How Different Are You From the World?
“The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: . . . to keep oneself without spot from the world.”—JAMES 1:27.
1, 2. Who said that Christians would be different from the world? Why should Jehovah’s Witnesses expect to be different from the world?
IT WAS Jesus who first said that Christians must be no part of the world. (John 15:19) And in prayer to his Father the night before he died, he was heard to say: “I have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” Then, almost immediately, he repeated: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.”—John 17:14, 16.
2 Most religions of Christendom make no effort to fulfill those words. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses realize that Christians today have no choice but to stay separate from the world. They know that Satan is the ruler of this world. (John 14:30; 1 John 5:19) To be a part of the world means to be under Satan’s influence. James warned: “Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) Hence, we should expect to be different.
3. What basic things make Jehovah’s Witnesses different from those around them?
3 But how are Jehovah’s Witnesses different? Jesus said that Christians would not be physically removed from the world. (John 17:15) And, indeed, Jehovah’s Witnesses live in its communities, and most of them marry and raise families, just like everyone else. They, too, have to find work, cope with inflation, and pay their taxes. Yet they are different. In an article about them, the religion editor of a United States newspaper explained why he thought this was. He said: “What separates Witnesses from most of their critics, perhaps, is that their total lives—how they spend their hours and with whom—is totally wrapped up in their beliefs.” Exactly! Jehovah’s Witnesses are completely dedicated to Jehovah God. They truly believe his promises in the Bible, and they take very seriously all of God’s commands to them. (1 John 5:3) This makes them different.
4. What factors make separateness from this world difficult? Hence, what should all of us do from time to time?
4 However, such separateness is neither popular nor easy. In our day-to-day lives, the pressure toward conformity is strong. Most of us have an instinctive desire to be not too different from everyone else. When issues arise involving neutrality, it takes strong conviction to be different and obey Jehovah’s commands. (Acts 5:29; 15:28, 29) Hence, it is wise for each individual to examine himself from time to time to see how he stands in the matter of being separate from the world.—2 Corinthians 13:5.
Zealous in Field Service
5. (a) What do some non-Witnesses say about Jehovah’s Witnesses’ zeal in the preaching work? (b) What are some Bible principles that move the Witnesses to be zealous in this work?
5 For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses are well known for their zeal in preaching. This truly makes them different. Some admire them for it, while others are annoyed by it. Missionaries from one evangelical organization report that wherever they go in the world they meet up with local people who are active, zealous witnesses for Jehovah! “Talk for very long to almost any . . . missionary anywhere in the world about local situations, and you’ll hear Jehovah’s Witnesses mentioned,” said one of their publications. Why are the Witnesses so zealous in this work? The reason is that preaching the good news is God’s will and an identifying mark of a true Christian. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Ephesians 6:14, 15; Revelation 22:17) Today, this preaching by Jehovah’s Witnesses is a public demonstration of their loyalty to God’s Kingdom and their desire to help others to worship Jehovah.—Isaiah 2:2-4; Matthew 24:14.
6. What are some questions we should ask ourselves to examine our feelings toward the work of preaching the good news of the Kingdom?
6 How important is the preaching work to you? In the world, most feel that making a living, or even recreation, is more important than religious practices. (2 Timothy 3:4; 1 John 2:16) However, Paul wrote to Timothy: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Do you have this view? Do you also remember the warning of the apostle Peter that you should ‘keep close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah’? (2 Peter 3:12) If so, then you know that preaching the good news of the Kingdom is a matter of urgency. This may move you to act in ways that seem strange to non-Witnesses.
7. What step have many taken with regard to the preaching work? Why?
7 For example, John, a schoolteacher in Ghana, took the Scriptures seriously. So he resigned from his job in order to spend more time telling neighbors about the Kingdom. Brian, an English boy, sacrificed his opportunity to go to a university so that he could be a full-time preacher; and Eve, an American girl, left college after a few semesters for the same reason. Were these young people impractical or foolish? Really, to anyone who takes the Bible seriously, what they did was reasonable and logical. Far from endangering their future, they were helping to ensure it. As Paul said, the work they chose means salvation, ‘both to them and to those who listen to them.’—1 Timothy 4:16.
A Different Kind of Conduct
8. What Biblical principle in Hebrews 1:9 also helps to make Jehovah’s Witnesses different?
8 Here is another principle that makes Christians different from the world: “You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness.” (Hebrews 1:9) In the context, these words are addressed to Jesus Christ, but Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize that they provide a standard for Christians too. (1 Peter 2:21) We have to love what God says is right and hate what God says is lawless.
9. (a) What are some forms of lawlessness? (b) How does a Christian congregation’s attitude toward lawlessness differ from that of the world?
9 The apostle Paul identified some kinds of lawlessness in these words: “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Today, the world is grossly permissive, particularly in matters of morality. But Bible standards are not negotiable. The Bible says that any Christian getting involved in immoral practices should be lovingly helped to change his way. (Galatians 6:1; James 5:19, 20) If he refuses to make a change, then he should be shunned by Christians.—1 Corinthians 5:9-13.
10. Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses have to protect themselves from lawless acts?
10 Some have charged that this way of handling matters is unloving or fanatical. They prefer the world’s more liberal approach. Do you feel that way? Or do you realize that such actions show not so much a lack of love for the sinner as a hatred of his lawless acts. And do you understand that the Christian congregation must act in this way if it is to remain Christian? James said: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: . . . to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27, New International Version) How could a group claim to have the true religion if it allowed itself to be polluted by serious sin?
11. How do Christian standards affect a Christian’s speech?
11 A Christian’s ‘hatred of what is bad’ goes further. The Bible says: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting.” (Ephesians 5:3, 4) So real Christians are known among their associates for not using filthy language, telling dirty jokes, or getting prurient enjoyment out of discussing unclean things. Clean minds and clean speech are increasingly rare today.
12. How are Jehovah’s Witnesses different from the world when it comes to entertainment?
12 Jehovah’s Witnesses even differ when it comes to entertainment. Since “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” they have learned to be cautious about entertainment offered by the world. (1 John 5:19) They avoid completely the many party games, magazines, videos, films, music, and television shows that have demonic or pornographic content, or that highlight sick, sadistic violence. They are wary, too, of so-called family entertainment that promotes promiscuous or permissive ideas that Christians cannot approve. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Anyone who takes the Bible seriously would not look for entertainment in things that should not even be mentioned among Christians.
13. Is it narrow-minded to restrict ourselves so much in the matter of entertainment? Explain.
13 Is this your opinion? Or do you feel that such views make Jehovah’s Witnesses narrow-minded or restrictive? If so, consider: When a food product is discovered to be polluted and is immediately removed from the store shelves, consumers do not complain that their freedom is restricted because they can no longer purchase it. Rather, they are grateful to be protected from food poisoning. Jehovah’s Witnesses, similarly, do not complain that their freedom is somehow restricted when the pollution of much worldly entertainment is pointed out to them. Rather, they are relieved to be protected from the danger such pollution poses.
They Love One Another
14. What quality did Jesus say would make the Christian community stand out from the world around it?
14 Here is another measure of a Christian’s separateness from the world. The night before he died, Jesus said to his followers: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Why would love be a sign to outsiders? Because, as a whole, the situation in the world today is just as Paul said it would be: “Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, . . . having no natural affection.” (2 Timothy 3:2, 3) In such an environment, a worldwide community of people who have love among themselves would be a phenomenon. Such a brotherhood exists among Jehovah’s Witnesses.—1 Peter 2:17.
15. What are some situations in which Jehovah’s Witnesses have the opportunity to show love for one another?
15 This love is very noticeable and often draws comments from outsiders when the Witnesses get together at their conventions. When there are large-scale disasters, the Witnesses are quickly on the scene, bringing aid to their brothers. And within the congregation, genuine Christians show love and consideration for one another. Even when there are personality problems, they try hard to ‘put up with one another and forgive one another freely.’—Colossians 3:12-14.
They Do Not Stumble One Another
16. (a) What situation did Paul discuss that gave first-century Christians a fine opportunity to show the depth of their love for one another? (b) What principle did he explain that has many modern applications?
16 Such love makes the Witnesses different in another way. Today, many are concerned with and jealously protect their rights. The apostle Paul, however, set a different standard: “Let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.” (Romans 14:19) In the context, Paul was speaking about a problem that existed then regarding food. Christians, unlike the Jews under the Mosaic Law, were free to eat whatever they wanted as long as they were not gluttons. Some, though, who from childhood had viewed certain foods as repugnant, were disturbed when they saw fellow Christians eat them. Did those other Christians insist on their right to eat anything they wanted anyway? Not if they followed Paul’s counsel. He said: “It is well not to eat flesh or to drink wine or do anything over which your brother stumbles.” (Romans 14:21) What loving counsel! Can you see how it could guide us in some other areas?
17, 18. (a) How can the principle at Romans 14:21 be applied in the matter of strong drink? (b) How can it be applied in the matter of clothing? (c) What other areas can you think of in which applying this same principle will help us to show love for one another?
17 For example, the Bible permits Christians to drink alcoholic beverages in moderation. (1 Timothy 3:8; 5:23) But some are sensitive about strong drink. Others are not used to it or cannot handle it. If you were at a gathering with someone like that, would you try to pressure or shame him to join you in drinking alcohol? Or would you yourself not rather abstain so as not to cause him problems?
18 Consider another example: the matter of clothing. The Bible does not describe what kind of clothing a Christian should wear, although it does say that it should be modest and neat. (1 Timothy 2:9) Today, most countries have certain dress codes that are considered acceptable in formal society. Usually, this code allows for reasonable variety, but any wide deviation from it seems egocentric, sensuous, or eccentric. Christians, both men and women, have to bear this in mind. Are you willing to limit your freedom in the matter of clothing for the sake of the good news and so as not to stumble your brothers?
19-21. (a) Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses work to maintain their separateness from the world? (b) In what other field do we have to strive to be separate from the world?
19 Yes, Jesus was right when he said that Christians would be “no part of the world.” (John 17:16) In preaching the good news, in shunning what is bad, and in love and consideration for one another, Jehovah’s Witnesses really are different. This separateness brings blessings to the Witnesses, not least because it protects them from many of the problems that plague the world today.
20 Do you treasure and cultivate this separateness in your own life? Remember, if Jehovah’s Witnesses were any less separate, they would be more similar to the world, of which Satan the Devil is the god. (2 Corinthians 4:4) They would lose their clear identification as a ‘holy people,’ and would fail to keep themselves “uncontaminated by the world.” Thus, they would no longer have “pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God.” (James 1:27, The Jerusalem Bible; 1 Peter 1:14-16) If you find yourself wishing you could be more like the world, remember the warning at James 4:4.
21 The apostle Paul prophesied that another trait would dominate in the world today. He said that men would be “lovers of money.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 2) True to his words, pursuit of money is now such a powerful force that for many it is the strongest influence on their lives. Are Christians different in this too? Is it possible to survive in today’s world without being a ‘lover of money’? We will discuss this in the succeeding article.
Can You Recall?
◻ Why should a Christian expect to be different from the world?
◻ What scriptures help Jehovah’s Witnesses to have a right view of the preaching work?
◻ In what different ways does the application of Hebrews 1:9 make Jehovah’s Witnesses different from the world?
◻ What effect does applying the principle explained in Romans 14:21 have on their conduct?
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Jehovah’s Witnesses have learned to be cautious about the entertainment offered by the world