Loyalty in the Time of the End
“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.”—1 Pet. 4:3.
1. Why does the badness of mankind seem to grow ever worse at this time?
SINCE World War I we have been in a most unusual period in human history, a period that has been marked by unprecedented violence, great bloodshed and widespread moral degeneracy. Regarding a similar period thousands of years ago, the historical record of the Bible says: “Consequently Jehovah saw that the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” (Gen. 6:5) “They took no note” of God’s will for mankind. That described the condition of things in the days before the great flood of Noah’s time. Jesus Christ said that similar conditions would exist in the last days of the present system of human rule. (Matt. 24:37-39) Since 1914 C.E. we have been living in those “last days.”
2, 3. What bad influence do Christians feel, and why must they resist it?
2 With mankind sinking steadily to an ever-lower level of morals, the pressure upon true Christians to view immoral actions as acceptable increases. The thinking of the so-called “new morality” permeates the worldly people around them and fills the literature and entertainment produced by such people. This exerts a bad influence upon all Christians. It requires determined resistance on their part. Some may even have participated in immoral living before becoming true Christians. But now that they have put on a new personality that is fashioned according to the high moral standards of God’s Word, the time for living like the nations has passed. To revert to it would be like a dog returning to its vomit.—2 Pet. 2:22.
3 Their becoming true Christians, however, does not mean they cease to experience desires of the fallen flesh. They do, and those desires are a weak spot for them. Unless they constantly keep up a moral defense of self-control they can become vulnerable to attack at this weak spot. Satan, the god of this corrupt world of mankind, works on this weak spot through the corrupting influence of his world. He employs the same tactic today that he caused the Moabites and Midianites to use when they tried to corrupt the Israelites in the fifteenth century before our Common Era and thereby to turn Jehovah God against them. So today Satan tries to entice Christians through the lusts of the flesh to violate the laws of God and thereby bring God’s adverse judgment upon them—1 Pet. 5:8.
4. What can happen when a Christian permits his mind to dwell upon wrong desires?
4 When a Christian finds pleasure in the morally corrupt literature and other forms of entertainment produced by the Devil’s system of things, is he not leaving himself exposed and unprotected? Will not the entertaining of wrong desires lead to succumbing to them in time and thus sinning in God’s eyes? (Jas. 1:14, 15) Continuing in that course will bring certain destruction from God, as it did for the 24,000 Israelites who were killed on the plains of Moab. Satan will have gained the victory over them by causing them to be disloyal to their God and King.—Num. 25:1-9.
LOYALTY IN ALL THINGS
5, 6. (a) What does loyalty to God involve? (b) What did Jesus say a Christian must seek in addition to the Kingdom? How?
5 A Christian may think that he is loyal to Jehovah God because he zealously preaches the good news of the Kingdom, but loyalty involves more than that. The Israelite soldiers who fought valiantly against the Amorites thought they were loyal to God too, but many failed to see that loyalty must also be shown by one’s entire course of conduct. If a Christian succumbs to wrong desires his preaching about God’s kingdom means nothing. He actually proves himself disloyal to God’s kingdom by violating its moral code. His unchristian conduct brings reproach upon the name of his God and King.—2 Pet. 2:2.
6 A Christian must manifest his loyalty to God and the Kingdom by his entire way of life, even in what might be viewed as little things. It must be strikingly different from the corrupt way of life of the world, even though this may cause worldly acquaintances and relatives to speak abusively of him. (1 Pet. 4:3, 4) Notice how Jesus made clear what must go along with one’s interest in God’s kingdom. “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom,” he said. But then he added “and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33) Thus, for a Christian loyally to uphold the kingdom of God, he must live in accord with God’s righteousness that is expressed in the divinely written laws and counsel of the Bible. By his way of life he must manifest true Christianity.
7. (a) Because true Christians have a personal relationship with Jehovah, for what must they especially have love? Why? (b) Why is a Christian guilty of disloyalty when he forsakes what is righteous?
7 Like the Israelites in the days of Moses, true Christians have a personal relationship with Jehovah God. This requires them to have love for what is clean and righteous, just as God does. His chief enemy, Satan the Devil, has love for what is corrupt and unrighteous, and so this world of disobedient mankind produces the corrupt and unrighteous fruits of its wicked god and ruler. (John 8:44; 2 Cor. 4:4) For a Christian to forsake what is righteous by giving in to wrong desires would mean that he disloyally follows another god, the wicked god of this world. He is producing that one’s bad fruits. He would be like the unfaithful Israelites who were enticed by wrong desires when at the festival of the Moabites and the Midianites and became involved in Baal worship. When we seek Jehovah’s righteousness, we are striving for the greatest purity of thinking and conduct. We heed the Scriptural admonition: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”—Rom. 12:2.
8. Is there any part of our lives that can be called private in Jehovah’s eyes? Explain with examples.
8 Jehovah’s name is upon true Christians who bear witness to his kingdom. That name stands for all that is upright and clean in the universe. The scepter of his kingdom, wielded by his Son, “is the scepter of uprightness.” (Heb. 1:8) Should not subjects who are loyal to that kingdom and its supreme King, Jehovah God, reflect that righteousness in every aspect of their lives? Does not loyalty require this? They are bearing Jehovah’s name all the time, and if a person believes he can practice something bad or even “off-color” in privacy, he reproaches that name. There is actually no part of our lives that can be called “private” as far as Jehovah is concerned. If we do what is bad in secret, it is secret only to other humans. Jehovah has seen it. Did he not see what the disloyal Israelites did in the tents of the Moabites and Midianites? Did he not see what disloyal elders of Israel did centuries later in private rooms in the inner court of Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem? Did he not see them engaging in idolatrous worship there? Such disloyalty to God cannot be hidden. They were deceiving themselves when they said: “Jehovah is not seeing us. Jehovah has left the land.” (Ezek. 8:9-12) No true Christian would want to make the mistake of adopting this false reasoning as pseudo-Christians today have done who claim that God is dead.
9, 10. (a) Explain how fleshly desires can get a Christian into trouble. (b) How is loyalty involved here?
9 A Christian begins to get into trouble when he stops maintaining a strong defense. Instead of staying far away from situations that are enticing to wrong fleshly desires, he may try to walk as close to the brink as possible. Even though his conscience may tell him that the desire is not right, he may entertain it, and the longer he toys with it the stronger the wrong desire becomes. Like the disloyal Israelites, he does not resist the wrong desire for “injurious things.” (1 Cor. 10:6) Such a situation can develop when two persons of the opposite sex who are not married begin in privacy to excite each other sexually by putting their hands on each other’s private parts. This is a form of moral uncleanness and is unbecoming for a Christian, whose way of life should reflect Jehovah’s righteousness.
10 Can we be guided in such matters by what is acceptable in the world in general? No, for the world does not provide us with sound standards. It reflects, not the righteousness of Jehovah God, but the unrighteousness of the “god of this system of things,” Jehovah’s adversary. (2 Cor. 4:4) Rather than letting ourselves be lulled into a feeling of unconcern, or even deceiving our own selves, we ought to recognize honestly that when sexual passions are excited this can lead to an overpowering urge to satisfy those passions by sexual union. This is a fact of life. Such satisfaction is normal and proper with persons in the marriage arrangement. But for unmarried persons to satisfy those passions in such union is a serious violation of divine law; actually, it is disloyalty to God on the part of the Christian. Should not loyalty, then, guard us from risking such violation, making us avoid actions that dangerously excite sexual desire?
11. (a) What argument do some persons present to justify passionate “petting,” and why is the argument wrong? (b) How can unclean conduct, though not involving sexual union, still reach the point of being “fornication” (por·neiʹa)?
11 In the modern practice of “dating,” many young couples engage in “petting” that does whip up strong feelings of passion. Yet some may argue that this is not wrong as long as there is no actual joining of the sex organs, since, as they understand matters, this is what the Bible specifically forbids for unmarried persons. Such reasoning is both mistaken and dangerous. Christians are urged to present their members no more “as slaves to uncleanness and lawlessness” but “as slaves to righteousness with holiness in view.” (Rom. 6:19) Even if their passionate “petting” did not reach the point of “fornication” (Greek, por·neiʹa) in the Bible sense of the word, it could still constitute “uncleanness” (Greek, a·ka·thar·siʹa), an indecent, impure kind of conduct. “Uncleanness” is listed following “fornication” in the apostle’s list of works of the fallen flesh, and he warns that those who unrepentantly “practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” (Gal. 5:19, 21) Not only this, but such unclean actions might steadily become more gross in nature or extent until they reach the point where they rightly are classified as “fornication” (por·neiʹa). This is because this word Scripturally refers, not just to sexual union between unmarried persons, but to all kinds of gross immorality or lewd conduct such as one might find in places of prostitution.
12. (a) Does being engaged give a couple the right to indulge in passionate lovemaking? (b) What situation should single persons avoid, and why?
12 It is natural for two persons who have agreed to marry to express affection toward each other. But this does not mean they can rightly indulge in the intimacies that are properly reserved for married persons. Not being free to have actual sexual union until married, they should not engage in the type of intimate ‘love play’ that, in marriage, is preliminary to sex relations. To do this would be uncleanness on their part, showing a lack of respect for God’s arrangement, a lack of loyalty to his clean standards of holiness. So, in any expressions of affection, their loyalty should move them to exercise care and due restraint. Not only should they not offend local custom publicly and risk stumbling persons, but even when by themselves they should not engage in actions that would cause them shame if another person were suddenly to appear on the scene. Is it not true that the presence of others is often a good protection for us against our weaknesses and fleshly desires? Darkness and secrecy, on the other hand, lower our defenses and can weaken our resolves. (Compare Proverbs 9:16-18; John 3:20, 21; Ephesians 5:7-13.) Even though engaged, would not a Christian couple be wise to avoid jeopardizing their self-respect and their respect for each other by avoiding situations that lend themselves to unclean conduct? They can avoid these by not isolating themselves from others to the extent that they no longer feel the healthful restraint of knowing that someone could easily come into the room or place where they are. Certainly those who are not engaged have reason to exercise even greater restraint, preferring to enjoy each other’s company in open association with other persons, not in isolated privacy.
13, 14. What action by the Christian congregation parallels that taken by the faithful elders of Israel with respect to those who were disloyal to God, and why is this action necessary for those practicing immoral conduct?
13 When the Israelites succumbed to fleshly desires at the festival of the Moabites and the Midianites and engaged in sex worship, action was taken against them by God and the representatives of the congregation of Israel. Those representative members personally killed likely as many as one thousand of the disloyal Israelites. (Num. 25:3-5) A parallel to this can be found in the Christian congregation today. While it is not authorized by God to execute disloyal members who practice serious sins, it is authorized to take action against them by disfellowshiping them from the congregation if they are unrepentant. (1 Cor. 5:11-13) This is necessary to keep the congregation clean. If it failed to do this, how could it rightly claim to belong to Jehovah and Jesus Christ, who are righteous? It is obligated to uphold the righteous laws of God.
14 Since all the gross immorality referred to by the term por·neiʹa is lewd conduct that can prevent a person from inheriting God’s kingdom, the Christian congregation rightly disfellowships persons who practice it and who manifest no sincere repentance. Similarly with those who persist in any form of “uncleanness.” Uncleanness is, however, a broad term that admits of a wide range of degrees—even as a person physically can be only slightly soiled or can be definitely dirty, so too with moral uncleanness. In determining the extent of uncleanness, therefore, the motivation, the circumstances and the things leading up to the uncleanness must all be weighed to determine the gravity of the conduct. The concern of the Christian congregation to maintain its purity and cleanness, then, is not unreasonable but is according to facts, and it is neither hasty to take disfellowshiping action nor dilatory where a gross, unrepented-of practice requires it. This is in accord with what is written at 2 Timothy 2:19 which, among other things, says: “Let everyone naming the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness.” The judicial action taken by the congregational elders protects the congregation and its reputation from being stained or sullied by uncleanness. It also provides a healthy warning to all in the congregation of what can result to one who entertains morally wrong desires.
15. How may a person receive forgiveness for bad actions?
15 Of course, if a person manifests heartfelt regret over a sin he commits and seeks forgiveness, he can be forgiven. God manifests a willingness to forgive such a person, and the Christian congregation acts in harmony with God’s forgiveness. (1 John 1:9) The person might be publicly reproved for his misconduct, or he might be privately reproved for it by the judicial committee. (1 Tim. 5:20) Even the person who had to be disfellowshiped can get forgiveness if he later proves that he has truly repented and has changed from his bad course of conduct. So the situation is not necessarily hopeless for the one who sins.—Ezek. 33:11.
AVOID ACTS OF DISLOYALTY
16, 17. Over what must we maintain a strong defense? Explain how we can do it.
16 It is important for us to recognize that we humans have fleshly desires that make us vulnerable. We, therefore, need to maintain a strong defense and recognize situations that can undermine our defense. Recognizing that the flesh is weak, the apostle Paul observed: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (1 Cor. 9:27) This means we must constantly fight to keep our sexual passions under control. We cannot let up on the effort to exercise self-control. If we read sensual literature that reflects the corrupt thinking of worldly people, will we be aided in maintaining a strong defense or will it not weaken us? We certainly are not strengthened if we permit our minds to dwell on wrong desires, are we? Instead, we will make ourselves even more vulnerable. It would be better to follow the counsel at Philippians 4:8, which says: “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” It does not say to think on things that are unrighteous and things that fire unclean desires. When we have our minds on things that are righteous, are we likely to engage in actions that are unrighteous?
17 We need to recognize that the Devil endeavors to entice us to do what is bad in God’s eyes and, if we let him, he will lead us right up to the point of plunging headlong into immoral actions. If we permit ourselves to be drawn along and try to rationalize what we do, are we not asking for the trouble that is certain to come? Would it not be better to resist the enticement in the beginning? Would not the Israelites who became involved with Baal worship have been better off if they had resisted the very first enticements placed before them by the Moabites and Midianites?
18. (a) What significance does the Bible attach to ‘touching a woman,’ and why? (b) How should this fact affect the viewpoint of single persons?
18 Consider Eve’s case. She knew that she was not even to touch the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, because touching was the first step toward eating it. (Gen. 3:3) Not being permitted to eat the fruit from this one tree worked no hardship upon her, as there were many other fruits that she was permitted to eat. Her touching it manifested a wrong desire for what God had forbidden. Keeping this in mind, we may consider thoughtfully the counsel at 1 Corinthians 7:1: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” In the Hebrew Scriptures, ‘touching’ is at times used to represent sexual contact. (Compare Proverbs 6:29; Genesis 20:6, 7.) This is likely because the chain of events that lead to sexual union begins with touching a person of the opposite sex in a passionate way. Jesus warned against even “looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her,” saying that the one doing so “has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28) It appears, then, that ‘touching a woman’ could include any bodily contact with one of the opposite sex in a way that springs from or excites such illicit passion. If a person cannot keep his passions under control and inclines toward ‘touching’ those of the opposite sex in a passionate or unclean way, then, as the apostle Paul goes on to state, it would be better to marry. (1 Cor. 7:2, 9) Meanwhile, the wise course for Christians who are still single is to avoid either the passionate “looking” or the ‘touching’ that can so easily lead to serious wrongdoing. They will then have the satisfying joy of a clean conscience before God and man.
19. Why should we strive to reflect Jehovah’s righteousness in our lives?
19 We have learned to love Jehovah God because of his righteousness, good laws and loving-kindness or loyal love. We rejoice in the prospect of the entire earth coming under the rule of his kingdom without interference from unrighteous governments. This we know will mean just and righteous rule for mankind, with permanent peace and security. Should not everyone who is happy to be close to this righteous Ruler of the universe as part of his earthly organization strive with all his might to reflect God’s righteousness in his life by living according to His laws? This would certainly be showing loyalty to him, would it not?
20. How is displaying loyalty a part of imitating the example of Jesus Christ?
20 A person’s Christianity is shown, not only by giving a public demonstration to the fact that he has dedicated himself to Jehovah God by being baptized in water, but also by manifesting a Christlike personality. That involves a new personality that is “created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Eph. 4:24) At all times Jesus Christ conducted himself in harmony with the righteous laws of God. Those laws were in his heart, and they motivated the desires of his heart to be in harmony with God’s will. (John 5:30) These same righteous laws should be in our hearts and motivate their desires.
BENEFITS FROM BEING LOYAL
21, 22. What are some of the benefits from being loyal to Jehovah, and how do these compare with fleshly pleasures?
21 The pleasure that a person may have now from catering to wrong fleshly desires is only momentary. But the benefits from being loyal to Jehovah can be eternal. Why give up such eternal benefits for fleeting moments of pleasure? Moses chose to be “ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin,” because the benefits from being a loyal servant of Jehovah are far greater. (Heb. 11:25) A very outstanding benefit we can anticipate today is being part of the “great crowd” of loyal worshipers of Jehovah who will be preserved through the coming “great tribulation” that will bring a disastrous end to the present system of things.—Dan. 2:44; Rev. 7:9, 14.
22 Another prominent benefit is living indefinitely in the new era that the kingdom of God will usher in. Is not living in peace and security under righteous rulers of far greater benefit to you than a few fleeting moments of illicit pleasure? Is not life itself of greater value than such pleasures? Disloyalty to Jehovah can mean eternal death, but loyalty to him can mean just the opposite, eternal life. “Furthermore, this is the promised thing that he himself promised us, the life everlasting.” (1 John 2:25) These and many other notable benefits come to the loyal ones.
23. So what is the wise course to follow today?
23 After having come to the very threshold of the new era, it would be tragic for a Christian to lose out because of entertaining wrong fleshly desires and becoming disloyal to the true God. How much wiser it would be to maintain a clean conscience by following an upright path of loyalty to God in this time of the end!—Ps. 37:28, 29.
[Picture on page 593]
Unmarried Christians who are preparing for marriage can safeguard themselves against unclean conduct by avoiding spending time together in isolated privacy