Christian Neutrals in the Last Days
“They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.”—JOHN 17:16.
1, 2. What did Jesus say about his followers’ relationship with the world, and what questions do his words raise?
ON THE last night of his life as a perfect human, Jesus uttered a long prayer in the hearing of his disciples. In the course of that prayer, he said something that describes the lives of all true Christians. Speaking of his followers, he said: “I have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world. I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.”—John 17:14-16.
2 Twice, Jesus said that his followers would be no part of the world. Moreover, that separateness would lead to tensions—the world would hate them. Still, Christians need not be dismayed; Jehovah would watch over them. (Proverbs 18:10; Matthew 24:9, 13) In view of Jesus’ words, we may well ask: ‘Why are true Christians no part of the world? What does it mean to be no part of the world? If Christians are hated by the world, how do they view the world? In particular, how do they view the world’s governments?’ The Scriptural answers to these questions are important because they affect us all.
“We Originate With God”
3. (a) What makes us separate from the world? (b) What evidence is there that the world is “in the power of the wicked one”?
3 Our close relationship with Jehovah is one reason why we are no part of the world. The apostle John wrote: “We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) John’s words about the world are manifestly true. The wars, crime, cruelty, oppression, dishonesty, and immorality that are so rampant today give evidence of Satan’s, not God’s, influence. (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:12) When an individual becomes one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he will not practice or consent to such wrong practices, and that makes him no part of the world.—Romans 12:2; 13:12-14; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 John 3:10-12.
4. In what ways do we show that we belong to Jehovah?
4 John said that Christians, in contrast with the world, “originate with God.” All who dedicate themselves to Jehovah belong to him. The apostle Paul said: “Both if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. Therefore both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah.” (Romans 14:8; Psalm 116:15) Because we belong to Jehovah, we give him exclusive devotion. (Exodus 20:4-6) Hence, a true Christian does not devote his life to some secular cause. And while he respects national emblems, he does not worship them, either by actions or in spirit. He certainly does not worship sports stars or other modern idols. Of course, he respects the right of others to do as they wish, but he worships only the Creator. (Matthew 4:10; Revelation 19:10) This too makes him separate from the world.
“My Kingdom Is No Part of This World”
5, 6. How does subjection to God’s Kingdom make us separate from the world?
5 Christians are followers of Christ Jesus and subjects of God’s Kingdom, which also makes them no part of the world. When Jesus was on trial before Pontius Pilate, he said: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.” (John 18:36) The Kingdom is the means by which Jehovah’s name will be sanctified, his sovereignty vindicated, and his will done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9, 10) Throughout his ministry, Jesus preached the good news of the Kingdom, and he said that it would be proclaimed by his followers right up to the end of the system of things. (Matthew 4:23; 24:14) In 1914 the prophetic words of Revelation 11:15 were fulfilled: “The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.” One day soon, that heavenly Kingdom will be the only ruling power over mankind. (Daniel 2:44) At a certain point, even secular rulers will be forced to acknowledge its authority.—Psalm 2:6-12.
6 With all of that in mind, true Christians today are subjects of God’s Kingdom, and they follow Jesus’ counsel to ‘keep on seeking first the kingdom and God’s righteousness.’ (Matthew 6:33) That does not make them disloyal to the country in which they live, but it does make them spiritually separate from the world. The prime task of Christians today, as in the first century, is ‘to bear thorough witness concerning the kingdom of God.’ (Acts 28:23) No human government has the right to impede that God-given work.
7. Why are true Christians neutral, and how have they shown this?
7 In harmony with their belonging to Jehovah and being followers of Jesus and subjects of God’s Kingdom, Jehovah’s Witnesses have remained neutral in the national and international conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries. They have chosen no sides, have taken up no arms against anyone, and have not spread propaganda for any secular cause. In a remarkable demonstration of faith in the face of seemingly overwhelming opposition, they have followed the principles expressed to the Nazi rulers of Germany in 1934: “We have no interest in political affairs, but are wholly devoted to God’s kingdom under Christ his King. We will do no injury or harm to anyone. We would delight to dwell in peace and do good to all men as we have opportunity.”
Ambassadors and Envoys for Christ
8, 9. In what way are Jehovah’s Witnesses today ambassadors and envoys, and how does this affect their relationship with the nations?
8 Paul described himself and fellow anointed Christians as “ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20) Since 1914, spirit-anointed Christians can properly be spoken of as ambassadors for God’s Kingdom, of which they are “sons.” (Matthew 13:38; Philippians 3:20; Revelation 5:9, 10) Further, Jehovah has brought out of the nations “a great crowd” of “other sheep,” Christians with an earthly hope, to support the anointed sons in their ambassadorial work. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16) These “other sheep” can be termed “envoys” of God’s Kingdom.
9 An ambassador and his staff do not meddle in the affairs of the country where they serve. Similarly, Christians remain neutral in the political affairs of the nations of the world. They do not take sides for or against any national, racial, social, or economic group. (Acts 10:34, 35) Rather, they “work what is good toward all.” (Galatians 6:10) The neutrality of Jehovah’s Witnesses means that no one can honestly reject their message by claiming that they are associated with an opposing side of some racial, national, or tribal division.
Identified by Love
10. For a Christian, how important is love?
10 In addition to the foregoing, Christians are neutral in the world’s affairs because of their relationship with other Christians. Jesus said to his followers: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Brotherly love is a key to being a Christian. (1 John 3:14) Related as it is to his relationship with Jehovah and Jesus, the relationship a Christian has with other Christians is very close. His love is not restricted to those in the local congregation. It embraces “the entire association of [his] brothers in the world.”—1 Peter 5:9.
11. How has the conduct of Jehovah’s Witnesses been influenced by their love for one another?
11 Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses demonstrate their brotherly love by fulfilling the words of Isaiah 2:4: “They will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” Instructed by Jehovah, true Christians are at peace with God and with one another. (Isaiah 54:13) Because they love God and their brothers, it would be inconceivable for them to take up arms against fellow Christians—or anyone else—in other lands. Their peace and unity is an essential part of their worship, a demonstration that they truly have God’s spirit. (Psalm 133:1; Micah 2:12; Matthew 22:37-39; Colossians 3:14) They “seek to find peace . . . and pursue it,” knowing that “the eyes of Jehovah are toward the righteous ones.”—Psalm 34:14, 15.
How Christians View the World
12. What attitude of Jehovah toward people in the world do Jehovah’s Witnesses imitate, and how?
12 Jehovah has pronounced an adverse judgment on this world, but he has not yet judged all individuals in the world. He will do that through Jesus in His own due time. (Psalm 67:3, 4; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Peter 3:10) Meanwhile, he shows great love toward mankind. He even gave his only-begotten Son so that everyone might have the opportunity to receive everlasting life. (John 3:16) As Christians, we imitate God’s love by telling others about God’s provisions for salvation, even if our efforts are frequently rebuffed.
13. How should we view secular rulers?
13 How should we view secular rulers in the world? Paul answered that question when he wrote: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.” (Romans 13:1, 2) Humans fill “relative” positions of authority (greater or lesser in relation to one another, but always inferior to Jehovah) because the Almighty allows them to. A Christian submits to secular authority because that is an aspect of his obedience to Jehovah. What, though, if a conflict arises between God’s requirements and those of a human government?
God’s Law and Caesar’s
14, 15. (a) In what way was Daniel able to avoid a conflict in the matter of obedience? (b) What stand did the three Hebrews take when a conflict in the matter of obedience could not be avoided?
14 Daniel and his three companions provide a fine example of how to balance submission to human governments with submission to divine authority. When the four young Hebrews found themselves in exile in Babylon, they obeyed the laws of that land and were quickly chosen for special training. Daniel, realizing that the training would likely lead to a conflict with Jehovah’s Law, discussed the matter with the official in charge. As a result, special arrangements were made to respect the consciences of the four Hebrews. (Daniel 1:8-17) Jehovah’s Witnesses follow Daniel’s example when they tactfully explain their position to officials so as to avoid unnecessary problems.
15 On a later occasion, however, a conflict in the matter of subjection could not be avoided. The Babylonian king erected a large idol on the plain of Dura and commanded high officials, including administrators of jurisdictional districts, to assemble for its inauguration. By now, the three friends of Daniel had been appointed administrators of the jurisdictional district of Babylon, so the order applied to them. At a certain moment in the proceedings, all assembled were to bow before the image. But the Hebrews knew that this would be against God’s law. (Deuteronomy 5:8-10) So when everyone else bowed down, they remained standing. By disobeying the king’s order, they risked a horrible death, and their lives were saved only by a miracle; but they chose to risk death rather than to disobey Jehovah.—Daniel 2:49–3:29.
16, 17. How did the apostles respond when ordered to stop preaching, and why?
16 In the first century, the apostles of Jesus Christ were called before the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and commanded to stop preaching in Jesus’ name. How did they react? Jesus had commissioned them to make disciples in all nations, which would include Judea. He had also told them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem as well as in the rest of the world. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8) The apostles knew that Jesus’ commands represented God’s will for them. (John 5:30; 8:28) Hence, they said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 4:19, 20; 5:29.
17 The apostles were not being rebellious. (Proverbs 24:21) Still, when human rulers forbade them to do God’s will, they could only say, ‘We must obey God, not man.’ Jesus said that we should “pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Mark 12:17) If we disobey a divine command because a human tells us to, we are giving to man what belongs to God. Instead, we pay back everything we owe to Caesar, but we recognize Jehovah’s supreme authority. He is the Universal Sovereign, the Creator, the very Source of authority.—Revelation 4:11.
We Will Stand Firm
18, 19. What fine stand have many of our brothers taken, and how can we follow their example?
18 At present, most secular governments recognize the neutral stand of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and for that we are grateful. In some lands, though, the Witnesses have faced severe opposition. Throughout the 20th century and continuing to the present time, some of our brothers and sisters have struggled mightily, in a spiritual sense fighting “the fine fight of the faith.”—1 Timothy 6:12.
19 How can we stand firm like them? First, we remember that we must expect opposition. We should not be shocked or even surprised if we meet up with it. Paul warned Timothy: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12) In a world where Satan’s influence reigns, why would we not meet opposition? (Revelation 12:17) As long as we are faithful, there will always be some who are ‘puzzled and go on speaking abusively of us.’—1 Peter 4:4.
20. Of what strengthening truths are we reminded?
20 Second, we are convinced that Jehovah and his angels will support us. As Elisha of old said, “there are more who are with us than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16; Psalm 34:7) It may be that Jehovah, for his own good purpose, allows pressure from opposers to continue for a while. Nevertheless, he will always give us the strength needed to endure. (Isaiah 41:9, 10) Some have given their lives, but that does not dismay us. Jesus said: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10:16-23, 28) We are only “temporary residents” in this system of things. We use our time here to “get a firm hold on the real life,” everlasting life in God’s new world. (1 Peter 2:11; 1 Timothy 6:19) No human can deprive us of that reward as long as we remain faithful to God.
21. What should we always keep in mind?
21 Hence, let us remember the privileged relationship that we have with Jehovah God. May we always appreciate the blessing of being followers of Christ and subjects of the Kingdom. Let us wholeheartedly love our brothers, and may we always delight in the love that we receive from them. Above all, let us heed the psalmist’s words: “Hope in Jehovah; be courageous and let your heart be strong. Yes, hope in Jehovah.” (Psalm 27:14; Isaiah 54:17) Then we, like countless Christians before us, will stand firm with our hope sure—faithful Christian neutrals who are no part of the world.
Can You Explain?
• How does our relationship with Jehovah make us separate from this world?
• As subjects of God’s Kingdom, how do we keep a neutral position in this world?
• In what ways does love for our brothers keep us neutral, separate from the world?
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How does our subjection to God’s Kingdom affect our relationship with the world?
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A Hutu and a Tutsi happily work together
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Jewish and Arab Christian brothers
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Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian Christians enjoy one another’s company
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What is the right course when rulers command us to break God’s law?