A People Walking in Jesus’ Footsteps
“We walked in the same spirit, did we not? In the same footsteps, did we not?”—2 CORINTHIANS 12:18.
1. Why is it often not difficult to recognize one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
“AS A group, they’re polite, responsible, and do well in school. This cannot be said of other groups.” So said the principal of an elementary school in the United States. Whom was he speaking about? The children of Jehovah’s Witnesses who were pupils in his school. Indeed, many have noticed that Jehovah’s Witnesses, including their children, often resemble other Witnesses in certain ways. Over the years it has become increasingly apparent that they are remarkably united as regards beliefs and conduct. So the Witnesses are not difficult to recognize.
2. What was a characteristic quality of the early Christian congregation, and what did Paul have to say about this?
2 The unity of Jehovah’s Witnesses is something unusual in this disunited world. But it is not hard to understand if we remember that all of them are striving to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. (1 Peter 2:21) Such unity was also a characteristic of first-century Christians. On one occasion, Paul admonished the congregation in Corinth: “Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10) Paul also gave inspired counsel on how to deal with persons unwilling to maintain Christian unity.—See Romans 16:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:6.
3, 4. How did Paul describe the unity between himself and Titus, and what was the basis for this unity?
3 About the year 55 C.E., Paul sent Titus to Corinth to assist in making a collection for needy brothers in Judea and possibly to see how the congregation was reacting to Paul’s counsel. When later writing to the Corinthians, Paul referred to Titus’ recent visit and asked: “Titus did not take advantage of you at all, did he? We walked in the same spirit, did we not? In the same footsteps, did we not?” (2 Corinthians 12:18) What did Paul mean by their walking “in the same spirit” and “in the same footsteps”?
4 He was expressing the unity that existed between him and Titus. Titus was Paul’s occasional traveling companion, and he no doubt learned much from Paul in this way. But the unity existing between the two was based on something stronger than that. It was based on their fine relationship with Jehovah and on the fact that both of them were footstep followers of Christ. Titus imitated Paul just as Paul imitated Christ. (Luke 6:40; 1 Corinthians 11:1) So it was in Jesus’ spirit and in his footsteps that they were walking.
5. What can be expected of persons today who imitate Paul and Titus as they walk “in the same spirit” and “in the same footsteps”?
5 It is not strange, then, that Christians of this 20th century, walking “in the same spirit” and “in the same footsteps” as Paul and Titus, enjoy an unequaled unity. In fact, the disunity of nominal Christians betrays them as being counterfeit Christians, not walking in the footsteps of the Leader they claim to follow. (Luke 11:17) This striking difference between true and nominal Christians can be illustrated in various ways. Let us mention four.
The Sanctity of Blood
6, 7. (a) What correct view of blood is involved in walking in Jesus’ footsteps? (b) What is the difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and others today who refuse blood transfusions?
6 About the year 49 C.E., the governing body of the first-century congregation sent out a letter that answered the question: Should non-Jewish Christians obey the Law of Moses? The letter said this: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication.” (Acts 15:28, 29) Notice that among the “necessary things” was abstinence from blood. Walking in Jesus’ footsteps would mean not taking blood into the body either orally or in any other way.
7 This principle has been flagrantly violated in Christendom by the practice of administering blood transfusions. True, in recent years a number of individuals have become aware of the health hazards of blood transfusions and have refused them for medical reasons. This is particularly true since many have contracted AIDS from transfused blood. But who uphold the sanctity of blood out of respect for God’s law, doing so as a group? When a patient objects to having a transfusion, whom does the doctor automatically think him to be? Does the doctor not usually say: ‘You must be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses’?
8. How was a Witness in Italy blessed for her determination to keep God’s law in this respect?
8 Antonietta lives in Italy. About eight years ago she was very sick, and her blood count was so low that doctors insisted that transfusions were needed to save her life. She refused and was opposed by both doctors and relatives. Even her two little boys pleaded: “Mama, if you really love us, take the blood.” But Antonietta was determined to remain faithful, and happily she did not die. Still, her condition was so serious that a doctor said: “We can’t explain why she’s still alive.” But once an unobjectionable type of treatment was begun, she made such rapid progress that another doctor remarked: “I can’t believe it—you just couldn’t have recovered in such a short time, not even if we had pumped blood into you all day long.” Currently, she is a regular pioneer, and her two sons, now 12 and 14, are making fine progress in the truth. Antonietta courageously observed that ‘necessary thing,’ the sanctity of blood. All of Jehovah’s Witnesses hold the same view as they walk in Jesus’ footsteps.
9. What is another ‘necessary thing’ involved in following in Jesus’ footsteps, and what happens to those who fail to observe this?
9 Another ‘necessary thing’ highlighted in that letter from the first-century governing body was “to keep abstaining . . . from fornication.” In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul enlarged on this, saying: “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men . . . will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Christians help people who wish to serve Jehovah to rid themselves of these unclean practices. Even members of the congregation who get ensnared by them are helped to purify themselves if they turn around and repent. (James 5:13-15) But if any Christian falls into such filthy practices and refuses to repent, a straightforward Bible rule applies. Paul was divinely inspired to say: “Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator. . . . Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”—1 Corinthians 5:11, 13.
10, 11. (a) Who must bear responsibility for the low moral standards in Christendom, and why? (b) How does the experience of a man in the Philippines demonstrate that, as a group, Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain high moral standards?
10 Despite this clear teaching, Christendom is riddled with immorality. Clergymen who water down the divine standards are to blame for this situation, as are those who pay lip service to Bible standards but fail to enforce them courageously in their congregations. Nevertheless, in this, too, Jehovah’s Witnesses as a people walk in Jesus’ footsteps.
11 Consider Jose, from the Philippines. At 17 he was already known as a troublemaker and a gambler. He was often drunk, was living an immoral life, and frequently landed in jail for stealing. Then he came in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The study of the Bible completely changed my life,” he says. “I no longer drink and smoke, and I have learned to control my temper. I now have a clear conscience, having just one wife. I have also gained the respect of my neighbors, who used to call me ‘Jose, the notorious one’ and ‘Jose, the ghost.’ Now they call me ‘Jose, the Witness of Jehovah.’ My son and my nephew are ministerial servants in the congregation where I presently serve as an elder and a regular pioneer.” Jose and millions of other Christian witnesses of Jehovah walk in Jesus’ footsteps as morally clean Christians.
12. What attitude of genuine Christians did Jesus highlight in his prayer recorded in John chapter 17?
12 In the long prayer that Jesus offered on the last evening he was with his disciples, he mentioned another way that his followers would ‘walk in his footsteps.’ Speaking of his disciples, he said: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:16) This means that Christians are neutral. Rather than taking part in politics or national conflicts, they tell others about God’s Kingdom, the only solution to this world’s problems.—Matthew 6:9, 10; John 18:36.
13, 14. (a) How does Christendom differ from Jehovah’s Witnesses in the matter of neutrality? (b) How did maintaining political neutrality on the part of a Witness in Japan work out to the benefit of the whole brotherhood?
13 This principle of neutrality has been forgotten by most members of Christendom, for whom national origins are usually more important than religious affiliations. Syndicated columnist Mike Royko points out that “Christians” have never been “squeamish about waging wars on other Christians,” adding: “If they had been, most of the liveliest wars in Europe would never have occurred.” That Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain strict Christian neutrality in times of war is a well-known fact. But as footstep followers of Jesus, they are also neutral on social and political issues. Thus, nothing disturbs their remarkable worldwide unity.—1 Peter 2:17.
14 Their neutrality sometimes brings unexpected results. In the Tsugaru district of northern Japan, for example, elections are taken very seriously. But Toshio, assistant manager in the Finance Department of a local governmental office, refused for reasons of conscience to get involved in the mayor’s reelection campaign. This resulted in his being demoted to a low position in the Department of Sewage. A year later, however, the mayor was arrested and forced to resign because of corrupt practices. A new mayor was elected. When he heard about Toshio’s demotion, he restored him to a high administrative position, and this brought blessings to Toshio’s Christian brothers. How? Toshio explains that it is very difficult to obtain permission to use gymnasiums for gatherings other than athletic events. But in his present position, “Jehovah has been able to use me”—quoting Toshio’s own words—“to obtain the use of such gymnasiums for three district conventions and four circuit assemblies.” He concludes: “Provided we remain faithful, Jehovah will open up unimaginable ways to use us.”
In the Home
15. How did Jesus leave a model for his footstep followers in the matter of family relationships?
15 Another field in which Christians ‘follow in Jesus’ footsteps’ is in the home. The Bible establishes Jesus’ example as the model for domestic relations when it says: “Be in subjection to one another in fear of Christ. Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation . . . In fact, as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.”—Ephesians 5:21-25.
16, 17. (a) What bad situation exists in Christendom as regards domestic relationships? (b) How only can domestic relations be improved, as shown by the experience of a married couple in Brazil?
16 Christendom today for the most part ignores this counsel and is thus full of shattered families. Broken homes are common, and parent-child conflicts often go very deep. “The family is falling apart,” observed a psychology professor some years ago. Child psychologists, marriage counselors, and psychiatrists have only limited success in holding endangered families together. But Jehovah’s Witnesses try hard to apply Bible principles and are noted for better-than-average family relationships.
17 Aldemar, for example, was a lieutenant in Brazil’s military police and had family problems. His wife left him and sought a legal separation. He began drinking heavily and even attempted suicide. Later, his relatives, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, spoke to him about the Bible. He liked what he heard and began studying. Wanting to harmonize his life with the stand of neutrality for which Jehovah’s Witnesses are noted, he requested a discharge from the military. Aldemar and his wife resolved their marital differences by applying the Bible principles that Aldemar was learning. Today, they are following in the footsteps of Jesus, serving Jehovah together as regular pioneers.
Obedient Because of Love
18. (a) Why are Jehovah’s Witnesses being spiritually blessed today? (b) How is Isaiah 2:2-4 now undergoing fulfillment?
18 It is evident that Jehovah’s Witnesses are unitedly walking in the spirit and in the footsteps of Christ Jesus. As individuals and as a group, they are being spiritually blessed for doing so. (Psalm 133:1-3) The obvious evidences of divine blessing on them have motivated multitudes of honesthearted people to act in harmony with the prophecy at Isaiah 2:2-4. In just the past five years, 987,828 have taken the necessary steps for dedication and then presented themselves for water baptism. Lovingly, Jehovah has placed no arbitrary limit on the number of people who can do this before “the great tribulation” strikes!—Revelation 7:9, 14.
19. (a) What are tangible benefits that may result from serving Jehovah, and how should they be viewed? (b) What is our basic reason for obeying Jehovah’s commandments?
19 As the above experiences demonstrate, the spiritual blessings enjoyed by God’s people are often accompanied by tangible benefits. For example, by abstaining from smoking, by living moral lives, and by respecting the sanctity of blood, they may avoid falling victim to certain diseases. Or because of living in harmony with the truth, they may benefit in an economic, social, or domestic way. Any such tangible benefits are viewed as a blessing from Jehovah, and they prove the practicalness of Jehovah’s laws. But the possibility of gaining such practical advantages is not in itself the main reason for obeying God’s laws. True Christians obey Jehovah because they love him, because he deserves their worship, and because doing his will is the only right thing. (1 John 5:2, 3; Revelation 4:11) It is Satan who contends that people serve God solely for selfish benefits.—See Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5.
20. How are Jehovah’s Witnesses of today walking in the same spirit as three faithful Hebrew witnesses of ancient times?
20 Modern-day witnesses of Jehovah walk in the same spirit as the three faithful young Hebrew witnesses of Daniel’s day. When threatened with being cast into a burning fiery furnace, these said: “If it is to be, our God whom we are serving is able to rescue us. Out of the burning fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king, he will rescue us. But if not [that is to say, even if he lets us die], let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.” (Daniel 3:17, 18) Irrespective of immediate tangible benefits or consequences, Jehovah’s Witnesses will continue to follow closely in Jesus’ footsteps, knowing that everlasting life in God’s new world is assured! As a united people, they will continue walking “in the same spirit” and “in the same footsteps,” come what may!
Can You Explain:
□ Why are Jehovah’s Witnesses united?
□ In what respects do Jehovah’s Witnesses differ from nominal Christians?
□ What is the major reason why true Christians serve Jehovah?
□ How do God’s people view benefits that result from obeying Jehovah?
[Picture on page 16]
When a patient objects to having a blood transfusion, it is usually assumed that he is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses
[Picture on page 18]
Many claiming to be Christians have not been squeamish about waging war on one another—with the blessing of their clergy