“Maintain Your Conduct Fine Among the Nations”
“Honor men of all sorts, have love for the whole association of brothers.”—1 Peter 2:17.
1, 2. (a) What comment did a newspaper correspondent make about Jehovah’s Witnesses? (b) Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to maintain high standards of conduct?
SEVERAL years ago, a newspaper correspondent in Amarillo, Texas, U.S.A., visited different churches in the area and reported on his findings. One group stood out in his mind. He said: “For three years, I attended the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ annual conventions at the Amarillo Civic Center. As I intermingled with them, never once did I see anyone light a cigarette, open a can of beer, or use profanity. They were the cleanest, most well-behaved, modestly dressed, good-natured crowd of people I have ever met.” Similar comments about Jehovah’s Witnesses have often been printed. Why are the Witnesses frequently praised by people who do not share their faith?
2 Usually, God’s people are praised because of their good conduct. While standards in general are deteriorating, Jehovah’s Witnesses view high standards of conduct as an obligation, a part of their worship. They know that their actions reflect upon Jehovah and their Christian brothers and that their good conduct recommends the truth that they preach. (John 15:8; Titus 2:7, 8) Let us see, then, how we can maintain our good conduct and thus continue to uphold the fine reputation of Jehovah and his Witnesses and how we benefit ourselves in so doing.
The Christian Family
3. From what do Christian families need to be protected?
3 Consider our conduct within the family. The book Die Neuen Inquisitoren: Religionsfreiheit und Glaubensneid (The New Inquisitors: Freedom of Religion and Religious Envy), by Gerhard Besier and Erwin K. Scheuch, states: “For [Jehovah’s Witnesses] the family is something to be especially protected.” That statement is true, and today there is much from which the family needs protection. There are children who are “disobedient to parents” and adults who have “no natural affection” or are “without self-control.” (2 Timothy 3:2, 3) Families are scenes of spousal violence, parents abuse or neglect their children, and children rebel, get involved in drug abuse and immorality, or run away from home. All of this is the result of the destructive influence of ‘the spirit of the world.’ (Ephesians 2:1, 2) We need to protect our families against that spirit. How? By heeding Jehovah’s counsel and direction for family members.
4. What responsibilities do Christian family members have toward one another?
4 Christian couples recognize that they have emotional, spiritual, and physical obligations to each other. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5; Ephesians 5:21-23; 1 Peter 3:7) Christian parents have weighty responsibilities toward their offspring. (Proverbs 22:6; 2 Corinthians 12:14; Ephesians 6:4) And as children in Christian homes get older, they learn that they too have obligations. (Proverbs 1:8, 9; 23:22; Ephesians 6:1; 1 Timothy 5:3, 4, 8) Fulfilling family obligations takes effort, commitment, and a spirit of love and self-sacrifice. However, to the extent that all family members meet their God-given obligations, to that extent they are a blessing to one another and to the congregation. More important, they honor the Originator of the family, Jehovah God.—Genesis 1:27, 28; Ephesians 3:15.
The Christian Brotherhood
5. What blessings do we reap from associating with fellow Christians?
5 As Christians, we also have responsibilities toward fellow believers in the congregation and, ultimately, toward those who make up “the entire association of . . . brothers in the world.” (1 Peter 5:9) Our relationship with the congregation is vital for our spiritual health. When we associate with fellow Christians, we enjoy their strengthening fellowship as well as nourishing spiritual food from “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) If we have problems, we can go to our brothers for sound advice based on Scriptural principles. (Proverbs 17:17; Ecclesiastes 4:9; James 5:13-18) When we are in need, our brothers do not desert us. What a blessing it is to be part of God’s organization!
6. How did Paul show that we have responsibilities toward other Christians?
6 However, we are not in the congregation merely to receive; we are also there to give. Indeed, Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) The apostle Paul highlighted a giving spirit when he wrote: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—Hebrews 10:23-25.
7, 8. How do we show a giving attitude both within our congregation and toward Christians in other lands?
7 Within the congregation, we make a “declaration of our hope” when we offer comments during the meeting or share in other ways in the program. Those contributions certainly encourage our brothers. We also encourage them by our conversation before and after the meeting. That is a time when we can strengthen the weak, console the depressed, and comfort the sick. (1 Thessalonians 5:14) Sincere Christians are generous with that kind of giving, which is why so many who attend our meetings for the first time are impressed by the love they sense among us.—Psalm 37:21; John 15:12; 1 Corinthians 14:25.
8 Still, our love is not limited to our own congregation. It embraces the whole association of our brothers worldwide. That is why, for example, there is a contribution box for the Kingdom Hall Fund in each Kingdom Hall. Our own Kingdom Hall may be in fine condition, but we know that thousands of fellow Christians in other countries lack a suitable place in which to meet. When we contribute to the Kingdom Hall Fund, we show our love for such individuals even though we may not know them personally.
9. For what basic reason do Jehovah’s Witnesses love one another?
9 Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses love one another? Well, Jesus commanded them to do so. (John 15:17) And the love that they have for one another is evidence of God’s spirit working upon them as individuals and as a group. Love is a part of “the fruitage of the spirit.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) As Jehovah’s Witnesses study the Bible, attend Christian meetings, and pray constantly to God, love becomes natural to them despite living in a world where ‘the love of the greater number has cooled off.’—Matthew 24:12.
Dealing With the Secular World
10. What responsibility do we have toward the secular world?
10 Paul’s mention of “the public declaration of our hope” reminds us of another responsibility. This public declaration embraces the work of preaching the good news to those who are not yet our Christian brothers. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20; Romans 10:9, 10, 13-15) Such preaching is a further act of giving. To share in it takes time, energy, preparation, training, and the use of personal resources. Yet, Paul also wrote: “Both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to wise and to senseless ones I am a debtor: so there is eagerness on my part to declare the good news also to you there in Rome.” (Romans 1:14, 15) Like Paul, may we not be stingy as we pay off this “debt.”
11. What two Scriptural principles govern our relationship with the world, but what do we nevertheless recognize?
11 Do we have other responsibilities toward those who are not fellow believers? Definitely. We recognize, of course, that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) We know that Jesus said of his disciples: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” Still, we live in the world, earn a living in it, and receive services from it. (John 17:11, 15, 16) So we have obligations in the secular world. What are they? The apostle Peter answered that question. Shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, he wrote a letter to Christians in Asia Minor, and a passage in that letter helps us have a balanced relationship with the world.
12. In what way are Christians “aliens and temporary residents,” and as such, from what should they abstain?
12 To begin with, Peter said: “Beloved, I exhort you as aliens and temporary residents to keep abstaining from fleshly desires, which are the very ones that carry on a conflict against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) True Christians are, in a spiritual sense, “aliens and temporary residents” in that the real focus of their lives is the hope of everlasting life—spirit-anointed ones in heaven and the “other sheep” in a future earthly paradise. (John 10:16; Philippians 3:20, 21; Hebrews 11:13; Revelation 7:9, 14-17) What, though, are fleshly desires? These include such things as the desire to be rich, the desire for prominence, immoral sexual desires, and the desires described as “envy” and “covetousness.”—Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:4, 9; 1 John 2:15, 16.
13. How do fleshly desires “carry on a conflict against [our] soul”?
13 Such desires really do “carry on a conflict against [our] soul.” They erode our relationship with God and thus put our Christian hope (our “soul,” or life) in jeopardy. For example, if we cultivate an interest in immoral things, how can we present ourselves “a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God”? If we fall into the trap of materialism, how are we “seeking first the kingdom”? (Romans 12:1, 2; Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 6:17-19) The better course is to follow Moses’ example, turn our back on the enticements of the world, and put Jehovah’s service first in our lives. (Matthew 6:19, 20; Hebrews 11:24-26) That is an important key to achieving a balanced relationship with the world.
‘Maintain Fine Conduct’
14. Why do we as Christians strive to maintain fine conduct?
14 Another vital guideline is found in Peter’s next words: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.” (1 Peter 2:12) As Christians, we strive to be exemplary. In school we work hard. At our place of employment, we are industrious and honest—even if our employer seems unreasonable. In a divided household, the believing husband or wife makes a special effort to follow Christian principles. It is not always easy, but we know that our exemplary conduct pleases Jehovah and often has a good effect on non-Witnesses.—1 Peter 2:18-20; 3:1.
15. How do we know that the high standard of conduct of Jehovah’s Witnesses is widely recognized?
15 The success of most of Jehovah’s Witnesses in maintaining exemplary standards is seen in comments about them that have been published over the years. For example, Il Tempo of Italy reported: “People who have Jehovah’s Witnesses as workmates describe them as honest workers, so convinced of their faith that they may appear obsessed by it; nevertheless, they command respect for their moral integrity.” The Herald of Buenos Aires, Argentina, said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses have proved through the years to be hardworking, sober, thrifty, and God-fearing citizens.” The Russian scholar Sergei Ivanenko stated: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are known throughout the world as impeccably law-abiding people and particularly for their scrupulous attitude toward paying taxes.” The manager of a facility in Zimbabwe used by Jehovah’s Witnesses for their convention said: “I see some Witnesses picking up paper and cleaning toilets. The showgrounds are left cleaner than before. Your teenagers are principled. I wish the whole world was full of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
16. What is our relationship with secular authorities, and why?
16 Peter also speaks about our relationship with secular authorities. He says: “For the Lord’s sake subject yourselves to every human creation: whether to a king as being superior or to governors as being sent by him to inflict punishment on evildoers but to praise doers of good. For so the will of God is, that by doing good you may muzzle the ignorant talk of the unreasonable men.” (1 Peter 2:13-15) We appreciate the benefits received from orderly government, and guided by Peter’s words, we obey its laws and pay our taxes. While we recognize the God-given right of governments to punish lawbreakers, the main reason we submit to secular authority is “for the Lord’s sake.” It is God’s will. Moreover, we do not wish to bring reproach on Jehovah’s name by being punished for wrongdoing.—Romans 13:1, 4-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 3:17.
17. When “unreasonable men” oppose us, of what can we be confident?
17 Unfortunately, some “unreasonable men” in authority persecute us or oppose us in other ways—such as by promoting smear campaigns against us. Still, in Jehovah’s due time, their lies are always exposed, and their “ignorant talk” is effectively muzzled. Our record of Christian conduct speaks for itself. That is why honest government officials often commend us as doers of good.—Romans 13:3; Titus 2:7, 8.
Slaves of God
18. As Christians, in what ways can we avoid abusing our freedom?
18 Peter now warns: “Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for badness, but as slaves of God.” (1 Peter 2:16; Galatians 5:13) Today, our knowledge of Bible truth frees us from false religious teachings. (John 8:32) Moreover, we have free will, and we can make choices. Still, we do not abuse our freedom. When making choices about associations, clothing, grooming, entertainment—even food and drink—we remember that true Christians are slaves of God, not pleasing themselves. We choose to serve Jehovah rather than to be slaves of our own fleshly desires or the fads and trends of the world.—Galatians 5:24; 2 Timothy 2:22; Titus 2:11, 12.
19-21. (a) How do we view those in positions of secular authority? (b) How have some shown “love for the whole association of brothers”? (c) What is our most important responsibility?
19 Peter goes on to say: “Honor men of all sorts, have love for the whole association of brothers, be in fear of God, have honor for the king.” (1 Peter 2:17) Since Jehovah God allows humans to occupy various positions of authority, we show those humans appropriate honor. We even pray concerning them, to the end that we may be allowed to pursue our ministry in peace and with godly devotion. (1 Timothy 2:1-4) At the same time, however, we “have love for the whole association of brothers.” We always work for the good, not the harm, of our Christian brothers.
20 For example, when one African nation was torn apart by ethnic violence, the Christian conduct of Jehovah’s Witnesses stood out. The newspaper Reformierte Presse of Switzerland reported: “In 1995, African Rights . . . were able to prove the participation of all churches [in the conflict] with the exception of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” When news of the tragic events reached the outside world, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Europe quickly sent food and medical aid to their brothers and others in that afflicted land. (Galatians 6:10) They heeded the words of Proverbs 3:27: “Do not hold back good from those to whom it is owing, when it happens to be in the power of your hand to do it.”
21 There is, though, a more important responsibility than the honor we owe to any secular authority and even than the love we owe our brothers. What is that? Peter said: “Be in fear of God.” We owe Jehovah far more than we owe any human. How is that true? And how can we balance our obligations to God with what we owe secular authorities? These questions will be answered in the following article.
Do You Remember?
• What responsibilities do Christians have within the family?
• How can we show a giving attitude in the congregation?
• What responsibilities do we have toward the secular world?
• What are some benefits that come from our maintaining a high standard of conduct?
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How can the Christian family be a source of great joy?
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Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses love one another?
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Can we show love for our brothers even if we do not know them personally?