Were You Once Associated With Jehovah’s Organization?
THE young man felt ashamed and deeply dejected. His clothes, tattered and torn, bore signs of once having been fashionable attire. Now they left no doubt that he had fallen upon hard times. As his mind drifted back to his distant homeland, he began to feel a deep revulsion for the debauched life he had been living and the way he had squandered the inheritance he had insisted on having prematurely. His empty stomach added to his misery, and he felt homesick. Why, even his father’s servants back home were far better off than he was! Oh, how he would love to be in their shoes!
But what sort of reception could he expect from his father if he went back now? He could hardly expect to be warmly greeted or even allowed inside the house after the shameful way he had abused his father’s kindness. Nevertheless, a deep feeling dominated his mind and heart: He must go home.
How little this young man understood his father’s feelings for him! What a surprise awaited him as he drew near his old home! In fact, “while he was yet a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was moved with pity, and he ran and fell upon his neck and tenderly kissed him.”—Luke 15:20.
Like the prodigal son, have you left your home? Have you drifted away from your Father, Jehovah, and his organization? Do you now also desire to ‘come home’?
In most cases, those who have drifted away from Jehovah’s organization have not been exactly like the prodigal son. With many, it was simply a gradual, almost imperceptible, process of drifting away—like a small boat, adrift and slowly floating farther and farther from the land. Some have become so weighed down with financial difficulties or family problems, with sickness or even with “getting ahead” in the world, that spiritual matters have been crowded out. Others have allowed themselves to be stumbled by individuals associated with the Christian congregation or have left because they disagreed with a certain understanding that Jehovah’s organization had on a Scriptural point. Still others have allowed themselves to become discouraged and have quit when this present system of things did not end at the time they expected.
If you are one who is no longer actively associated with Jehovah’s organization, likely one or more of these reasons will fit your circumstances. But whatever the cause, is it not the time now to consider returning?—Matthew 18:12-14.
Have You Been Stumbled?
Considering how far mankind has fallen from perfection, one can expect that personality clashes will occur from time to time. This has led to the stumbling of some. Others have been stumbled when an individual they deeply respected suddenly acted in some rash or unchristian way or became involved in wrongdoing.
Has this happened to you? Whatever made you stumble, it certainly was not Jehovah who caused the stumbling. (Compare Galatians 5:7, 8.) So is there really any point in severing our relationship with him because of what someone else has done? Rather, should we not continue serving him faithfully, confident that Jehovah knows what is taking place and will deal with us lovingly?—Colossians 3:23-25.
With the passing of time, some have found that what originally stumbled them does not seem nearly as important now or may not even exist anymore. Or in calm consideration of the matter, they may now even conclude that they were actually the ones in the wrong. This is often true when a person has disagreed and stumbled over some counsel or discipline given him. In retrospect, he may realize that such discipline was given in true love and for his good. (Hebrews 12:5-11) How appropriate, then, to act on the apostle Paul’s counsel! He wrote: “Stiffen your drooping arms and shaking knees, and keep your steps from wavering. Then the disabled limb will not be put out of joint, but regain its former powers.”—Hebrews 12:12, 13, The New English Bible.
Did You Disagree With a Teaching?
It may be that you left Jehovah’s organization because you had a different understanding of some Scriptural point. Just as the Israelites rescued from Egypt quickly “forgot [God’s] works” on their behalf and “did not wait for his counsel,” you may hastily have concluded that since the organization did not espouse the viewpoint you considered correct, you would sever ties with it. (Psalm 106:13) Perhaps the point has since been clarified, either being changed or established by further Scriptural research under the direction of God’s spirit. Would it not have been better just to have stayed with the organization, waiting on Jehovah?
It is good to remember that Jehovah has always worked through one organization only. In our day, “the faithful and discreet slave” is dispensing spiritual food “at the proper time.” Note that this slave was to be ‘found doing so when the Master arrived.’ (Matthew 24:45-47) Really, who today realizes that the Master has already arrived? And who is busy with the work indicated? Only those associated with Jehovah’s organization of Christian witnesses!
When others abandoned Jesus, the apostle Peter said: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.” Peter knew beyond all doubt that Jesus was the Messiah. So when many disciples found some of Jesus’ words shocking, Peter realized that it would be unwise to leave the source of “sayings of everlasting life.” In time any doubt or misunderstanding would be clarified. (John 6:51-68; compare Luke 24:27, 32.) This is still the case today, as Jehovah progressively guides his servants in the way of truth.—Proverbs 4:18.
“Do let us search out our ways and explore them, and do let us return clear to Jehovah,” implored the prophet Jeremiah. (Lamentations 3:40) Yet, some may still hold back, perhaps fearing a poor reception by those in the congregation. But what was the response when the prodigal son returned home? “We just had to . . . rejoice,” explained the father, “because this your brother was dead and came to life, and he was lost and was found.” (Luke 15:32) A similar warm welcome awaits those who ‘return to Jehovah’ with a sincere desire to do his will.—Compare Luke 15:7.
But the Christian congregation has not just been sitting back and waiting to welcome such ones if and when they decide to ‘come home.’ In Jesus’ illustration, the father ran out to meet his son when “he was yet a long way off.” Similarly, Jehovah’s Witnesses consider it a personal obligation to seek out those once associated and to help them back into Jehovah’s organization.
But what if an individual became guilty of serious misconduct while separated from Jehovah’s organization? Or what if someone had to be removed from association with God’s people because of serious wrongdoing but has since stopped engaging in unchristian conduct? The elders will know how to assist him in a kind and loving way so as to set matters straight with Jehovah. So anyone now desirous of returning and living in harmony with God’s will should make this desire known to the elders. “‘Come, now, you people, and let us set matters straight between us,’ says Jehovah. ‘Though the sins of you people should prove to be as scarlet, they will be made white just like snow.’”—Isaiah 1:18.
How kind, warm, and loving our heavenly Father is! And how patient he is and interested in each of us personally! Surely, he does not want us to be destroyed with this wicked system of things. (2 Peter 3:9) It was Jehovah who urged his ancient people: “Return to me, and I will return to you.” That same invitation stands today.—Malachi 3:7.
Time is running out, so do not delay. With Jehovah’s people, enjoy again the ‘abundant peace that belongs to those loving God’s law.’ “For them there is no stumbling block,” said the psalmist. (Psalm 119:165) Deep in your heart, do you love Jehovah’s law? If you are a dedicated servant of God, this is why you made a dedication to him. Nothing—yes, absolutely nothing—can be more important than restoring your relationship with Jehovah. Do not turn your back on him. Think about the matter carefully and prayerfully. If you have been missing the unity and warmth of Jehovah’s people, it is not too late to return to Jehovah’s organization. Do so without delay.