What True Religion Can Do for Young People
IF ALL the members of all families would give close attention to the Bible and would make attempts, even though imperfect ones, to put the Bible’s good advice into effect, all families would enjoy internal unity and happiness. Moreover, strife and warfare between families, tribes and nations would cease. But at the present time such is not universally the case. Sometimes only one member of a family takes this good course. What if this is the situation—if, say, only a son or a daughter tries diligently to apply Bible principles? Does this bring about a happy family atmosphere? Not always. But a strong influence toward greater unity does result. And certainly God helps the son or the daughter to cope more satisfactorily with the problem, to have greater peace of mind and to exert a wholesome influence in the family.
In considering this statement about a Christian’s unifying effect, some may recall that Jesus said, in Luke chapter 12, verses 52 and 53, that he came to cause division—“five in one house divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” In saying this, Jesus was not encouraging a split in the family relationship. Jesus did not take a position against his own fleshly brothers. On the other hand, his brothers did not encourage him, but tended to speak disparagingly about his claims. However, Jesus’ course was such that his brothers finally believed the “good news” that he taught and became Christians.—John 7:3-5; Acts 1:13, 14.
Jesus, not only by his own life experience, but also by his words, pointed out that his followers would, in many instances, receive rebuffs, ridicule and even persecution from their own families. However, the believer was not to be the cause of the enmity through rude or disrespectful conduct on his part. This would actually be unchristian, and could be a snare into which a Christian, particularly one who is young, might easily fall. He or she may have been disrespectful before coming to a knowledge of the truth of the Bible. But Bible truth can make marvelous changes in the Christian, for he can exemplify its sterling value, thereby recommending himself to every conscience in the sight of God.—2 Cor. 4:2.
With regard to those who may actually manifest vigorous opposition, due to failure to understand or appreciate the Christian’s changed course, Jesus commanded: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens.” (Matt. 5:44, 45) The Christian’s hope always is that such ones may eventually become believers.
In the face of opposition to the truth, the Christian will, like his Master Jesus Christ, stand firm for the truth. But firmness does not have to be harshness. He will always be kind. He will not think himself above others, nor be one who is insolent or “talks back” (traits particularly characteristic of many young persons today). During periods of ridicule or abuse, the Christian also does well to remember Peter’s words to be “always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Pet. 3:15) Especially should this mild temper and deep respect be shown toward family members. To answer in this manner requires sincere, earnest, diligent study and effort. All, even youthful Christians, should be able to give sound, clear, thorough reasons for their faith. Otherwise, where is their faith?
RESPECT FOR PARENTAL AUTHORITY
A youth who has become a Christian learns, as Jesus said, that “the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) He (or she) finds that there is indeed freedom from many of the things that control, yes, actually enslave young people today—fear of their peers, social pressure to ‘follow the crowd,’ hero worship, jealousies, rivalries, wrong desires, frustrations and calamitous results from being influenced by bad associates. But youths need to recognize that they are not absolutely free. They must recognize properly constituted authority, one of the foremost being parental authority. It is God himself who gave parents the responsibility to train children in the right way and to determine what is the best for each child.—Deut. 6:1, 6, 7; 31:12, 13.
Parental authority includes the “rod” of discipline. Proverbs 23:13, 14 states: “Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol itself.” At times, children may feel that the discipline is not properly administered, but they must remember that it is to God that the parents are accountable for the exercise of their authority, and that if discipline is improperly administered, God can, nevertheless, make it work out to the good of the obedient child.—Rom. 8:28.
Subjection to parental authority is much easier for the young person if he gives thought to the apostle Paul’s words: “True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” (Heb. 12:11) A youth who appreciates this can be thankful for the discipline that he receives at the hands of parents and older ones in the congregation, as well as at school. He will make rapid progress and will enjoy a good conscience and freeness of speech, for when he submits to authority, even though it is sometimes not the most pleasant experience, the youth is serving the Lord Jehovah and his Son Jesus Christ. The apostle gave special attention to youthful ones, to comfort them, when he wrote: “You children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.” (Col. 3:20) The only exception would be in the event that the youth was called on to do something not pleasing to the Lord.
EXERCISING THE WISDOM THAT IS FROM ABOVE
When you worship the Creator, you may not receive help from family members or associates. To keep your balance under such circumstances, you can pray for and obtain wisdom from God. The disciple James, a half brother of Jesus Christ, wrote to those undergoing difficulties: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials.” “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him.”—Jas. 1:2, 5.
James also describes the “wisdom from above” as being “first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.” (Jas. 3:17) Consider each of these qualities carefully, and honestly see whether you are displaying them, and where improvement can be made. These qualities will help you to understand the situation and feelings of others as well as your own.
It should be kept in mind that your family members nearly always have your best interests at heart, even though they may have only a limited knowledge as to what true Christianity is. Perhaps you have begun studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Your relatives and friends may not really know what kind of people Jehovah’s Witnesses are. They may therefore feel that ‘this religion is taking up a lot of your time.’ In view of the hypocrisy seen in most religions today, older persons understandably may be apprehensive and cautious. Seeing your youthful zeal toward religion, they worry that your action may not be based on good sense, but only on emotion. If they manifest opposition, you may be able to prove, by respectful answers in the spirit of peaceableness and reasonableness, that you have made a sensible and well-founded decision.
So ask yourself: Am I truly peaceable and reasonable? Do I demonstrate this attitude toward my family even though they, to some extent, oppose my beliefs? What can I do to improve family togetherness and thereby make my service to the Creator whole-souled? In this regard, does my scheduling of activities show balance and reasonableness, so that I can take care of family obligations and share in proclaiming the “good news” in an effective way?
By applying the Bible’s wisdom from above, the Christian should constantly improve in conduct and in communication with family members. Your family and friends may not oppose you, but if they do, the apostle Peter’s words point out what you should do. He comforted Christians with the following words: “Hold a good conscience, so that in the particular in which you are spoken against they may get ashamed who are speaking slightingly of your good conduct in connection with Christ. For it is better to suffer because you are doing good, if the will of God wishes it, than because you are doing evil.”—1 Pet. 3:16, 17.
Often, a Christian’s conduct makes a more powerful appeal to others than the spoken word.
In Hong Kong, when a girl in her early 20’s started regularly attending the Bible study meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, this was frowned on by the family, especially by the older brothers. However, one brother noted that, whereas the daughter had previously engaged in loud, shouting arguments with her mother, as she continued to study the Bible she began to change and was progressively demonstrating a more quiet and mild spirit. Still he had doubts and was not sure that this improvement was due to the influence of her new religion. He felt that actually his sister was being “taken in” and that her changed attitude was only superficial.
To make a test of the matter, the brother went with her once to the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses to attend the meeting. To his surprise, he did not find a social club or a collection-plate-passing session, but, rather, a group of warm, friendly people interested in studying the Bible and applying it in their lives. Soon, he, too, was studying the Bible. Now, as baptized Witnesses, this brother and sister attend meetings together and are starting to bring along other family members. Interest in God and his Word had been aroused and opposition turned to family unity and happiness—all because of a daughter’s application of Bible counsel in developing a mild temper and a spirit of desire to help others.
At times, it may seem that good conduct goes unnoticed by opposers, but this should not discourage the Christian.
A young girl who had previously been prone to get into mischief and show her independence worked hard at changing over to a Christian personality. At first, this brought no comment and had no apparent effect on her parents. Then, one day, she overheard her mother say to a neighbor: “I used to oppose my daughter when she joined this religion [Jehovah’s Witnesses] but I have noticed such an improvement in her conduct that I won’t oppose her anymore, for this must be a good religion.”
How happy this girl was that she had persevered in displaying fine conduct!
OLDEST ANCESTOR, “ANCIENT OF DAYS”
What is it that causes youths among Jehovah’s Witnesses to follow the Bible with such tenacity even when the family disapproves? Is it that they are being taught disrespect for relatives? Indeed not! Rather, they are following a practice as old as the human race, namely, respect for and obedience to the eldest forefather. In societies around the world, until more recent times, the eldest male member of the family was looked to for advice, wisdom and guidance. His word was law and took precedence above that of others—a son, a grandson or a great-grandson. Many persons in the Orient even worship their dead ancestors and look to them for guidance. But true Christians are actually listening to the oldest ancestor or forefather, who is not dead, but is “the living God,” namely, mankind’s Creator, Jehovah God.—Jer. 10:10-12.
The Bible book of Daniel (7:9) speaks of God as the “Ancient of Days.” He is from everlasting to everlasting and the source of life for all humans. (Ps. 36:7, 9; Acts 17:24, 25, 28) Accordingly, all should be obedient to him, even as properly trained youngsters should be quick to listen to parents and grandparents. It is by following the wisdom and instructions of the “Ancient of Days” that we can come to be called his children. (1 Pet. 1:14; 1 John 3:1; 2 Cor. 6:18) Understandably, then, youthful servants of the Creator feel that they must conscientiously listen to this highest parent as the final authority whenever there is a conflict of commands, while still maintaining respect and showing love toward their parents.
Since Jehovah is the originator of families and family life, it follows that youths who serve him will become better family members. Sons and daughters will not shame their earthly parents by following the fads, immorality and bad conduct of this world. They will be quick to help out at home and otherwise bring glory to their parents through their chaste and upright conduct at all times. (Titus 2:6-8) By giving attention to these things, which are much more pleasant and satisfying than strife and resistance to authority, true Christian youths bring praise to the Creator. Their heavenly Father also receives glory from this and blesses them for their love and faith.
In all corners of the earth, in whatever circumstances, thousands of youths are taking the course that pleases God. Perhaps some of the world’s greatest attractions for youth, and the greatest pressures, exist in the so-called modernized nations, where the prevalent spirit is materialistic. Can true Christianity provide youths what they need for contentment and happiness, and free them from being swept along by worldly materialism? A good example is found in the Federal Republic of Germany of the postwar period.