Do You Associate or Merely Attend?
PERHAPS you have thought that there is little difference between attending meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses and associating with Jehovah’s witnesses. Actually there is quite a difference. Not all those who attend these meetings really associate.
To help appreciate how one can attend meetings and yet not be associating, consider the Bible account at Job 1:6. Here it shows that not only human servants of God attend meetings, but even the spirit sons of God have appointed times to come before Jehovah God. The account says: “Now it came to be the day when the sons of the true God entered to take their station before Jehovah, and even Satan proceeded to enter right among them.” Satan attended that meeting, but was he truly associating with Jehovah God and the faithful spirit sons of God gathered there? Not really.
To attend means “to be present.” This was the case with Satan in this particular instance. But the word associate means more. It means to “join as a friend, companion, partner or confederate,” or “to unite in company; to be or go together as companions; also, to unite in action; join for a common purpose.”
Now certainly these terms did not apply to Satan in his attendance at this meeting. He certainly was not joining with Jehovah God. He proved to be no friend of Jehovah. Nor did Satan view the faithful sons of God as his friends or companions. In fact, he called into question their motives for serving God.
We can appreciate, then, that whether we really associate with others is determined not by our mere presence, but, rather, by our attitude or feeling toward the ones who are present there with us.
Jehovah’s witnesses refer to one another as “brother” and “sister.” This denotes the close relationship that should exist among all servants of Jehovah God. The term “brother” literally means son of the same parents. But do we really feel such a close relationship with those who are dedicated servants of our Father, Jehovah God? Or do we merely use the term “brother” because we ‘picked it up,’ because that is what Jehovah’s witnesses call one another?
It is of interest to observe that the fleshly brothers Cain and Abel claimed to be worshipers of Jehovah, which would make them spiritual brothers as well. On one occasion, the Bible says: “Jehovah said to Cain: ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ and he said: ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s guardian?’” (Gen. 4:9) Cain had recently murdered his brother, but did you notice that he did not hesitate to use the term “brother”?
This shows that more is required than merely to call another person “brother” or “sister.” Rather, we need to cultivate the close love that really proves us to be a brother or sister to our Christian associates. It is necessary that we love “neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.” The Christian command is “that the one who loves God should be loving his brother also.”—1 John 3:18; 4:21
As already noted, one of the definitions of the word associate is “to join as a friend.” Jehovah’s witnesses frequently use the term “friends” when they refer to their Christian brothers and sisters. But to be a real friend involves more than attending meetings with another, or even being acquainted with another’s name. It means that we have cultivated an affection for the person.
What is the basis for cultivating real friends? Jesus indicated this when he said: “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.” (John 15:14) This shows that true Christian friendships are established upon mutual interest in doing what Christ commands. Jesus’ friends are those who obey him—it makes no difference to him what their age, national background or race is. So it is among true Christians. Yes, mutual interest in serving God draws them closer together than can even family ties.
Jesus Christ indicated that this is the way it should be. For on one occasion, when it was reported to him that his mother and fleshly brothers wanted to see him, Jesus said: “My mother and my brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”—Luke 8:21.
To associate also involves ‘joining as a companion.’ And what is a companion? He is one who goes along with another, one who shares what another is doing. When you come to meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses, do you really feel that you are a companion of those present, or do you still feel somewhat out of place?
If you feel awkward, or that you do not ‘fit in,’ could it be that you are not yet fully sharing, or going along with, what Jehovah’s people are doing? Jehovah’s witnesses are devoted completely to ‘preaching the good news of the kingdom in all the inhabited earth before the end comes.’ (Matt. 24:14) Thus, really to associate as companions with them you need to become involved wholeheartedly in this preaching activity. You need to pursue a course of life that is in complete harmony with Christian principles.
Another definition of the verb associate is ‘to join as a partner.’ A partner is defined as ‘a player on the same side,’ ‘one who shares.’ Do you really feel as a partner to those at the meetings? Do you really feel that you are all on the same side? The Bible psalmist wrote: “A partner I am of all those who do fear you [Jehovah], and of those keeping your orders.” (Ps. 119:63) If you are determined to take an uncompromising stand on the side of Jehovah God and his kingdom, you should feel close partnership with those at the meetings.
The psalmist David expressed the feeling of ones who really associate with God’s people when he exclaimed: “I rejoiced when they were saying to me: ‘To the house of Jehovah let us go.’” (Ps. 122:1) Yes, David rejoiced for the opportunity to associate with the people of God. And notice the expression “let us go.” Not only was he concerned with his own attendance, but he felt close to all those expressing interest in Jehovah’s worship. May you have this same feeling as you share in the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses.