What Good Can Come From Discussing Religion?
PARENTS eagerly await the first words their baby utters. When they hear a repeated syllable amid the gurgling, perhaps “Mama” or “Dada,” their hearts swell with happiness. Quickly they share news of this with friend and neighbor alike. Baby’s first communication is truly good news that brings delight.
The sounds, sights, and smells absorbed by the little child’s senses prompt a response. Of course, responses vary. But if, after a period of time, an infant failed to react to these stimuli, parents would rightly worry that their child’s development might be impaired.
Babies respond best to people they know. When mother cuddles baby, a broad smile usually results. Yet, the touch of a visiting relative can trigger tears, even a stubborn refusal to be held by that one. Most relatives who experience this do not give up. As baby gets to know them better, to their delight the barrier of unfamiliarity collapses, and baby’s smile slowly surfaces.
Similarly, many adults hesitate to discuss their religious beliefs openly with someone who is not a longtime acquaintance. They may not understand why a stranger would want to converse about a personal matter—religion. The consequence is that they allow a barrier to come between them and those who talk about the Creator. They even refuse to discuss what is, after all, an inborn characteristic of humankind, the desire to worship.
Actually, we should be interested in learning about our Creator, and conversing with others may put us in a position to learn. That is so because God has long been linked to open communication. Let us see how.
‘Listen and Learn’
God’s first communication with a human was with Adam in the garden of Eden. Yet, after Adam and Eve sinned, they preferred hiding when God called them, when he wanted to communicate with them further. (Genesis 3:8-13) The Bible, though, records details of men and women who welcomed communication from God.
God communicated with Noah about the impending destruction of the wicked world of his day, whereupon Noah became “a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:5) As God’s spokesman to his generation, Noah not only demonstrated faith in God’s dealings with man but also publicly declared himself to be on Jehovah’s side. What response did Noah observe? Sadly, most of his contemporaries “took no note until the flood came and swept them all away.” (Matthew 24:37-39) But happily for us, seven members of Noah’s family listened, obeyed God’s instructions, and survived the global Deluge. From them all humans alive today have descended.
Later, God communicated with a whole nation of people, ancient Israel. Through Moses, God gave them the Ten Commandments and about 600 other equally binding laws. Jehovah expected the Israelites to obey all of them. Moses directed that every seven years, during the annual Festival of Booths, God’s Law was to be read aloud. “Congregate the people,” he instructed, “the men and the women and the little ones and your alien resident who is within your gates.” For what purpose? “In order that they may listen and in order that they may learn, as they must fear Jehovah your God and take care to carry out all the words of this law.” All were to listen and learn. Imagine how they must have enjoyed discussing what they heard!—Deuteronomy 31:10-12.
More than five centuries later, Judean king Jehoshaphat organized princes and Levites in a campaign to revive the pure worship of Jehovah. These men traveled throughout the cities of Judah teaching the inhabitants Jehovah’s laws. By having these publicly discussed, the king demonstrated his boldness for true worship. As for his subjects, they were to listen and learn.—2 Chronicles 17:1-6, 9.
Bearing Witness by Discussion
God dispatched his own Son, Jesus, to earth to serve as His Spokesman. (John 1:14) As three disciples witnessed Jesus transfigured before them, they heard God’s own voice declare: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5) They readily obeyed.
Similarly, Jesus had his apostles declare God’s purposes to others. But when some six months of ministry on earth remained, Jesus made known that the work of preaching the Kingdom of the heavens was so vast that more disciples would be needed. He taught 70 of them how to discuss the Kingdom of God with strangers and then sent them forth to spread that message publicly. (Luke 10:1, 2, 9) Shortly before he returned to his Father in heaven, Jesus urged his followers to take the initiative to talk to others about this message, even commanding them: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Worldwide, true Christians today fulfill that commission by discussing the good news of God’s Kingdom with their neighbors. These discussions enable them to bear witness to the truth about the Creator, Jehovah.—Matthew 24:14.
Peaceful, Upbuilding Discussions
In what manner were Jesus’ disciples to discuss their beliefs with others? They were not to irritate opposers, nor were they to argue with opposers. Rather, they were to search out those who welcomed the good news and then present the Scriptural evidence in support of it. Of course, God observed the reactions of those who came in contact with his Son’s disciples, even as Jesus declared: “He that receives you receives me also, and he that receives me receives him also that sent me forth.” (Matthew 10:40) What a rebuff it was when most of Jesus’ contemporaries rejected his message!
“A slave of the Lord does not need to fight,” advised the Christian apostle Paul. Rather, he “needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed; as perhaps God may give them repentance leading to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:24, 25) The way Paul proclaimed the good news to the people of Athens, Greece, furnishes a fine example. He reasoned with the Jews in their synagogue. Daily in the marketplace he talked with “those who happened to be on hand.” Though some, no doubt, simply liked listening to new ideas, Paul spoke directly and in a kindly way. He discussed with his listeners God’s message, which called on them to repent. Their reaction was much the same as that of people today. “Some began to mock, while others said: ‘We will hear you about this even another time.’” Paul did not insist on prolonging the discussion. Having preached his message, he “went out from their midst.”—Acts 17:16-34.
Later, Paul told members of the Christian congregation in Ephesus that he ‘had not held back from telling any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching publicly and from house to house.’ He had, furthermore, ‘thoroughly discussed repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ with both Jews and Greeks.’—Acts 20:20, 21.
These Scriptural examples reveal how God’s faithful servants in Bible times discussed religion. So today, Jehovah’s Witnesses obediently discuss religion with their neighbors.
Discussions That Achieve Much
‘Hear the Word of God.’ ‘Listen to his commands.’ How often such exhortations occur in the Bible! You can respond to these Biblical directions the next time Jehovah’s Witnesses speak to you. Listen to the message they bring you from the Bible. This message is not political but advocates a heavenly government by God, his Kingdom. This is God’s means for removing the causes of present-day conflicts. (Daniel 2:44) Thereafter this rule by God from heaven will arrange for the whole earth to be transformed into a paradise like the garden of Eden.
A former police detective frequently refused to listen when Jehovah’s Witnesses spoke to him about the Bible. But with the increase of crime that he had to face, he became disillusioned with life. So he told the next Witness who called that he would investigate the evidence for the Bible message. Regular discussions ensued. Although the policeman moved several times, the Witnesses gladly searched him out at each new location to continue the discussions. Finally the officer acknowledged: “The evidence I was looking for was right there in the Holy Scriptures all the time. If those Witnesses had not persevered in talking to me, I would still be out there wondering what life is all about. As it is, I have come to learn the truth, and I am going to spend the rest of my days looking for others who are searching for God just as I was.”
Interested hearers genuinely want to know more. They rightly expect reasons for the beliefs presented. (1 Peter 3:15) Just as a young child peppers his parents with questions and expects them to respond, you rightly expect the Witnesses to give you solid answers. You can be assured that they will gladly return and discuss the Bible message with you further.
Perhaps you already know a little about the Bible. You may realize that what God expects of you will entail some changes in the way you live. Do not hesitate to pursue matters because of fear that God’s requirements will cost you too much. They will only bring true happiness. You will appreciate this as you progress one step at a time.
First of all, consider who Jehovah is, what he expects of you, and what he offers. Ask the Witnesses to show you what the Bible says about this. Check what they say in your own copy of the Bible. Learning that the Witnesses are reasonable in what they present as the truth about religion, you will no doubt want to delve into many more fine things that they can share with you from the Scriptures.—Proverbs 27:17.
You are welcome to observe the Witnesses at their local meeting place, the Kingdom Hall. There you will hear beneficial discussions of God’s Word. You will see how those present enjoy speaking with one another about God’s purposes. Allow these Witnesses to help you to learn the truth about God’s will for us today. Respond to God’s call to discuss true worship and receive his smile of approval, even life eternal in Paradise.—Malachi 3:16; John 17:3.
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Noah spoke openly about God’s purpose
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As Paul did in ancient Athens, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach Bible truths to others