Questions From Readers
● Why do some of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses stand up for the flag salute but not for the playing of the national anthem?—U.S.A.
Jehovah’s Christian witnesses endeavor to follow God’s Word and the dictates of their Bible-trained conscience. Like Christians in the first century, they view themselves as ‘alien residents’ in the world of unbelieving mankind and give their loyalty to the kingdom of God by Christ. (1 Pet. 2:11) It is for this reason that they refrain from all acts, including those of a nationalistic nature, that would imply disloyalty to God and his appointed King Jesus Christ.
It should be kept in mind that a national flag is more than a piece of cloth. It is officially viewed as a sacred symbol of a nation and is treated with reverence. When worn out, for example, the national practice often rules that the flag is not to be disposed of unceremoniously, but is to be ‘destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.’ There are also regulations governing the hoisting, lowering, folding, flying and displaying of flags. Saluting or pledging allegiance to the flag is considered as a reverent act, an act of sacred devotion, and since the flag is an image of the State, such an act constitutes a form of idolatry.—Compare Exodus 20:4-6; 1 John 5:21.
While not discouraging others from saluting the flag of any nation, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses feel that they can give such worship only to Jehovah God. They have due respect for the flag of their respective countries, but for them to idolize the flag of any nation and engage in acts of worship to an image of the State would be an act of unfaithfulness toward God and disloyalty toward the kingdom of God’s Son.
Frequently, the practice is for all in attendance at a flag-salute ceremony to stand and personally salute the flag as a pledge of allegiance to this image of the State. In such a situation the mere act of standing likely is not in itself viewed as an act of worship. Therefore, many true Christians have seen no objection to standing respectfully, but not saluting and saying the pledge. Of course, conscience enters into the picture. Even if some Witnesses follow this course, others may be moved by their consciences to remain seated or to excuse themselves from the place where the ceremony is going on.
With regard to the national anthem, sometimes those in a group are expected to stand and sing. This situation, then, would be comparable to what was just mentioned regarding a national flag. However, more often the audience is expected merely to stand while the anthem is played or while it is sung by one person (a soloist) but not by all. In this case, one’s standing would denote approval of the words and sentiments expressed in the song. Regarding such anthems The Encyclopedia Americana says: “Love of fatherland and pride in one’s country are the keynotes of most national anthems, and in many, religious feeling is blended with patriotic sentiment. National hymns and anthems are frequently closely related to the folk songs of a country or grow out of wars and revolutions.” Since Jehovah God is the Creator of the earth, and all nations have a common ancestor, Adam, there is no Scriptural basis for nationalistic pride and feeling of racial superiority. (Acts 17:26) So it might be asked, Could a Christian in any way suggest that he is in agreement with feelings of nationalistic pride? Would it be right for him to join in songs that approve of wars and revolutions?
This fact should not be overlooked: The above stand of Jehovah’s witnesses is in no way disrespectful of constituted government authority. Jehovah’s witnesses take absolutely no part in any politics of any country. They never participate in any riots, revolutions or rebellions in an attempt to overthrow a government. They are never disloyal, never engage in subversive agitation or antigovernment activity of any kind. In fact, the Bible says that the temporal governments are an “arrangement of God” and stand “placed in their relative positions by God.” More than that, Jehovah’s witnesses are under divine command to give taxes, tribute and honor to such “superior authorities.”—Rom. 13:1-7.
Jehovah’s witnesses, therefore, properly stand up or bow down or even prostrate themselves before a ruler out of honor and respect for his position, if that is the custom of the land. (Gen. 23:7; 42:6; 44:14) But they will not laud such a human ruler as a god. Nor will they bow down or salute or kiss or burn incense in a reverent act of worship before a picture or an image of a ruler or an image of the State, like the one Nebuchadnezzar raised up in the plain of Dura, or like the modern flags of the nations. (Acts 12:21-23; 14:12-15; Dan. 3:1-29) So as long as governments do not make laws contrary to God’s laws as set forth in the Bible, Christians today, like first-century Christians, will be obedient in giving “Caesar’s things to Caesar,” and will at the same time render “God’s things to God,” namely, their worship and service.—Acts 4:19; 5:29; Mark 12:17.
● At 1 Corinthians 10:13 the apostle Paul wrote: “No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” What is the source of such temptation and how does God make the way out for the Christian?—U.S.A.
As illustrated by Israel’s wilderness experiences, referred to by Paul in the preceding verses, the “temptation” comes through circumstances that could induce one to break God’s law. Earlier in this chapter, Paul wrote: “These things became our examples, for us [Christians] not to be persons desiring injurious things, even as they desired them. Neither become idolaters, as some of them did; just as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and they got up to have a good time.’ Neither let us practice fornication, as some of them committed fornication, only to fall, twenty-three thousand of them in one day. Neither let us put Jehovah to the test, as some of them put him to the test, only to perish by the serpents. Neither be murmurers, just as some of them murmured, only to perish by the destroyer.”—1 Cor. 10:6-10.
Were these circumstances of such a nature that the Israelites could not resist the temptations that were involved? Consider the facts. The Israelites came to desire “injurious things” at the time Jehovah miraculously provided a month’s supply of quail for them. They had been without meat for some time, but they had been well supplied with manna to eat. Yet they gave way to the temptation of such unrestrained greed that “the one collecting least gathered ten homers” or sixty-two bushels of quail.—Num. 11:19, 20, 31-35.
Earlier, while Moses was receiving the Law on Mount Sinai, the Israelites became “idolaters,” as Paul mentions. They engaged in calf worship and gave way to sensual pleasures. Why? The absence of their visible leader was the circumstance that gave rise to the temptation, for they said to Aaron: “Get up, make for us a god who will go ahead of us, because as regards this Moses, the man who led us up out of the land of Egypt, we certainly do not know what has happened to him.”—Ex. 32:1, 6.
Just before entering the Promised Land thousands of Israelites were allured by Moabite women. Through association with these women their sinful passions were aroused to the point of committing sexual immorality. This is the occasion, referred to by Paul, when thousands were felled in one day for their sin.—Num. 25:1.
At times, the Israelites also yielded to the temptation of rebellious complaining. On one occasion they spoke out against Jehovah and Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread and no water, and our soul has come to abhor the contemptible bread.” (Num. 21:5) By such complaints the Israelites were ‘putting Jehovah’s patience to the test.’ They were putting him to the proof as to whether such complaining would be left unpunished.
One of the occasions when the Israelites did not resist the temptation to murmur was after the destruction of rebellious Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their associates. This was because they began to reason that the execution of the rebels was an injustice. Numbers 16:41 relates: “The next day the whole assembly of the sons of Israel began to murmur against Moses and Aaron, saying: ‘You men, you have put Jehovah’s people to death.’” As a consequence of their finding fault with the way justice was administered, 14,700 Israelites perished from a divinely sent scourge.—Num. 16:49.
Manifestly none of the temptations were of such a nature that the Israelites could not have resisted them. But the Israelites yielded to temptation because of forgetting Jehovah, his loving care for them and the rightness of his law and ways. They lost faith.
As in the case of the Israelites, the temptations faced by Christians are common to human experience. So if Christians put forth needed efforts to resist such temptations and rely on Jehovah God to sustain them, they can remain faithful. This is because “God is faithful” and will not allow his people to be ‘tempted beyond what they can bear.’ He will never forsake or abandon his servants to the point of allowing them to come into situations or circumstances that make it humanly impossible for them to do his will.
In the case of the circumstances and situations he permits to develop, Jehovah makes the way out by strengthening his people to resist temptation. For example, others may subject a Christian to physical abuse in an effort to make him renounce his faith. This circumstance may tempt the Christian to yield so as to escape further torture and possibly even death. But, on the basis of the inspired assurance given by the apostle Paul, he knows that the circumstances that give rise to the temptation are but temporary. Jehovah will not allow the situation to build up to the point where He cannot fortify Christian faith and spiritual strength enough to maintain integrity.
Then, too, by means of his spirit, Jehovah sustains those who are subjected to pressures. Acting as a remembrancer and a teacher, God’s holy spirit brings back to their minds things they need to know from the Holy Scriptures to resist temptation and helps them to discern the correct application of these things. (John 14:26) Therefore they are not deceived into following a wrong course. They understand the real issues involved. Many have thus been sustained by Jehovah to continue faithful to the very death. It was not death that made the way out for them, but the help provided by Jehovah made it possible for them to endure to the end without yielding to the temptation.
Not only does Jehovah aid his servants by means of his spirit, but he also uses his angels in their behalf. Says Hebrews 1:14: “Are they not all spirits for public service, sent forth to minister for those who are going to inherit salvation?”