Walk as Instructed by Jehovah
“Instruct me, O Jehovah, about your way. I shall walk in your truth. Unify my heart to fear your name.”—PSALM 86:11.
1, 2. What moves Jehovah’s Witnesses to refuse to accept blood transfusions?
“MAYBE Jehovah’s Witnesses are right in refusing the use of blood products, for it is true that an important number of pathogenic agents can be transmitted by transfused blood.”—French medical daily Le Quotidien du Médecin, December 15, 1987.
2 Some who read that comment might have felt it a mere fluke that Jehovah’s Witnesses refused blood transfusions long before it became generally known how dangerous, even lethal, these can be. But the stand that Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken on blood is not by accident, nor is it a rule invented by some strange sect, a stand springing from fear that blood is not safe. Rather, the Witnesses refuse blood because of their determination to walk obediently before their Grand Instructor—God.
3. (a) How did David feel about dependence on Jehovah? (b) What outcome did David look forward to because of trusting in God?
3 King David, who felt his dependence on God, was determined to be instructed by him and to ‘walk in his truth.’ (Psalm 86:11) David was once advised that if he avoided becoming bloodguilty in God’s eyes, his ‘soul could prove to be wrapped up in the bag of life with Jehovah.’ (1 Samuel 25:21, 22, 25, 29) As people wrapped valuables to protect and preserve them, so David’s life could be protected and preserved by God. Accepting the wise advice, David did not seek to save himself by personal efforts but trusted in the One to whom he owed his life: “You will cause me to know the path of life. Rejoicing to satisfaction is with your face; there is pleasantness at your right hand forever.”—Psalm 16:11.
4. Why did David want to be instructed by Jehovah?
4 With that attitude, David did not feel that he personally could choose which divine laws were valid or needed to be obeyed. His attitude was: “Instruct me, O Jehovah, in your way, and lead me in the path of uprightness.” “Instruct me, O Jehovah, about your way. I shall walk in your truth. Unify my heart to fear your name. I laud you, O Jehovah my God, with all my heart.” (Psalm 27:11; 86:11, 12) At times walking in truth before God might seem inconvenient or might mean great sacrifice, but David wanted to be instructed in the right way and to walk in it.
Instructed About Blood
5. What would David have known about God’s stand on blood?
5 It is worth our noting that from boyhood on, David had been taught God’s view of blood, which view was no religious mystery. When the Law was read to the people, David would have heard this: “The soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul in it. That is why I have said to the sons of Israel: ‘No soul of you must eat blood and no alien resident who is residing as an alien in your midst should eat blood.’”—Leviticus 17:11, 12; Deuteronomy 4:10; 31:11.
6. How was there a continuing need for God’s servants to be instructed about blood?
6 As long as God used Israel as his congregated people, those wanting to please him needed to be instructed about blood. Generation after generation of Israelite boys and girls were thus instructed. But would such instruction continue after God accepted the congregation of Christians, constituting them “the Israel of God”? (Galatians 6:16) Yes, indeed. God’s view of blood did not change. (Malachi 3:6) His stated position about not misusing blood existed before the Law covenant came into force, and it continued after the Law was terminated.—Genesis 9:3, 4; Acts 15:28, 29.
7. Why is being instructed by God about blood important to us?
7 Respect for blood is central to Christianity. ‘Is that not an exaggeration?’ some may ask. Yet, what is central to Christianity if not Jesus’ sacrifice? And the apostle Paul wrote: “By means of [Jesus] we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness.” (Ephesians 1:7) The Inspired Letters, translated by Frank C. Laubach, renders the verse: “The blood of Christ paid for us and now we belong to Him.”
8. How do the “great crowd” depend on blood for life?
8 All who hope to survive the impending “great tribulation” and to enjoy God’s blessings on a paradise earth depend on Jesus’ shed blood. Revelation 7:9-14 describes them and says retrospectively: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Note the language here. It does not say that these who are saved through the tribulation had ‘accepted Jesus’ or ‘put faith in him,’ though those certainly are vital aspects. It goes a step further and says that they “washed their robes and made them white in [Jesus’] blood.” That is because his blood has ransoming value.
9. Why is obeying Jehovah regarding blood so serious?
9 Appreciation for this value helps Jehovah’s Witnesses to be resolved not to misuse blood, even if a physician sincerely claims that a transfusion is vital. He may believe that potential benefits of a transfusion outweigh the health risks posed by the blood itself. But the Christian cannot ignore an even graver risk, the risk of losing God’s approval by agreeing to a misuse of blood. Paul once spoke of those who “practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth.” Why was any sin of that sort so serious? Because such a man “has trampled upon the Son of God and . . . has esteemed as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified.”—Hebrews 9:16-24; 10:26-29.
Help Others to Be Instructed
10. What is behind our determination to abstain from blood?
10 We who appreciate Jesus’ ransom sacrifice take care not to practice sin, rejecting the lifesaving value of his blood. Having thought the matter through, we realize that simple gratitude to God for life should move us to reject any compromise of his righteous laws, which we are confident were given with our best interests at heart—our long-term best interests. (Deuteronomy 6:24; Proverbs 14:27; Ecclesiastes 8:12) What, though, about our children?
11-13. What mistaken view about their children and blood do some Christian parents have, and why?
11 While our offspring are babes or too young to understand, Jehovah God can view them as clean and acceptable on the basis of our devotion. (1 Corinthians 7:14) So it is true that infants in a Christian household may not yet have understood and made a choice about obeying God’s law on blood. Are we, however, doing our best to instruct them in this vital matter? Christian parents ought to consider that seriously, for some parents seem to have a mistaken attitude about their children and blood. Some appear to feel that they do not really have much control over whether their minor children are given a transfusion. Why this mistaken view?
12 Many lands have laws or governmental agencies to protect neglected and abused children. The children of Jehovah’s Witnesses are not being neglected or abused when parents decide against allowing their beloved son or daughter to be given blood, requesting at the same time the use of alternative therapies that modern medicine can provide. Even from a medical standpoint, this is not neglect or abuse, considering the admitted dangers of transfusion therapy. It is an exercise of the right to weigh the risks involved and then to choose the treatment.* Yet, legal provisions have been resorted to by some medical personnel seeking authority to force an unwanted transfusion.
13 Some parents, aware that it may be easy for medical personnel to get court backing for transfusing a minor, might feel that the matter is out of their hands, that there is nothing that parents can or need do. How mistaken that view is!—Proverbs 22:3.
14. How were David and Timothy instructed in their youth?
14 We have noted that David was instructed in the way of God from his youth up. That equipped him to regard life as a gift from God and to know that blood represents life. (Compare 2 Samuel 23:14-17.) Timothy was instructed in God’s thinking “from infancy.” (2 Timothy 3:14, 15) Do you not agree that even when David and Timothy were below what is today a legal age of adulthood, they must have been able to express themselves well on issues involving God’s will? Similarly, long before becoming of age, young Christians today should be instructed in God’s way.
15, 16. (a) What view has developed in some places about the rights of minors? (b) What led to one minor’s being given blood?
15 In some places a so-called mature minor is granted rights similar to those of adults. Based on age or mature thinking, or both, a youth may be viewed as mature enough to make his own decisions on medical treatment. Even where this is not the law, judges or officials may give much weight to the wishes of a youth who is able to express clearly his firm decision about blood. Conversely, when a youth cannot explain his beliefs clearly and maturely, a court might feel it has to decide what seems best, as it might for a baby.
16 One young man had studied the Bible off and on for years but was not baptized. Despite his being just seven weeks from the age when he would gain the “right to refuse medical treatment for himself,” a hospital treating him for cancer sought court backing to transfuse him against his wishes and those of his parents. The conscientious judge quizzed him about his beliefs on blood and asked basic questions, such as the names of the first five books of the Bible. The young man could not name them nor give convincing testimony that he understood why he refused blood. Sadly, the judge authorized transfusions, commenting: “(H)is refusal to consent to blood transfusions is not based upon a mature understanding of his own religious beliefs.”
17. What position did a 14-year-old girl take about being given blood, with what result?
17 Matters may turn out differently for a minor well instructed in God’s ways and actively walking in His truth. A younger Christian had the same rare type of cancer. The girl and her parents understood and accepted modified chemotherapy from a specialist at a noted hospital. Still, the case was taken to court. The judge wrote: “D.P. testified she would resist having a blood transfusion in any way that she could. She considered a transfusion an invasion of her body and compared it to rape. She asked the Court to respect her choice and permit her to continue at [the hospital] without Court ordered blood transfusions.” The Christian instruction she had received came to her aid at this difficult time.—See box.
18. (a) An afflicted girl took what firm stand about receiving blood? (b) What did the judge decide about her treatment?
18 A 12-year-old girl was being treated for leukemia. A child-welfare agency took the matter to court so that blood could be forced on her. The judge concluded: “L. has told this court clearly and in a matter-of-fact way that, if an attempt is made to transfuse her with blood, she will fight that transfusion with all of the strength that she can muster. She has said, and I believe her, that she will scream and struggle and that she will pull the injecting device out of her arm and will attempt to destroy the blood in the bag over her bed. I refuse to make any order which would put this child through that ordeal . . . With this patient, the treatment proposed by the hospital addresses the disease only in a physical sense. It fails to address her emotional needs and her religious beliefs.”
19. What special obligation should parents discharge toward their children?
19 Such experiences carry a powerful message for parents who desire that all in their family live according to God’s law on blood. One reason why Abraham was God’s friend was that He knew that the patriarch would “command his sons and his household after him so that they [would] keep Jehovah’s way to do righteousness.” (Genesis 18:19) Should this not be true of Christian parents today? If you are a parent, are you instructing your dear children to walk in Jehovah’s way so that they will always be “ready to make a defense before everyone that demands . . . a reason for the hope in [them], but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect”?—1 Peter 3:15.
20. What should we primarily want our children to know and to believe about blood? (Daniel 1:3-14)
20 Though it would be good for our children to be informed about the disease dangers and other risks of blood transfusions, instructing our children in God’s perfect law on blood does not primarily mean trying to instill fear of blood. If, for example, a judge asked a girl why she did not want to be given blood and her answer was essentially that she thought blood too risky or scary, what could be the effect? The judge might conclude that she was simply immature and overly frightened, just as she might be so afraid of an appendectomy that she would cry and resist this operation that even her parents felt was best for her. Moreover, we noted earlier that the fundamental reason why Christians object to transfusions is not that the blood is polluted but that it is precious to our God and Life-Giver. Our children should know that, as well as that the possible medical hazards of blood give added weight to our religious position.
21. (a) Parents should learn what about their children and the Bible’s view of blood? (b) How can parents help their children in connection with blood?
21 If you have children, are you sure that they agree with and can explain the Bible-based stand on transfusions? Do they truly believe this stand to be God’s will? Are they convinced that to violate God’s law would be so serious that it could put at risk a Christian’s prospect for everlasting life? Wise parents will review these matters with their children, whether they be very young or almost adults. Parents may hold practice sessions in which each youth faces questions that might be posed by a judge or a hospital official. The goal is not to have a youth repeat by rote selected facts or answers. It is more important that they know what they believe, and why. Of course, at a court hearing, the parents or others might present information about the risks of blood and the availability of alternative therapies. But what a judge or an official would likely seek to learn from speaking with our children is whether they maturely understand their situation and options and also whether they have their own values and firm convictions.—Compare 2 Kings 5:1-4.
22. What can be the permanent result of our being instructed by God about blood?
22 All of us need to appreciate and resolutely hold to God’s view of blood. Revelation 1:5 describes Christ as the one who ‘loves us and who loosed us from our sins by means of his own blood.’ Only by accepting the value of Jesus’ blood can we gain full and lasting forgiveness of our sins. Romans 5:9 clearly says: “Much more, therefore, since we have been declared righteous now by his blood, shall we be saved through him from wrath.” How wise, then, for us and for our children to be instructed by Jehovah on this matter and to be determined to walk in his way forever!
Key Points of Instruction
□ What view should we have about being instructed by Jehovah?
□ Why is obeying God’s law on blood so important?
□ Why is it vital that youths be able to explain clearly and firmly their convictions about blood?
□ How can Christian parents help their children to be well instructed in Jehovah’s law on blood?
[Box on page 17]
THE COURT WAS IMPRESSED
What did the court decision state regarding D.P., mentioned in paragraph 17?
“The Court was most impressed with the intelligence, poise, dignity, and forcefulness of this 14-1/2 year old youngster. She may have been overwhelmed by the discovery that she had a deadly form of cancer . . . Nevertheless, it was a mature young person who came to Court to testify. She appeared to have focused clearly on the difficult task facing her. She had attended all counseling sessions, agreed to a plan of therapy, developed a coherent philosophy on how she as a human being would face this medical challenge, and she came to the Court with the poignant request: respect my decision . . .
“In addition to her maturity, D.P. has expressed sufficient grounds for her decision for the Court to respect it. Spiritually, psychologically, morally, and emotionally she would be harmed by a treatment plan which included blood transfusions. The Court will respect her choice of treatment plan.”
[Picture on page 16]
A judge or a hospital administrator may want to know what a Christian youth really believes, and why