‘If Possible, Be Peaceable with All Men’
THE many factions, religious, political, national and ethnic, do not leave much room for peace in the earth today. However, Christians are commanded: “If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.” (Rom. 12:18) This sometimes proves to be very difficult. But Christians know that the way to enjoy peace with God is to obey this commandment, which means that they must be neutral as to the divisive factions in the world and, additionally, must obey Jesus’ words to seek ‘friends of peace’ by telling all men about the peace that God’s kingdom will bring to the earth.—Luke 10:5, 6.
In maintaining this peaceful neutrality, true Christians have not run away from their duty. They have suffered, but have experienced the fulfillment of the apostle’s words: “Live peaceably; and the God of love and of peace will be with you.”—2 Cor. 13:11.
In some countries where there has been a bitter struggle for power, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been sentenced to imprisonment because of their refusal to become involved in the political issue. Some have served as many as three and four successive sentences. Others, including women, have been severely beaten. However, none of those sentenced or maltreated have ever sought revenge in any way whatsoever. While in the prisons they have found some ‘friends of peace,’ who listened to the good news of the kingdom of God and who began to conform their ways to please him. In many cases the peaceful conduct of these Christians has moved their jailers to treat them with kindness and respect. In other ways they have experienced Jehovah’s protection. In some instances they received no kindness from men, but they had the joy that the apostles had, “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of [Jesus’] name.”—Acts 5:41.
One man serving as an overseer in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses realized that he might have to face a prison sentence in the near future because of his stand on neutrality. He could have moved from the country and so avoided the issue altogether, living elsewhere comfortably with his family. But he and his family prayerfully considered the matter and decided that his Christian responsibilities and the work that needed to be done, helping others to learn more about the Bible, indicated that it would serve the Kingdom interests better for them to remain, even if it was more dangerous. Preparations were made so that, should he be imprisoned, his wife and four children could work together to care for the material needs of the family. No matter how dark things might appear, they trusted that Jehovah would care for them.
In a certain land torn by political strife, Jehovah’s Witnesses, as in all countries, remain neutral as to the warring factions. As one of the Witnesses was on his way to a Bible meeting he was arrested by soldiers. When the book bag that he was carrying was emptied out and found to be full of Bibles and Bible literature, one of the soldiers said: “We’re sorry. We don’t want Jehovah’s Witnesses.” This developed into a discussion of the Bible. The Witness was released with the words: “We understand your position as to political affairs—you witnesses of Jehovah.”
In another country where there is much border violence and guerrilla activity, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who is in the police department was reassigned to a police post in guerrilla territory. Although he worked in the fingerprint section, he was asked to take up a gun during a guerrilla attack. He refused to break his neutrality, and for this he was imprisoned. Soon, the guerrillas made another sortie and completely wiped out the police post. Though still a prisoner, this Witness was happy that his stand in obedience to Bible principles had resulted in his protection. He is glad that he is still alive and that he may continue to live peaceably with all men.
Though Christians themselves are peaceable, they need to be very careful that their position of Christian neutrality is clearly understood, and they should keep out of situations that might cast doubt on their stand. The importance of being ever alert in this matter was emphasized by an incident that occurred in a small village. A congregational elder and his family were living in the home of a fleshly brother who was not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Guerrillas attacked and arrested the two men, together with several other villagers. The Witness protested that he was a Christian neutral, but the guerrillas answered that they had found him in the same house as a person (his fleshly brother) who was suspected of antiguerrilla activity. They then ordered his wife and children, along with other villagers, to run for their lives, while they shot and killed the elder and four other men. The Witness had done nothing unchristian, and his death is indeed regrettable. However, this hard experience underlines the need for the Witnesses to make their Christian neutrality clearly known and to be wide-awake in avoiding situations and circumstances that could cast their neutrality in doubt.—Matt. 10:16.
While it cannot be expected that all men will be the friends of Jehovah’s Witnesses, many people have great respect for one who is conscientiously and sincerely serving God. It is as the inspired writer of the Bible proverb said: “When Jehovah takes pleasure in the ways of a man he causes even his enemies themselves to be at peace with him.”—Prov. 16:7.