Is It a Sin to Change Religions?
TO STICK to the true way of worship is a commendable thing. The apostle Paul counseled Timothy to “continue in the things that you learned . . . from infancy.”—2 Tim. 3:14, 15.
But was Paul here telling Timothy to stick to his parents’ religion regardless of what kind it was? That would not be reasonable, since Paul himself had changed his religion some years before when he found that the ‘traditions of his forefathers’ were not in harmony with the Scriptures. (Gal. 1:14-17) Paul knew Timothy’s background and that he had been taught “the holy writings” from infancy. (2 Tim. 3:15; 1:5) He was in the way of truth, and so he should “continue” in it, not deviating.
No matter how sincerely you may feel that you too have the truth, have you compared the teachings of your church with the “holy writings,” the Bible, to see if they agree with it? Is your religion the same as Timothy’s, as Paul’s, as that of Jesus? What if, after making an honest investigation, you found that your religion were no longer holding fast to the original Christianity taught by Jesus Christ? Would you not reasonably make a change? In fact, if, after learning for a certainty that your present religion did not please God, you did not make a change, would not this be a sin in itself? The holy writings tell us: “If one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him.”—Jas. 4:17.
Many sincere persons have made such an honest investigation and have taken the big step of changing their religion. As you compare their experiences with what you yourself have observed in your religion, it may help you make an honest appraisal of your way of worship. We sincerely hope it will.
NOT FIRM FOR RIGHT PRINCIPLES
An elderly man of sixty-three from Cavite City writes: “As a Catholic I felt free to do anything I pleased. Although my wife and I were living together without the benefit of marriage, no one ever inquired into this, nor did we hear any counsel to the effect that we should be legally married. In fact, I was given the privilege of serving as sacristan by our parish priest, a position I held for ten years. It was only when I studied the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses that I realized we were not clean in God’s sight and that we needed to get married. I also discovered that my secular work was not in harmony with the Bible either. Only after getting married and adjusting my secular work was I accepted as one of Jehovah’s witnesses, getting baptized as such in 1970.” Do you ‘feel free’ to do what you like, or does your religion insist on strict compliance with Bible principles?—Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10.
A man in Caloocan City says: “My association with the ‘Black Rosary’ society, instead of building me up spiritually, led me to heavy drinking, smoking, gambling and dance halls. As a Catholic I had never even held a Bible in my hand, nor had I heard the name of God mentioned. When my uncle, one of Jehovah’s witnesses, studied the Bible with me, I realized what real Christianity meant and found peace of mind by getting rid of my bad habits.” What kind of habits do your religious associates encourage?—Eph. 4:20-24.
TEACHINGS NOT BIBLE-BASED
A former member of the Philippine Independent Church in Negros Occidental says that, when a young man, he “used to watch candles and food being placed before our home altar during All Saints’ Day. I was made to believe that the reason the food got cold later on was that the souls had passed over it and touched it. This bothered me for years, until Jehovah’s witnesses showed me from the Bible at Genesis 2:7 and Numbers 23:10 that the soul is man himself and that the dead are unconscious and do not return to ‘haunt’ people.”
A young lady in Davao City, educated in a Catholic school, found the Trinity doctrine difficult to accept. Having received unsatisfactory answers from her Catholic teachers, she was surprised at the simple, straightforward Bible answer she got from Jehovah’s witnesses: The Trinity simply is not taught in the Bible. (Mark 12:29, 30; John 14:28) Being disillusioned, she said: “The church leaders should speak the truth and follow it. False teaching and hiding of the truth are what impelled me to study the Bible for myself.” Have you studied the Bible for yourself to see if your church leaders teach what it contains?
MEMBERS NOT TREATED EQUALLY
A man brought up a Catholic observed that in the church “everything was artificial, with the rich being regarded highly and the poor being taken for granted.” A young Catholic student in Baguio City says: “No love, peace, equality and unity were found among us. The priests are always revered and addressed as ‘Father.’” A Quezon City member of the local religion Iglesia ni Kristo saw the same thing: “There is a big difference between members and ministers, between preachers and listeners.”
Yet Jesus said: “Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One.” (Matt. 23:8, 9) Where can such equality and brotherhood be found? The above-mentioned persons found it among Jehovah’s witnesses. “They treat each other equally,” says one. “They are all Christian brothers and sisters, all over the inhabited earth,” observes another. After attending their October 1969 international assembly in Manila and seeing true brotherhood in action, the young Baguio City student said: “Here at last is the love, peace, equality and unity I have been looking for.”
GENUINE LOVE LACKING
Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) A Pasay City lady, sincerely wanting to serve God, looked for this mark of Christianity in her church. But she said: “My efforts were in vain, because there was no love among the members. There was much pushing and shoving when leaving church, leading to quarrels and hurt feelings.” A Sunday-school teacher in the Foursquare Gospel Church quit because of the disunity and petty squabbles among the preachers. A young couple in Negros Occidental said of their fellow churchgoers: “They seem to be watching you to pick faults instead of helping you.” Have you noticed these things in your church?
These and many others have noticed a different spirit among Jehovah’s witnesses. One Manila woman said: “Just imagine! Jehovah’s witnesses visited me regularly for two years, while in all my years as a Catholic, the priest never once called at my home.” After attending his first meeting with the Witnesses, another commented: “I was approached and greeted by so many people and was introduced to just about everyone there. What a contrast to the Catholic Church where you are just left to fend for yourself!” Another remarked: “On attending my first meeting I shook many hands and was greeted warmly. Later, when I got sick, the overseer visited me in the hospital and the brothers took care of my needs.” A lady who attended their “Peace on Earth” assembly in October 1969 was amazed that, although it was really crowded, “there was no pushing, everyone gave way graciously and greeted one another happily.”—1 John 4:7-11, 20.
A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
Are these people sorry that they changed their religion? On the contrary! Listen to what just a few of them say:
“I used to be the head in our house and my husband took second place. After studying the Bible for a few weeks, my husband noticed a change in me. My way of handling things improved, and now real peace reigns in our home for the first time.”—Eph. 5:22, 23, 33.
“My wife was hard to deal with and we had separated. I was planning to marry another woman when I met Jehovah’s witnesses. After learning how God views the sacredness of marriage, I returned to my wife and now both of us are happy I learned to follow right principles.”
“My close friend had killed himself because of problems, and I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown as a result. Repetitious prayers were to no avail. Only after studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses did I regain confidence in myself and in God. My nervousness gradually left me. For the first time in my life I felt I had a purpose in living.”
Instead of feeling a burden of guilt because of changing their religion, these people have been freed from fear, depression and bad habits by the truth from God’s Word at work in their lives!
NOT ISOLATED CASES
The individuals you have read about here are only a few of the 9,908 in the Philippines alone who have symbolized this change in their lives by water baptism during the past eighteen months, a rate of 550 a month! One thousand eight hundred and thirty-five of them were baptized on just one day, October 24, 1969, at Manila’s “Peace on Earth” Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses! They are only a part of a great crowd who are leaving the churches world wide, not to become atheists, but to become real Christians. Throughout the world over 250,000 have made this change in the past two years.
These figures become even more impressive when we consider that before a person is accepted for baptism, he has carefully followed a prescribed course of study in the Bible, usually for at least six months, and has made definite changes in his life to conform to God’s righteous laws.
This is not all, however. Each of these many thousands is endeavoring to show genuine love for parents, relatives and neighbors alike by offering to help them too to serve God acceptably. They may visit your home one day. Knowing how seriously they take their religion, would it not be wise for you to listen to them and study God’s Word along with them? If you do, you will come to realize that true Christianity is very much alive and is flourishing, not only in the Philippines, but throughout all the inhabited earth!