Is the World Puzzled at Your Course?—It Should Be!
“Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.”—1 Pet. 4:4.
1, 2. What Scriptural testimony stamps as foolish the course of those who would please God and also be friends of the world?
HOW foolish are those professed Christians who would serve God and Christ and who would at the same time be friends of the world! To try to mix the two is like trying to mix oil with water. It just cannot be done! Why not? Because, as the apostle John tells us, “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.”—1 John 5:19.
2 That is why the world hates us, even as Jesus warned: “Because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” Well did the apostle John counsel us: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—John 15:19; 1 John 2:15-17.
3. What do Paul and James show regarding pleasing God and the world at the same time?
3 How can it be otherwise, since the world minds the things of the flesh, concerning which we are told: “The minding of the flesh means enmity with God, for it is not under subjection to the law of God, nor, in fact, can it be. So those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God.” No wonder, then, that James, the half brother of Jesus, wrote: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: . . . to keep oneself without spot from the world.” And again: “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.”—Rom. 8:7, 8; Jas. 1:27; 4:4.
4, 5. What course of action does the world pursue, as seen from the Scriptures and the physical facts?
4 Lying as it does in the power of Satan the Devil, no wonder this world is so wicked, well described by Paul’s words at Ephesians 4:17-19: “No longer go on walking just as the nations also walk in the unprofitableness of their minds, while they are in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the insensibility of their hearts. Having come to be past all moral sense, they gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.” What plain language! And, let it be noted, those words are even more true of the world today, even as foretold at 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
5 Yes, look where we will, we see moral degeneracy on every hand. The motion pictures, the television shows, the stage plays, the novels, the newspapers and the popular magazines peddle moral filth and pander to depraved appetites. Motion pictures filled with lascivious scenes and abounding in obscenities are advertised as “mature,” or only for adults, but the theaters where these are shown are filled with young and old persons out to enjoy lustful scenes. No wonder that venereal disease has reached epidemic proportions and illegitimate births are increasing by leaps and bounds. There was a time when the prurient-minded had to go out of their way to find lewd, obscene, pornographic entertainment and reading matter, but today it is the other way around; it is thrust at one from every angle, and the one who would enjoy clean, wholesome, upbuilding entertainment and reading matter must be very careful and circumspect so as not inadvertently to soil his heart and mind. Popular songs veer ever more and more in the same direction, being filled with sexually suggestive lines, and so do dance music and women’s styles. The world again is worshiping sex, only its modern-day phallicism is not done in the name of religion, although it is a form of idolatry, being greedily covetous.—Col. 3:5.
6. Why do people want to conform to this world, and who in particular are susceptible to its pressures?
6 In view of how morally degenerate this old world is, as well as being distressed and doomed, lying under the control of Satan the Devil, why do people still want to conform to it? Why does everyone want to be thought well of by everyone else? Why are people mortally afraid of standing out conspicuously as different, especially in the matter of principle? Why are they ensnared because of “trembling at men”? (Prov. 29:25) Because of lack of a firm foundation for their rules of conduct, because of their being mentally, morally, emotionally, religiously and philosophically insecure, uncertain. Having rejected the authority of the Word of God, they have no fixed point and so are like “babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error.” (Eph. 4:14) And in particular are young folks in danger of being ensnared by this fear of man, by the deceptive desire to be popular, to be understood, to be well thought of, to be appreciated. Because of their immaturity they especially tend to shrink back, yes, even to rebel at the thought of standing out as different from their schoolmates. They dread being labeled “a square.”
7. If we would prove faithful to Jehovah, with what fact must we reconcile ourselves?
7 But in view of all the facts we should be proud to stand out as different from the world. Unless we reconcile ourselves to the fact that this is simply the way it has to be, we will not be able to prove faithful to Jehovah, for discontent, frustration or the fear of man will ensnare us. We must keep in mind Jesus’ warning: “Woe, whenever all men speak well of you, for things like these are what their forefathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26) On the contrary, we want to be, we must be, like the apostles, concerning whom we read that, after having been publicly disgraced and flogged, they went their way “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name.” Yes, we should rejoice that we are different, we should be proud of the fact that the world is puzzled at our course, that it cannot ‘make us out’ or understand us and thinks us a lot of fools; like the apostle Paul, “fools because of Christ.”—Acts 5:41; 1 Cor. 4:10.
PUZZLED AT YOUR WORSHIP OF JEHOVAH
8, 9. What aspects regarding the basis for our faith and name puzzle the world?
8 The world will be puzzled at your course of action if you prove yourself to be a fine disciple-making minister of the good news. It just cannot comprehend how you can prefer the Bible to the false worldly knowledge, as the apostle Paul counsels you to do at 1 Timothy 6:20. It will think you queer, foolish because you take the position that “it is impossible for God to lie,” and you “let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” You can hear them ask incredulously: “You mean you really believe the Bible? All of it? How can you? How old-fashioned you are! How simple!”—Heb. 6:18; Rom. 3:4.
9 The world will also be puzzled at your course if you take the name of Jehovah and let it be known that you are one of his witnesses. The world thinks it a strange name, ridicules the God of the Hebrew Scriptures and refers to Jehovah as a bloodthirsty God of war, as the tribal God of the Jews. But your name is no mere nickname, as are so many of the denominational names in Christendom, such as “Lutheran,” “Methodist,” “Baptist” and “Quaker.” No, but Jehovah God himself designated his servants in this way, even as we read at Isaiah 43:10-12: “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen, . . . and I am God.’”
10. What puzzles the world as to our form of worship?
10 The world will also be puzzled at your course if you regularly and diligently attend the five weekly congregation meetings, and that regardless of the weather. It will stamp you as a religious fanatic because you prefer a Bible meeting to such attractions as sports events or other forms of entertainment. It cannot grasp how you can get “fun” out of faithfully heeding the apostle’s counsel not to forsake assembling with fellow Christians. Even among the most religious of this world, going to meeting once a week is thought to be all that God could ask for!—Heb. 10:24, 25.
11, 12. What theocratic activities of ours cause the world to be puzzled?
11 Your worldly acquaintances will also be puzzled at you if you manifest the consuming zeal that Jesus displayed, as mentioned at John 2:17. Because in order to preach the good news and make disciples you stand on street corners offering the magazines, go from house to house in all kinds of weather, risk rebuffs by incidental witnessing, they wonder what has come over you. They just cannot understand it, since they themselves want to do so little, if anything, for God and Jesus Christ!
12 And in particular will the world be puzzled at your course when you literally leave all behind for the sake of the good news, and follow your Model, Jesus Christ, into the pioneer service, the missionary service, the Bethel headquarters service. The world just cannot understand why you should be like Jesus’ apostles and leave behind family and friends, houses and lands, financial security and a promising career, for the sake of the Christian ministry. The world thinks it is a fine thing to have a religion, but ‘goodness me, don’t take it that seriously!’ But we know, even as Jesus told Peter, as recorded at Mark 10:28-30, this full-time ministry is the most rewarding career anyone could engage in, for those in it receive a hundredfold now in this life and system of things, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers, and have the hope of everlasting life in the new system of things so near at hand. No question about it, to the extent that you zealously engage in the Christian ministry to that extent the world will be puzzled at your course of action.
PUZZLED AT YOUR NEUTRAL STAND
13, 14. What attitude of Christians toward government affairs seems puzzling to many?
13 The world will also be puzzled at your course of action if you adhere strictly to the Christian position of neutrality as regards the politics and wars of the nations of the world, if you take the position that Christ’s kingdom is no part of the world and that a Christian’s citizenship is in the heavens. (John 18:36; Phil. 3:20) It feels that all well-meaning persons should support civil-rights movements and get behind the most worthy political candidates, parties and platforms, and, in particular, support the United Nations as man’s only hope for lasting peace. Since nearly all the clergy, of both Christendom and pagandom, are deeply involved in politics, it cannot understand why you should not be also.
14 The world will also be puzzled at your course if you do not give obvious display of your patriotism by saluting the flag and by standing when the national anthem is being played. It is likely to charge ulterior motives to your course of sharing in beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning shears and refusing to don a uniform and go forth to kill your fellowmen. It asks, ‘What would happen to us if everybody believed and acted the way you do?’ If everyone did, then obviously there would not be any wars, and that certainly would be a very good thing!—Isa. 2:4.
PUZZLED AT YOUR ADHERING TO BIBLE PRINCIPLES
15. What caused the world to be puzzled at Christians in Peter’s day?
15 Likewise the world will be puzzled at you if you adhere to Christian principles as to personal conduct. As the apostle Peter wrote to early Christians: “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries. Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.” (1 Pet. 4:3, 4) With the world’s sexual morals being as low as they were before the Flood and as low as they were in old Sodom and Gomorrah, the world cannot understand why you should heed the wise counsel: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting, things which are not becoming, but rather the giving of thanks.”—Eph. 5:3, 4.
16, 17. How do Jehovah’s servants stand out as different from the world (a) In regard to employee honesty? (b) In regard to giving Caesar his due?
16 The world is also puzzled if you adhere to right principles in business matters, such as in the employer-employee relationship. The world believes in doing as little as possible for one’s salary or wages, loafing on the job, taking long coffee breaks and shirking responsibility. It finds it incomprehensible that Christians should heed the counsel at Colossians 3:22, 23 and work whole-souled at whatever they are given to do. In fact, the world thinks nothing of robbing one’s employer. For example, out at New York city’s leading airport a car-renting agency noticed that it was losing a great deal of gasoline and so it secretly installed a TV camera to discover who was stealing the gasoline. It found that eighteen out of twenty of their employees were helping themselves to gasoline for their own autos, and so all eighteen were discharged. Only two were not. The management was puzzled, and asked, Why is it that you did not also help yourselves to the company’s gasoline? They explained, “You see, we are Jehovah’s witnesses!” One of these was offered the position as manager of the agency, but he declined, again puzzling his employers. Preaching the good news of the Kingdom, making disciples of others, did not leave him the time and energy to be a manager. On the other hand, no doubt those eighteen employees who helped themselves to the company’s gasoline were puzzled because the Witnesses did not likewise help themselves. You do what is right today and you puzzle people!
17 The world is also puzzled if you obey all the laws of the land, if you give back Caesar’s things to Caesar, as we read at Matthew 22:21. Also, in its relations with governments the world believes in getting away with all they can, in the matter of taxes, traffic regulations and everything else. That Jehovah’s witnesses do not do likewise is a cause of surprise to them. Thus in the spring of 1967 two New York city housing inspectors checked on the Brooklyn Bethel home and were simply amazed at what they found. They said that their superiors would not believe them if they turned in such a good report, and, sure enough, the next day their superiors came to see for themselves how conscientious those in charge of the Brooklyn Bethel home were in keeping it safe and clean and free from fire hazards. They had no violations to report and eagerly listened to the witness given to them by those who showed them around.
18, 19. What Christian attitude toward material things puzzles many?
18 The world is composed of materialists. They appreciate only what they can grasp and enjoy with their natural senses. They are puzzled when you show you are not materialistic but heed Jesus’ words not to store up treasures on earth where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for oneself treasures in heaven that last. They are puzzled because you keep seeking first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. They cannot understand how we can put first in our lives something they do not even believe exists, the heavenly kingdom of Jehovah God with Christ ruling as King since 1914.—Matt. 6:33; Rev. 11:15-18.
19 The world is concerned with getting ahead in the race for wealth, distinction and popularity and in keeping up with one’s neighbors. It is puzzled when it sees you heeding the wise counsel: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” Yes, it seems strange to the world that we are devoid of selfish ambition. Yet how foolish is “the love of money . . . a root of all sorts of injurious things.”—1 Tim. 6:6-10.
20. What condition among Christians is the world unable to understand?
20 Being steeped in selfishness, with each man or family out for self, the world is puzzled because Christians manifest love, unselfish, agápē love. It thinks it strange that you should heed the words of Paul at 1 Corinthians 13, about love as not looking out for its own interests, not keeping account of the injury, and bearing, hoping and enduring all things. It cannot understand how Christians can keep an eye, not only in personal interest upon their own interests, but also in personal interest upon those of the others, and have the love that Jesus displayed to his followers.—John 13:34, 35; Phil. 2:4.
PUZZLED AT CHRISTIAN YOUTHS
21. Who are especially tried by being different from their associates and why?
21 Even more than all the rest is the youth of the world puzzled at the course of you Christian youths. And it might be said that youths have a very difficult role to play, for it is the youth of today that is taking the lead in rebellion, in violence and in crime. Being “disobedient to parents,” even as was foretold, it sneers, mocks and ridicules you Christian youths because you honor your father and mother, show respect to your elders, and obey your parents in union with the Lord in everything. It takes courage for you who are Christian boys not to imitate your schoolmates in the matter of haircuts and for you who are Christian girls not to imitate your companions in wearing miniskirts.—2 Tim. 3:2; Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20.
22, 23. How has a firm stand for pure worship at times been rewarded?
22 Your companions at school may be puzzled because you make issues of so many things: You refuse to go along with birthday and Halloween parties, with Christmas and other Babylonian celebrations, and with saluting the flag and singing patriotic songs. But you may be surprised how things turn out when Christian youths take a firm stand. Not long ago one such youth whose conduct was most exemplary and who had refused to sing any of these religious and patriotic songs was asked by his teacher to bring to school one of the songs that he liked to sing. So he brought along the songbook “Singing and Accompanying Yourselves with Music in Your Hearts,” and pointed to song No. 109, “Here I Am! Send Me” as his favorite. The teacher had mimeographed copies made of it and the whole class had to learn to sing that song at one of their school entertainments, the teacher explaining that this was one of the youth’s favorite songs. What a witness that was for the words of that song contain a fine statement of Jehovah’s purposes!
23 So, you who are Christian youths, let your schoolmates sneer, mock or ignore you because you choose to be different, because you do not have the time nor do you care for the associations that go with extracurricular activities such as sports, parties and outings. You just cannot afford to get involved in such things! You have far wiser goals than they have! Begin working toward them now by personal study, meeting attendance and the field ministry. Share in the vacation pioneer activity! It will be a safeguard to you as well as a source of many rich blessings.
24. What wise counsel does the apostle Paul give Christians, underscoring their need to be different?
24 In view of all the foregoing, how fitting is the wise Scriptural counsel: “Let no man deceive you with empty words, for . . . the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partakers with them; for you were once darkness, but you are now light in connection with the Lord. Go on walking as children of light, for the fruitage of the light consists of every sort of goodness and righteousness and truth. Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord; and quit sharing with them in the unfruitful works that belong to the darkness, but, rather, even be reproving them. So keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked . . . go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.”—Eph. 5:6-11, 15-17.
25. What has been the course of Jehovah’s servants from Abel’s time to our day, and when will it be vindicated and rewarded?
25 God’s Word tells how, from Abel to the apostles of Christ, Jehovah’s faithful servants stood out as different. The world could not understand them. It was puzzled at them, for they engaged in the pure worship of Jehovah God, they kept separate from the world and they conducted their lives in harmony with Jehovah’s righteous principles. Is the world puzzled at your course? It should be, and it will be if you follow the example of those faithful servants of Jehovah, if you have the courage not to conform to this system of things. The world says that God is dead, and acts as if it were so, but soon, in the approaching “great tribulation,” when ‘the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience,’ it will find that Jehovah God is very much alive as the almighty universal Sovereign. (Rev. 7:14) And at that time the course of Jehovah’s servants in being different from the world will be fully vindicated and rewarded.