you recall such a time when you may have lost your temper? Think about it and ask yourself, What good did it do? Did any benefit result from losing control of myself? Did it result in shouting or argument? Did I take a mature point of view on what had occurred?
6. How should disciplining of misbehaving children be handled?
6 As a matter of fact, it is really bad for the health to have a loss of temper. Beyond one’s doing some personal damage to oneself and one’s health, if parents are accustomed to losing their tempers with their families, it can cause children to become very nervous, perhaps introverted, or even very seriously ill. This is not to say that parents always must excuse their children of any offense committed. That would be contrary to the Scriptures. Discipline is needed at times and it is Scripturally proper to use it. However, the wise parent will be calm as he disciplines his children. Some who have lost their temper have injured children and even killed children when administering discipline. But the undisciplined child will be a failure all his life and a disappointment to his parent as he grows older; so discipline is valuable and a spanking to small children is necessary at times. Let us take into consideration the advice of the Scriptures: “And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all injuriousness. But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.”—Eph. 6:4; 4:31, 32.
7. What is the proper way to view offenses of others in the congregation?
7 What Paul said in Ephesians 4:31, 32 is also applicable in the congregation. As we draw nearer to the end of this evil system of things, we must learn to be very close together in the congregation, to love one another and be glad to see others. The Devil is angry and knows his time is short, so he is causing many difficulties for God’s people, but in the congregation there is a place to get love and comfort and to be built up to face the next day’s tests or problems. Peter put it this way: “But the end of all things has drawn close. Be sound in mind, therefore, and be vigilant with a view to prayers. Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet. 4:7, 8) Peter very maturely took into account the fact that there will be some sins or offenses, but this is where Christian love comes in. Some people make errors, others are inconsiderate, but as we grow to maturity and have Jehovah’s spirit, we certainly learn how to forgive one another. All the benefits of this forgiveness may go immediately to the offender or wrongdoer, but then it is also reflected back on us. By having rendered evil for evil or like for like instead of giving forgiveness, we can become offenders before our heavenly Father. That is why Jesus counseled: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; whereas if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”—Matt. 6:14, 15.
8. What is the right way to settle a problem with a brother or sister?
8 Even when it comes to some serious offense where someone in the congregation has done something that one may consider extremely offensive or evil, Jesus gave the formula for settling these problems when he said: “Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he does not listen to them, speak to the congregation.” (Matt. 18:15-17) This is very good counsel for the Christian family as well as the congregation. In both congregation and family, talking over difficulties is the best way to overcome an offense. Retaliation or doing injury for injury can break up the unity of the congregation and it can also break up a family. So when an offense is committed, if it cannot be forgiven (which also means forgetting) then it is best to talk about it and have the matter settled and not let it take away joy, which should be found in every dedicated family and congregation. One can pray to Jehovah for courage and strength to follow his advice; then on this basis proceed toward a settlement of a problem, and the end result will be good.
9. Even if an overseer may come under much pressure in connection with his work, how is he counseled to deal with his problems?
9 Sometimes overseers in the congregation have to contend with a person who is erring in doctrine. There are those who very foolishly or ignorantly question the truth or disagree with the Bible and cause some real problems in the congregation. But here again Jehovah’s direction would be to exercise self-control and handle matters calmly. There is no need to cause a battle. No good would be accomplished by it. Under inspiration of God’s spirit, Paul counseled Timothy: “Further, turn down foolish and ignorant questionings, knowing they produce fights. But a slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed; as perhaps God may give them repentance leading to an accurate knowledge of truth, and they may come back to their proper senses out from the snare of the Devil, seeing that they have been caught alive by him for the will of that one.” (2 Tim. 2:23-26) By following this counsel the overseer shows his Christian maturity.
10. How is Paul an example in dealing with those causing injury?
10 Even in the case of those who may go so far as to lose their faith and try to cause injury it is necessary to be restrained and mild. The apostle Paul had experience with such individuals and the evidence is that he dealt with the matter calmly, as he says in 1 Timothy 1:19, 20 and 2 Timothy 4:14: “Holding faith and a good conscience, which some have thrust aside and have experienced shipwreck concerning their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander belong to these, and I have handed them over to Satan that they may be taught by discipline not to blaspheme.” “Alexander the coppersmith did me many injuries—Jehovah will repay him according to his deeds.” So Paul discharged his duties as overseer correctly without personally injuring the evildoer.
11. If an overseer does not receive support in what he is doing, how should he react toward his brothers?
11 Sometimes an overseer does not receive the support he might expect from others in the congregation. This can put quite a test on his self-control and spirit of long-suffering. Here again Paul is an example. When Paul was suffering the evil of persecution, other dedicated ones failed to give him any help or support. Did he then wish evil for them? Not at all, but again he demonstrated Christian maturity and gained his comfort and help from a heavenly source. About this experience he says: “In my first defense no one came to my side, but they all proceeded to forsake me—may it not be put to their account—but the Lord stood near me and infused power into me, that through me the preaching might be fully accomplished and all the nations might hear it; and I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.” (2 Tim. 4:16, 17) He showed a spirit of forgiveness and did not want this thing to be on their account before Jehovah.
12. What spirit should the overseer continue to cultivate in the congregation?
12 Not only must the overseer have this spirit of calm, mature thinking and nonretaliation, but he must also try to show others in the congregation how to so conduct themselves. The cooperation of the congregation in all spiritual things is very much appreciated by the overseer. Paul as an overseer encouraged the right spirit, saying: “Now we request you, brothers, to have regard for those who are working hard among you and presiding over you in the Lord and admonishing you; and to give them more than extraordinary consideration in love because of their work. Be peaceable with one another. On the other hand, we exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all. See that no one renders injury for injury to anyone else, but always pursue what is good toward one another and to all others.”—1 Thess. 5:12-15.
13. How is the fruitage of the spirit beneficial to all in a congregation?
13 If the overseers and all in the congregation show the fruitage of the spirit, the congregation will be strong, united and at peace. Note the things Paul says are the fruitage of the spirit: “On the other hand, the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Moreover, those who belong to Christ Jesus impaled the flesh together with its passions and desires. If we are living by spirit, let us go on walking orderly also by spirit.” (Gal. 5:22-25) All of these things are for the good of the Christian and benefit those around him. An orderly congregation is a blessing to all.
14. (a) How are works of the flesh injurious to others? (b) How are such practices dealt with if found among those in a congregation?
14 In contrast, every one of the works of the flesh results in injury to one’s self and others and so should be avoided. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning you, the same way as I did forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” (Gal. 5:19-21) For anyone to introduce any of these evil things into the ranks of the congregation would be an offense not only against the congregation but also against Jehovah. Then the congregation would have to step in to administer discipline, not in a spirit of vengeance or paying back evil for evil, but, rather, carrying out God’s justice and preserving the righteousness and cleanness of the congregation. And, indeed, if one does have self-control, one will not practice these things.
THE RIGHT VIEWPOINT
15. How must Christians view their persecutors and the persecution?
15 It may seem very difficult to learn this self-control about which the Scriptures tell us, but it can be done and has been done by God’s servants for many centuries. (Jas. 5:10, 11) None of us like to see anyone practice evil of any kind. In a way we feel sorry for the multitude of people who are practicing evil throughout the world in these “last days.” They are really to be pitied. No doubt many who abuse God’s people and do evil to them do so because of wrong information. Some have had bad education or very wrong training. Some are only following the inclinations of the flesh without any thought to whether something is good or bad, right or wrong. Jesus said about the persecutors: “Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God. But they will do these things because they have not come to know either the Father or me.” (John 16:2, 3) By this we can see how Jesus looked upon the persecutors. They lacked knowledge of the Father and Christ, and it was on that basis that they would become killers. In these circumstances it is always wise for a Christian to pray to Jehovah and ask for help and guidance and for God’s spirit to be with him. This is what early Christians did when persecuted. (Acts 4:24-31) And because they understood the issues, they were able to endure evil and still rejoice without being sidetracked from their commission. The persecutors “summoned the apostles, flogged them, and ordered them to stop speaking upon the basis of Jesus’ name, and let them go. These, therefore, went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name. And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.”—Acts 5:40-42.
16. Explain the use of right speech under difficulties.
16 To retaliate in some way or engage In abusive speech can complicate one’s problems and bring hurt to one sometimes. So it is good to remember the counsel at Proverbs 15:1: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.” This will be true whether one is dealing with persecution or problems in the family or congregation. Feuding benefits no one; whole families have been wiped out sometimes because of feuding, fighting and the spirit of retaliation. There are others who have fallen into a spirit of not wanting to speak to each other. But failure to communicate also works for disunity in family and congregation. Remember what happened at the Tower of Babel? As soon as the people could not communicate, everything they were trying to do came to a stop. So we can learn from this. It is beneficial to communicate when we are trying to do something together and deal with each other in a spirit of mildness.—Gen. 11:7, 8; Mal. 3:16.
17, 18. How may the truth and Christian patience affect our enemies?
17 Let God’s Word and spirit be our guide. As we go through life, we must keep in mind that the truth can change persecutors into worshipers of God, criminals can become law-abiding, fighters can become peaceable, but first the truth must penetrate into their minds and hearts. Always be ready to do good to all. This can result in many blessings, in harmony with Proverbs 25:21, 22. The 1967 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses presented this good illustration:
“By showing hospitality Jehovah’s witnesses sometimes have the opportunity of helping persons to come to a knowledge of the truth. (Heb. 13:2) The following example is proof of this: Returning to her home after conducting a home Bible study, a sister met the mother of a young woman with whom she conducted a study. Seeing that this woman was pale and trembling, and thinking that she was ill, the sister invited her into her home and showed her as much kindness as possible, even though this woman was opposed to the truth.
“Suddenly this lady burst into tears and said to the sister: ‘Why do you treat me like this? . . . If only you knew . . . ’ The sister replied that as one of Jehovah’s witnesses she was trying to show love to her neighbor, and believing her to be sick, she was trying to give her some care. Then this woman cried out: ‘I am not sick. I came here to kill you because you have stolen the love of my daughter who prefers God.’ The sister explained to this woman that the Bible exhorts children to honor their parents and, rather than separate mother and daughter, the Bible only draws them nearer to each other. After a moment of reflection, the woman replied: ‘You deprive me of my daughter’s presence one afternoon each week, because you go to see her.’ The sister then suggested that this lady attend the study, made an appointment for the following week and then took her home.
“The sister had some trouble at the beginning, but she did get some results. This woman is now a Witness and so is her husband. Being elderly, this sister cannot move around as she would like, but she makes herself useful taking care of her daughter’s children, thus allowing her daughter often to take up the vacation pioneer service. And what is more, her love of the truth has enabled her to help one of her neighbors who has also become a Kingdom publisher.”
18 Had the sister failed to do good even though the woman in the case was opposed to the truth she would not have been in harmony with the counsel of Jesus in Matthew chapter 5. But by her not returning evil, but showing love to even an enemy, she was blessed with good results. There are good reasons why Jehovah wants us to prove that we are his children by loving our enemies.
19. How do we show that we have not been conquered by the evil of these “last days”?
19 Surrounded though Christians may be with all sorts of evil in these closing days of Satan’s rule over this system of things, let us keep conquering the evil with the good. Let us not be sidetracked by evil from doing our assigned benevolent work as Christians, telling about the good news of God’s kingdom. Think about Paul’s words: “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” According to this, the only way one would be conquered by the evil is if one lets oneself be so conquered. So it is something that we can control with the help of Jehovah, and we should continue praying for his help. Therefore, do not be conquered by evil. Return evil for evil to no one.—Rom. 12:17-21.