Christian Neutrals in a Bloodstained World
“Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image he made man.”—GENESIS 9:6.
1. What world developments since 1914 give cause for concern?
OCEANS of blood, that of more than a hundred million humans, have been shed in warfare since 1914. And what is the prospect for the future? The devastation of two Japanese cities in 1945 snuffed out some 200,000 lives and led eventually to a new doctrine, spelled out by the superpowers and appropriately labeled “MAD” (Mutually Assured Destruction). This has become the basis of a balance of terror, built upon stockpiles of nuclear weapons that could demolish our earth many times over. Submarines have carried these fiendish weapons into the oceans, and recently the space-war threat has extended the danger. Even the balance of terror is now shaken to its foundations. Is there any way out of this madness?
2. What did Jesus prophesy concerning these times, but with what assurance to Christians?
2 Yes, there is. But it will not be of the nations’ choosing. Jesus prophesied concerning their present dilemma: “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Jesus concluded that prophecy with the assurance that Christians who “keep awake . . . may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur.”—Luke 21:25, 26, 36.
Pursuing Peace With God
3. (a) How are the nations serving the interests of “the god of this world”? (b) How will Jehovah settle the issue?
3 The nations, especially those armed with nuclear weapons, are locked in a competition for world domination, which could conceivably end in world annihilation. This serves the interests of “the god of this world.” The nations “have massed together as one against Jehovah and against his [Christ],” who is now enthroned in the heavens. When Jehovah gives the command, Christ will break those nations as with an iron scepter. Then will come the fulfillment of the promise: “The God who gives peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.”—2 Corinthians 4:4, King James Version; Psalm 2:2, 6-9; Romans 16:20.
4. How may we pursue peace with God? (1 Peter 3:11)
4 We, for our part, should want to pursue peace with that God. How may we do so? For one thing, we should wish to have God’s viewpoint concerning the sanctity of human life and of the precious lifeblood that flows in our arteries and veins.
5. What examples indicate that Jehovah avenges wanton bloodshed?
5 Jehovah is the Creator of man and of the marvelous bloodstream that carries nourishment to the human body, thus keeping us alive. God never purposed that human blood should be shed wantonly. After Cain committed the first murder, Jehovah declared that Abel’s blood was crying out to be avenged. Later, one of Cain’s descendants, Lamech, became a killer and stated poetically that should he himself be killed, this bloodguilt should be avenged. In time, a corrupt world became filled with violence. Jehovah sent the deluge to destroy that first world of mankind. Only the family of peaceful Noah, whose name means “Rest,” survived.—Genesis 4:8-12, 23, 24; 6:13; 7:1.
6. What is God’s law with regard to blood, and on whom is this binding?
6 Jehovah then informed Noah of His express will concerning blood. He climaxed this by saying: “Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image he made man.” (Genesis 9:3-6) All mankind today are descendants of Noah; hence, this divine law that emphasizes respect for life is binding on all humans who desire God’s approval. The sixth of the Ten Commandments also declared, “You must not murder.” Bloodguilt calls for due action and recompense.—Exodus 20:13; 21:12; Deuteronomy 21:1-9; Hebrews 10:30.
7. (a) Why was it proper for Jehovah to command Israel to go to war? (b) In what warfare are Christians engaged today?
7 Since the shedding of blood was so clearly forbidden, why was it that Jehovah permitted, and even commanded, the nation of Israel to engage in warfare? We have to remember that this was a sanctified warfare by means of which Jehovah, the Judge of all the earth, had demon-worshiping nations exterminated. The Canaanites, for example, were squatters in the Promised Land and followed a demonistic, immoral life-style that would endanger God’s holy people. Jehovah had the land “vomit” those depraved humans out of their territory, using theocratic warfare to have it done. (Leviticus 18:1-30; Deuteronomy 7:1-6, 24) This justifies the spiritual warfare of the Christian today.—2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:11-18.
8. What shows God’s disapproval of the shedding of innocent blood?
8 However, Jehovah did not approve of indiscriminate bloodshed. Thus, it is written concerning a king of Judah: “There was also innocent blood that Manasseh shed in very great quantity, until he had filled Jerusalem from end to end.” Though Manasseh later repented and humbled himself before Jehovah, that bloodguilt remained on him and his dynasty. Manasseh’s God-fearing grandson, King Josiah, acted positively to cleanse the land and restore true worship. But he could not remove that bloodguilt. During the reign of Josiah’s son Jehoiakim, Jehovah moved to bring Nebuchadnezzar against Judah, to execute judgment against that nation. “It was only by the order of Jehovah that it took place against Judah, to remove it from his sight for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done; and also for the innocent blood that he had shed, so that he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and Jehovah did not consent to grant forgiveness.”—2 Kings 21:16; 24:1-4; 2 Chronicles 33:10-13.
The Standard for Christians
9. What standard did Jesus set for Christians with regard to the shedding of blood?
9 We would expect that Jesus, the Founder of Christianity, would set the standard for Christians with respect to the shedding of blood. Did he? Well, shortly after he had instituted the Memorial of his death, Jesus saw to it that his disciples had two swords with them. For what purpose? To establish a vital principle, one that all Christians would need to observe. When the soldier band came to arrest Jesus in Gethsemane, impetuous Peter wielded a sword, striking off the right ear of Malchus, a slave of the Jewish high priest. Was it not a noble thing to fight thus in behalf of the Son of God? Jesus did not think so. He healed the slave’s ear and reminded Peter that His heavenly Father was able to send 12 legions of angels to Jesus’ aid. Jesus there stated the fundamental principle: “All those who take the sword will perish by the sword.”—Matthew 26:51-53; Luke 22:36, 38, 49-51; John 18:10, 11.
10. (a) What important principle is established at John 17:14, 16, and Joh 18:36? (b) What course resulted in salvation for first-century Christians?
10 Christians of the first century would later recall Jesus’ fervent prayer to Jehovah, in which he said of his disciples: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” They would remember Jesus’ explanatory answer to Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.” (John 17:14, 16; 18:36) In those days, Jewish factions were fighting one another, both verbally and by shedding blood. But Jesus’ disciples did not get mixed up in those revolutionary campaigns. For some 30 years they waited in Jerusalem. Then they obeyed Jesus’ prophetic sign by “fleeing to the mountains.” Their neutral stance and their flight resulted in their salvation.—Matthew 24:15, 16.
11, 12. (a) What decision did Cornelius and Sergius Paulus have to make when they became believers? (b) Where would they receive help in order to make the right decision? (c) What does this indicate to us today?
11 Some may ask, ‘What of Cornelius, the centurion, and Sergius Paulus, the army-backed proconsul in Cyprus? Were not these men associated with the military?’ Yes, at the time they accepted the Christian message. The Scriptures, though, do not tell us what Cornelius and others did after their conversion. No doubt Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man and “astounded at the teaching of Jehovah,” would soon scrutinize his secular position in the light of his newfound faith and make a proper decision. Cornelius would have done likewise. (Acts 10:1, 2, 44-48; 13:7, 12) There is no record that the disciples told them what action they must take. They could see that from their own study of God’s Word.—Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:3.
12 Similarly, Christians today should not instruct others personally as to what stand they must take on issues related to Christian neutrality. Each one must make his own conscientious decisions in line with his understanding of Bible principles.—Galatians 6:4, 5.
In Modern Times
13. How did the Bible Students fare in trying to avoid bloodguilt during World War I?
13 It was in 1914 that total warfare first invaded the world scene. The entire resources of nations, including their manpower, were committed to warfare. Many of the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were called at that time, made commendable efforts to avoid bloodguilt. They were bitterly persecuted, just as Jesus said they would be.—John 15:17-20.
14, 15. (a) How did Jehovah provide guidance during World War II? (b) What clear-cut stand did Jehovah’s Witnesses then take? (c) How did this contrast with what worldly religionists were doing?
14 When global conflict again erupted in 1939, Jehovah provided clear guidance for his servants. Within two months of the declaration of war, this guidance came in the form of Bible study material entitled “Neutrality” in the November 1, 1939, issue of The Watchtower. It concluded with the sentence: “All who are on the Lord’s side will be neutral as to warring nations, and will be entirely and wholly for the great THEOCRAT and his King.”
15 What resulted? As a worldwide brotherhood, Jehovah’s Witnesses consistently refrained from shedding the blood of innocent people, including their brothers in other lands. While Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, and others were slaughtering one another, Jesus’ true disciples were obeying his new commandment: “Just as I have loved you, . . . you also love one another.”—John 13:34.
16. (a) How did Jehovah’s Witnesses show themselves to be upright citizens? (b) How did the Witnesses persist in paying back God’s things to God, and at times with what result?
16 These Christians continued to pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar. They obeyed the laws of the land as upright citizens. (Matthew 22:17-21; Romans 13:1-7) But more importantly, they paid back to God the things that belonged to him, including their dedicated lives and Christian worship. Hence, when Caesar demanded to have God’s things, they acted in harmony with the principles stated at Acts 4:19 and Ac 5:29. Whether the issue was shedding blood, noncombatant military work, alternative service, or saluting an image such as a national flag, faithful Christians took the position that there was no middle ground. In some cases they were executed because of this stand.—Matthew 24:9; Revelation 2:10.
They Did Not Compromise
17. (a) According to one book, how were Jehovah’s Witnesses treated by the Nazis? (b) In meeting the challenge, how did Jehovah’s Witnesses contrast with others?
17 A recent book entitled Of Gods and Men stated that during Hitler’s Third Reich, Jehovah’s Witnesses were the religious group that suffered “the most extreme opposition.” Jehovah’s Witnesses did not compromise. Those of other religions in Germany followed their military chaplains, thus rendering religious service to the German state and receiving the “mark” of the political wild beast “in their right hand or upon their forehead.” (Revelation 13:16) These gave the active right hand of support to the German political machine and made their stand clearly seen by heiling Hitler and saluting the swastika flag.
18. (a) What record shows whether Jehovah’s Witnesses were “political ‘neutrals’”? (b) How should this historical account affect us individually today?
18 What position did true Christians there take? The above-mentioned study states: “Only the Jehovah’s Witnesses resisted the regime. They fought tooth and nail and as a result one-half of their number was imprisoned and one-quarter executed. . . . They, in contrast to [other religions], are nonworldly in the sense that they do not seek the approbation or the rewards of the material world and do not consider themselves to be members of it. They are political ‘neutrals’ since they belong already to another world—God’s. . . . They do not seek or offer compromises. . . . To serve in the army, to vote, or to give the Hitler salute would have meant a recognition of the claims of this world as dominant over the claims of God.” The pursuit of peace and nonviolence by Jehovah’s Witnesses was even recognized in the concentration camps. How so? In that “only Witnesses were allowed to shave the S.S. guards using cut-throat razors, since only they could be trusted not to kill.”
19. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses followed Jesus’ courageous example, and with what result?
19 During the second world war, Jehovah’s Witnesses became an outstanding example of Christian neutrality. Consistently, around the earth they courageously followed Jesus’ example in being “no part of the world”; they conquered this bloodguilty world even as Christ had done.—John 17:16; 16:33; 1 John 5:4.
Finding Refuge From Bloodguilt
20. (a) Why is it urgent to flee from false religion? (b) Where only may true refuge be found today?
20 Religious organizations have reddened the pages of history by spilling innocent blood in crusades, “holy” wars, and inquisitions. They have made concordats with bloodthirsty dictators. They consented when those dictators threw Jehovah’s Witnesses into prisons and concentration camps, where many of them died. They gave willing support to führers (leaders) who executed Witnesses by shooting and beheading. These religious systems cannot escape Jehovah’s righteous judgment. It will not delay. Nor should any lover of righteousness delay in getting out of false religion—bloodstained “Babylon the Great”—and seeking refuge in God’s organization.—Revelation 18:2, 4, 21, 24.
21. What is foreshadowed by God’s arrangement of the cities of refuge?
21 Many of us, before we studied God’s Word, may have shed human blood or been members of bloodguilty religious or political organizations. In this we may be compared to the unintentional manslayer in Israel. He could flee to one of six specified cities where he could find refuge and, finally, a release at the death of Israel’s high priest. Today, that means accepting and remaining under the benefits of the active service of God’s High Priest, Jesus Christ. By remaining there in association with God’s anointed people, we may survive when the modern-day “avenger of blood,” Christ Jesus, executes God’s judgment on the bloodguilty. The “great crowd” who now flee to God’s organization must stay in that refuge until Christ, in his capacity as High Priest, ‘dies’ with respect to completing his work of redemption.—Numbers 35:6-8, 15, 22-25; 1 Corinthians 15:22-26; Revelation 7:9, 14.
22. With respect to Isaiah 2:4, how do the nations of the UN differ from God’s holy nation?
22 On the UN plaza wall in New York, U.S.A., you may read the following words based on Isaiah 2:4 (King James Version): “They shall beat their swords into plowshares. And their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more.” But who acts in harmony with those words today? Not one of the members of the so-called United Nations. It is only the peace-pursuing global “nation” of three million and more witnesses of Jehovah that has clearly demonstrated how Christian neutrality can be maintained in a bloodstained world.
Questions in Review
◻ How may we pursue peace with God?
◻ How does Jehovah view wanton bloodshed?
◻ What is meant by Christian neutrality?
◻ What fine examples of integrity do we have?
◻ How may we find refuge for salvation?
[Box on page 21]
A Record of Faith, Courage, and Integrity
The book New Religious Movements: A Perspective for Understanding Society makes these further comments on the integrity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in facing up to Nazi persecution:
“In their refusal to comply, the Jehovah’s Witnesses offered a challenge to the totalitarian concept of the new society, and this challenge, as well as the persistence of its survival, demonstrably disturbed the architects of the new order. The more the Witnesses were persecuted, the more they presented a real ideological challenge. The time-honoured methods of persecution, torture, imprisonment and ridicule were not resulting in the conversion of any Witnesses to the Nazi position and were in fact back-firing against their instigators. The Nazis panicked in the face of this unpredictable response.”
“Between these two rival claimants on loyalty, the fight was bitter, even more so, since the physically stronger Nazis were in many ways less sure, less rooted in the firmness of their own conviction, less certain of the survival of their 1,000 year Reich. Witnesses did not doubt their own roots, for their faith had been evident since the time of Abel. Whilst the Nazis had to suppress opposition and convince their supporters, often borrowing language and imagery from sectarian Christianity, Witnesses were sure of the total, unbending loyalty of their members, even to death.”
It will be a happy day indeed when this conquest by Christian loyalty has been completed. (Romans 8:35-39) Then, under the Kingdom rule of the “Prince of Peace,” the glorified Jesus Christ, “to the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end.”—Isaiah 9:6, 7.
[Box on page 22]
Youthful Integrity Keepers
The following is quoted from a diary recently published by an observer in a European country. It indicates how youthful Witnesses have faced up courageously to the issue of being “no part of the world.”—John 17:14.
‘1945, March 12: There were martial law proceedings. Two young Jehovists are the accused. The charge: refusal of military service (according to the spirit of their religion). The younger one, who is not yet 20 years old, was sentenced to 15 years in a penitentiary. The older one, however, was sentenced to death, and he was immediately brought to his hometown to be executed there publicly as a deterring example. He is the 14th victim here. May he rest in peace. This case has deeply affected me. Against the Jehovists you cannot act in such a way. Of this boy, they did not make a warning example but a martyr. He was a healthy boy. I am sad for him.
‘In the afternoon, we have learned the details of the execution of this young man, which took place in front of quite a number of people in the marketplace. One of the soldiers who stood in the cordon shot himself out of shame prior to the execution. This was because a colonel wanted to have him assist the hangman. But he was not willing to do so. He rather made an end to his own life. The young man himself died with courage. He did not say a word.’
In the resurrection, how happy such youths will be that they chose to experience the sting of death rather than forfeit a place in Jehovah’s new system of things!—Compare Hosea 13:14.