Missionaries Told to Be Loyal, Merciful
SEPTEMBER 7, 1971, was graduation day for one hundred students of the 51st class of the Watchtower Society’s missionary school of Gilead. The graduation, held at Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall in New York city, began with fine remarks by the school’s instructors. The highlight was an address by the school’s president, N. H. Knorr.
‘Jehovah is “loyal in all his works,”’ President Knorr told the graduating class, ‘but the question is, Will you be loyal to him?’ (Ps. 145:17) After showing the importance of remaining loyal to God, the Society’s president emphasized the need for loyalty to God’s organization. He told the students that sometimes things interfere with one’s showing loyalty. For example, problems can come up because of living in close association with others in a missionary home.
Helping the audience to get the right viewpoint, Brother Knorr emphasized that all Christians are sinners. ‘All, including overseers, make mistakes. So when this happens, will you pack up and leave your missionary assignment? Or will you remain loyal to God’s organization?’ he asked. Brother Knorr told the graduating students to remember that Jehovah is guiding his organization.
He explained that at Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus outlined the way to settle a fault with one’s Christian brother: Go and talk with him; if he does not listen, bring along one or two mature Christians. But sometimes, due to fear of an overseer, these vital two steps are not taken in settling a fault with that one. Then Brother Knorr quoted Proverbs 29:25: “Trembling at men is what lays a snare.” So fear of man should not deter you from doing what God wants you to do, Brother Knorr stressed. If you fail to go to that one, then you may lay a snare or trap for yourself, and it could lead to laying a snare for others.
But how might a fearful one be laying a snare for others? By gossiping about an overseer to others, and thus causing them also to become fearful of him. ‘Gossiping about the faults of an overseer is not showing loyalty to God’s organization. So if difficulties arise due to human imperfection,’ he said, ‘go to your brother and follow Jesus’ counsel and so enjoy peace.’
Then the Society’s president went on to highlight the need for mercy. Using the example of Joseph’s mercy to his brothers (Gen. 37:1-36; 39:1–45:28), he told the graduating students to be merciful to new ones in God’s organization, to those in a missionary home and to overseers, for Jesus said: “I want mercy, and not sacrifice.” (Matt. 9:13) So be filled with mercy, counseled Brother Knorr.
In his talk, the Society’s president also told the audience that the arrangement of rotating overseers, announced at the “Divine Name” Assemblies, would be put into effect at Bethel, the Society’s headquarters, on September 13, 1971. He explained that the members of the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses will rotate on a weekly basis with regard to conducting the morning Bible text discussions and the Monday night Watchtower study. Thus the Society’s headquarters will be putting the rotating arrangement into effect more than a year before the congregations do.
Just prior to the main address, the Society’s vice-president, F. W. Franz, explained to the graduating class the meaning of Mark 9:49, 50: “Everyone must be salted with fire. . . . Have salt in yourselves, and keep peace between one another.”
Is the “fire” in Mr 9 verse 49 referring to persecution or trials? No, he explained, for the context shows that the “fire” of Gehenna is being discussed. And the word “everyone” refers not just to any person but to those anointed Christians who allow their hands, feet or eyes to stumble them or others into unfaithfulness. Such persons must be salted with the fire of eternal destruction.
But how are faithful Christians to have “salt” in themselves? And how does this relate to the life of a missionary? Brother Franz explained that the salt in Mr 9 verse 50 stands for that quality in Christians that causes them to do and say things that are in good taste. Any Christian should do things in a way that is tasteful from a Christian standpoint. In this way he will not stumble anyone in God’s organization. “O dear missionaries,” he counseled, “have salt in yourselves!”
After the students received their diplomas, one of them read a letter that said, among other things: “We came to school to study, but that was anticipated. What we did not foresee was the warmth and scope of the welcome we received from the Bethel Family. You brothers and sisters opened your hearts to us. We want to thank you with all our hearts.”
The program concluded with delightful songs put on by the graduates and also with a Bible drama entitled “Are You a Merciful Person?” Based on the Bible account of Joseph and his brothers, it underscored that quality that the Society’s president had earlier stressed. It was evident from much applause that the need for being merciful and loyal was keenly appreciated by those present.