How Christians Are “No Part of the World”
CHRISTIANS everywhere are familiar with Jesus’ statement in prayer to Jehovah God: “They [Jesus’ disciples] are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:16) What does this mean? What constitutes the “world” of which Christians must avoid becoming a part? In what way must Christians keep themselves separate?
The apostle Paul told Christians that they should not be making use of the world as do others, “for,” he said, “the scene of this world is changing,” like the fast-changing scenes in a stage play. (1 Cor. 7:29-31) And the apostle John described what Christians are to avoid about the world when he wrote: “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.”—1 John 2:16.
Certainly the immorality and the greediness that promote stealing, extortion, murder and other crimes, as well as the pursuit of materialism, arise from “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes.” And aiding and abetting such wrongdoing is the world’s tendency toward “the showy display of one’s means of life,” which begets a lust for power, prominence and status. It fosters pride, nationalism and racism, resulting in hatred, wars and revolutions.
The Christian, therefore, must avoid all these manifestations of the world’s wrong desires. Not only are these things displeasing to the Father, Jehovah God, but, as the apostle says: “Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.
Consider the futility of putting your trust and hopes in this world and going along with it. As an example, think of the pomp and splendor of the Roman Empire. Imagine that you were living then. To be a Roman citizen was a much-sought-for prize. The fervor for Roman nationalism ran high. Incense was burned to the Roman emperors as though they were gods. How foolish it seemed to refuse to perform this rite and thereby incur the wrath of the nationalistic people! How unwise it seemed not to trust in the permanency of the great Roman Empire!
But where is that empire now? Any presumable greatness that it once may have had is buried in the dust of time. As for other empires and kingdoms, they have all met the same destiny. Certainly, the “scene of this world” changes and soon it will go completely off the stage. Why, then, should Christians, who have a permanent hope, put their hope and trust in that which is transitory?
NEUTRAL, BUT RESPECTING AUTHORITY
In following Jesus Christ, his disciples obey his command to be “no part of the world.” It is essential for the Christian to have no part in the world’s religions or in its political or military affairs. Christians are neutral. They avoid interfaith movements or participation in any strife or wars between the world’s factions. This is because the world, due to following wrong desire, is the enemy of God. It has become the tool of God’s worst enemy, Satan the Devil. He is called “the god of this system of things” and his enmity toward God and Christ is revealed in the fact that he has “blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.”—2 Cor. 4:4.
Shortly before his death, Jesus told his disciples: “In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) He also said: “I shall not speak much with you anymore, for the ruler of the world [Satan the Devil] is coming [to bring about Jesus’ death]. And he has no hold on me.” (John 14:30) Jesus did not conquer the world by military might. He conquered it by not becoming like it, not being absorbed into it. He supposedly could have been world ruler simply by the compromise of his integrity to God, but he thereby would have been merely the ruler of the corrupt system of things under Satan. (Matt. 4:8-11) He looked to Jehovah God to endow him with Kingdom power in His own due time.—Heb. 12:2; Acts 1:6, 7.
Jesus set the pattern for Christians. He, under the Law as a Jew, condemned the Jewish religious leaders, who violated the Law. He exhibited respect for authorities, but never took sides in any political issue. (Matt. 22:15-22) For these things, he was hated by the world and its representatives, particularly the religious element.—John 11:47, 53; 15:17-19.
As did Jesus Christ himself, so Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, in following his pattern, have an attitude of respect for duly constituted authority. They recognize the governments and the rulers of this world as the “superior authorities” to whom every Christian soul should be in subjection. They do this, not merely because of fear of punishment, but primarily because of conscience. (Rom. 13:1, 5) They ‘pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.’ (Matt. 22:21) This requires that they do not give God’s things—devotion, worship, their lives and total service—to “Caesar.” This is in line with what the apostles said before Jewish rulers: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize the headship principle as expressed by the apostle Paul: “I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Cor. 11:3) They view marriage as a partnership in which the husband is the “senior” member, responsible for the final decisions in the family. Father and mother together have authority over children, both Scripturally and by law. (Eph. 6:1) They are required to bring them up “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah,” the father having the primary responsibility.—Eph. 6:4.
INTEREST IN THE COMMUNITY
The objective of Jehovah’s Witnesses is to take Bible education to the people. For this reason they use their time and other resources to the greatest extent possible in telling the “good news” of God’s kingdom to the people. They realize that this is a most important work, that of pointing the people to God’s provision for permanent relief. Consequently, they do not build religious institutions such as hospitals and schools. They pay taxes to support public institutions of this kind, and are glad to pay for services rendered by such hospitals and schools. By not building private hospitals and schools and by not joining in with other churches or organizations that do so, are Jehovah’s Witnesses failing to be civic- or community-minded?
No. Jehovah’s Witnesses have the best interests of the community at heart. The facts reveal that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not cheat the community or the government by falsifying tax reports, by defrauding others or by breaking the law. Rather, by obeying the law they raise the moral level of the community. It is commonly observed that those accepting the Bible teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses change their lives to become more clean and upright, more law-abiding citizens. At the present time there is ‘a famine in all the earth, not for bread, and a thirst, not for water, but for hearing the words of Jehovah.’ (Amos 8:11, 12) While Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize the value of operating hospitals and schools, they appreciate that these are a responsibility of the State, and so they do not turn aside from their more important commission of getting the lifesaving knowledge of God to the people. This message from God gives people lasting help, encouragement and hope. They recognize this God-commanded activity as providing the highest form of education and therapy.
Since “the scene of this world is changing” and is, in fact, going to pass away, the only things remaining being those things having to do with God’s kingdom, Jehovah’s Witnesses are building on the only thing that is permanent. (1 Cor. 7:31; 1 John 2:17; Heb. 12:27, 28) The apostle says: “The things seen are temporary, but the things unseen are everlasting.” (2 Cor. 4:18) Besides making over their personalities, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have a hope that enables them to keep their balance in an upset world. They know that God purposes to bring in a “new earth” in which righteousness is to dwell and they look forward to a complete healing of all their fleshly weaknesses.—2 Pet. 3:13.
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Why must Christians avoid the “showy display” so common today?