How Does God View Christendom’s Worship?
“NOT everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens,” said Jesus Christ, “but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not . . . perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matthew 7:21-23.
Through his sacred Word, the Holy Bible, God has made clear what his will is. Are Christendom’s churches doing God’s will? Or are they what Jesus called “workers of lawlessness”?
On the night before his Master’s death, Peter almost started an armed conflict with the band of soldiers sent to arrest Jesus. (John 18:3, 10) But Jesus restored calm and warned Peter: “All those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) This clear warning is repeated at Revelation 13:10. Have the churches of Christendom heeded it? Or do they share responsibility for ongoing wars in various parts of the earth?
During World War II, hundreds of thousands of Serbs and Croats were murdered in the name of religion. “In Croatia,” reports The New Encyclopædia Britannica, “the indigenous fascist regime set about a policy of ‘racial purification’ that went beyond even Nazi practices. . . . It was declared that one-third of the Serbian population would be deported, one-third converted to Roman Catholicism, and one-third liquidated. . . . The partial collaboration of the Catholic clergy in these practices compromised church-state relations seriously after the war.” Countless numbers of people were forced to convert to Catholicism or die; thousands of others were not even given a choice. Whole villages—men, women, and children—were forced into their Orthodox churches and killed. What about the opposing Communist armies? Did they also have religious support?
“Some of the priests participated in the war on the side of the revolutionary forces,” reports the book History of Yugoslavia. “The Partisan armies even came to include priests from both Serbian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches,” states the book Yugoslavia and the New Communism. Religious differences continue to fan the flames of war in the Balkans.
And what about Rwanda? The general secretary of the Catholic Institute for International Relations, Ian Linden, made the following admission in the journal The Month: “Investigations by African Rights in London provide one or two examples of local Catholic, Anglican and Baptist Church leaders being implicated by omission or commission in militia killings. . . . There is absolutely no doubt that significant numbers of prominent Christians in parishes were involved in killings.” Sadly, fighting between so-called Christians continues to plague central Africa.
Fornication and Adultery
According to God’s Word, there is only one honorable place for sex, and that is within the bond of marriage. “Let marriage be honorable among all,” states the Bible, “and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) Are church leaders upholding this teaching of God?
In 1989 the Anglican Church in Australia released an official document on sexuality that suggested that sex before marriage is not wrong if a couple are totally committed to each other. More recently, the leader of the Anglican Church in Scotland stated: “The Church should not condemn affairs as sinful and wrong. The Church must accept adultery is caused by our genetics.”
In South Africa a number of clergymen have spoken out in favor of homosexuality. For example, in 1990 the South African magazine You quoted a prominent Anglican minister as saying: “Scripture is not binding for ever. . . . I believe there will be changes in the church’s attitude and policy towards gay people.”—Contrast Romans 1:26, 27.
According to the 1994 Britannica Book of the Year, sexuality has become a dominant issue in American churches, especially matters such as “the ordination of announced gays and lesbians to the ministry, religious understanding of homosexual rights, blessing of ‘gay marriage,’ and legitimation or condemnation of lifestyles associated with homosexuality.” Most of the major church denominations tolerate clergymen who campaign for greater sexual freedom. According to the 1995 Britannica Book of the Year, 55 Episcopalian bishops signed a declaration “affirming the acceptability of homosexual ordination and practice.”
Some clergymen argue in favor of homosexuality, claiming that Jesus never spoke against it. But is that really so? Jesus Christ declared that God’s Word is truth. (John 17:17) That means that he endorsed God’s view of homosexuality as described at Leviticus 18:22, which reads: “You must not lie down with a male the same as you lie down with a woman. It is a detestable thing.” Moreover, Jesus listed fornication and adultery among the “wicked things [that] issue forth from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:21-23) The Greek word for fornication is a broader term than that for adultery. It describes all forms of sexual relations outside lawful marriage, including homosexuality. (Jude 7) Jesus Christ also warned his followers not to tolerate any professed Christian teacher who minimizes the seriousness of fornication.—Revelation 1:1; 2:14, 20.
When religious leaders campaign for the ordination of homosexuals and Lesbians, what effect does this have on members of their churches, especially the young people? Is it not an inducement to experiment with sex outside marriage? In contrast, God’s Word urges Christians to “flee from fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) If a fellow believer falls into such sin, loving help is given with a view to restoring the person to God’s favor. (James 5:16, 19, 20) What if this help is rejected? The Bible states that unless such ones repent, they ‘will not inherit God’s kingdom.’—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
“Forbidding to Marry”
Because of the “prevalence of fornication,” the Bible says that “it is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:2, 9) In spite of this wise advice, many among the clergy are required to remain celibate, that is, unmarried. “The vow of celibacy is not broken,” explains Nino Lo Bello in his book The Vatican Papers, “if a priest, monk or nun engages in sexual relations. . . . Forgiveness for sexual relations can be obtained by making an honest declaration in the confessional, whereas the marriage of any priest would simply not be recognized by the Church.” Has this teaching produced good or bad fruitage?—Matthew 7:15-19.
No doubt, many priests live morally chaste lives, but a large number do not. According to the 1992 Britannica Book of the Year, “the Roman Catholic Church was reported to have paid out $300 million to settle cases of clergy sexual abuse.” Later, the 1994 edition said: “The death of a number of clergy from AIDS brought visibility to the presence of gay priests and observations that there were an inordinate number of . . . gays drawn to the priesthood.” No wonder the Bible states that “forbidding to marry” is a ‘teaching of demons.’ (1 Timothy 4:1-3) “In the view of some historians,” writes Peter de Rosa in his book Vicars of Christ, “[priestly celibacy] has probably done more harm to morals than any other institution in the West, including prostitution. . . . [It] has been more often than not a stain on the name of Christianity. . . . Enforced celibacy has always led to hypocrisy in the ranks of the clergy. . . . A priest can fall a thousand times but he is forbidden by canon law to marry once.”
Considering God’s view of Baal worship, it is not difficult to discern how he must view the divided churches of Christendom. The last book of the Bible combines all forms of false worship under the name “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.” “In her,” the Bible adds, “was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.”—Revelation 17:5; 18:24.
Hence, God urges all who want to be his true worshipers: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues. . . . In one day her plagues will come, death and mourning and famine, and she will be completely burned with fire, because Jehovah God, who judged her, is strong.”—Revelation 18:4, 8.
The question now arises: After getting out of false religion, where should a person go? What form of worship is acceptable to God?
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Baal worship involved the use of idols. The Israelites tried to mix the worship of Jehovah with that of Baal. They even brought idols into Jehovah’s temple. God’s view of idol worship was made clear when he brought destruction upon Jerusalem and its temple.
Many of Christendom’s churches are filled with idols, be they in the form of a cross, icons, or statues of Mary. Moreover, many churchgoers are taught to bow, kneel, or make the sign of the cross before these images. In contrast, true Christians are commanded to “flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14) They do not try to worship God with the aid of material objects.—John 4:24.
Musée du Louvre, Paris
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“The Church Leader Should Be Without Fault”
THIS expression is from Titus 1:7, according to Today’s English Version. The King James Version reads: “A bishop must be blameless.” The word “bishop” comes from a Greek word meaning “overseer.” Thus men who are appointed to take the lead in the true Christian congregation must live up to basic Bible standards. If they do not, they must be removed from their position of oversight, since they are no longer “examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2, 3) How seriously is this requirement taken by Christendom’s churches?
In his book I Care About Your Marriage, Dr. Everett Worthington refers to a survey of 100 pastors in the state of Virginia, U.S.A. Over 40 percent admitted to having engaged in some form of passion-arousing conduct with someone who was not their marriage partner. A large number of them had committed adultery.
“Over the past decade,” observes Christianity Today, “the church has been repeatedly staggered by revelations of immoral conduct by some of its most respected leaders.” The article “Why Adulterous Pastors Should Not Be Restored” challenged the common practice in Christendom of quickly restoring church leaders to their former positions after they have been “convicted of sexual sin.”