Keep On Serving Shoulder to Shoulder
“I shall give to peoples the change to a pure language, in order for them all to call upon the name of Jehovah, in order to serve him shoulder to shoulder.”—Zephaniah 3:9.
1. What is happening in fulfillment of Zephaniah 3:9?
ABOUT 6,000 languages are now spoken throughout the earth. Besides these, there are various dialects, or local forms of languages. Whether people speak tongues as diverse as Arabic and Zulu, however, God has done something truly remarkable. He has made it possible for humans everywhere to learn and speak the one and only pure language. This is happening in fulfillment of a promise given through the prophet Zephaniah: “I [Jehovah God] shall give to peoples the change to a pure language [literally, “a clean lip,” footnote], in order for them all to call upon the name of Jehovah, in order to serve him shoulder to shoulder.”—Zephaniah 3:9.
2. What is the “pure language,” and what has it made possible?
2 The “pure language” is the truth of God found in his Word, the Bible. Especially is it the truth about God’s Kingdom, which will sanctify Jehovah’s name, vindicate his sovereignty, and bring blessings to mankind. (Matthew 6:9, 10) As the only spiritually clean tongue on earth, the pure language is spoken by people of all nations and races. It enables them to serve Jehovah “shoulder to shoulder,” or according to the footnote, “with one shoulder.” They thus serve him unitedly, or “with one consent.”—The New English Bible.
No Place for Partiality
3. What enables us to serve Jehovah unitedly?
3 As Christians, we are grateful for the multilingual cooperation that exists among us. Although we preach the good news of the Kingdom in many human languages, we are serving God in unity. (Psalm 133:1) This is possible because, wherever we live on earth, we speak the one pure language to Jehovah’s praise.
4. Why must there be no partiality among God’s people?
4 There must be no partiality among God’s people. The apostle Peter made that clear when he preached at the home of the Gentile army officer Cornelius in 36 C.E. and was moved to say: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) Since that is true, the Christian congregation is no place for partiality, cliques, or favoritism.
5. Why is it wrong to contribute to cliques in the congregation?
5 Regarding her visit to the Kingdom Hall, one college student said: “Usually, churches draw in members of a certain race or ethnic group. . . . Jehovah’s Witnesses were all sitting together and not in certain cliques.” However, some members of the congregation in ancient Corinth were creating factions. By thus causing dissension, they were opposing the operation of God’s holy spirit, for it promotes unity and peace. (Galatians 5:22) If we were to foster cliques in the congregation, we would be working against the leadings of the spirit. Therefore, let us bear in mind the apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10) Paul also stressed unity in his letter to the Ephesians.—Ephesians 4:1-6, 16.
6, 7. What counsel did James give regarding favoritism, and how do his words apply?
6 Impartiality has always been required of Christians. (Romans 2:11) Because some in the first-century congregation were showing favoritism toward wealthy individuals, the disciple James wrote: “My brothers, you are not holding the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, our glory, with acts of favoritism, are you? For, if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in splendid clothing enters into a gathering of you, but a poor man in filthy clothing also enters, yet you look with favor upon the one wearing the splendid clothing and say: ‘You take this seat here in a fine place,’ and you say to the poor one: ‘You keep standing,’ or: ‘Take that seat there under my footstool,’ you have class distinctions among yourselves and you have become judges rendering wicked decisions, is that not so?”—James 2:1-4.
7 If rich unbelievers with gold rings and splendid garments came to a Christian meeting as well as poor unbelievers in filthy clothing, the wealthy got special treatment. They were given seats “in a fine place,” while the poor were told to stand or to sit on the floor at someone’s feet. But God impartially provided Jesus’ ransom sacrifice for rich and poor alike. (Job 34:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14) So if we are going to please Jehovah and serve him shoulder to shoulder, we must not show favoritism or ‘admire personalities for our own benefit.’—Jude 4, 16.
Keep Free From Murmuring
8. What happened because the Israelites murmured?
8 In order to maintain our unity and continue to have divine favor, we must heed Paul’s counsel: “Keep doing all things free from murmurings.” (Philippians 2:14, 15) The faithless Israelites freed from Egyptian bondage murmured against Moses and Aaron and thus even Jehovah God. Because of this, all the men 20 years old and upward, except faithful Joshua and Caleb and the Levites, did not enter the Promised Land but died during Israel’s 40-year trek in the wilderness. (Numbers 14:2, 3, 26-30; 1 Corinthians 10:10) What a price they paid for murmuring!
9. What did Miriam experience because of her murmuring?
9 This shows what can happen to an entire murmuring nation. What about individual murmurers? Well, Moses’ sister, Miriam, along with her brother Aaron, murmured: “Is it just by Moses alone that Jehovah has spoken? Is it not by us also that he has spoken?” The account adds: “Jehovah was listening.” (Numbers 12:1, 2) The result? Miriam, who evidently took the lead in this complaint, was humiliated by God. How? By being afflicted with leprosy and being compelled to remain outside the camp for seven days until she was cleansed.—Numbers 12:9-15.
10, 11. Unchecked murmuring can result in what? Illustrate.
10 Murmuring is not just a complaint about some wrongdoing. Persistent murmurers attach too much importance to their feelings or position, drawing attention to themselves rather than to God. If not checked, this causes dissension among spiritual brothers and hinders their efforts to serve Jehovah shoulder to shoulder. This is so because murmurers invariably voice their complaints, doubtless hoping that others will sympathize with them.
11 For instance, someone may criticize the way a certain elder handles his parts in the congregation or cares for his duties. If we listen to the complainer, we may begin to think as he does. Until the seed of discontent was planted in our mind, the elder’s activities may not have troubled us, but they do now. Eventually, nothing the elder does will be right in our eyes, and we too may begin to complain about him. This kind of conduct is not fitting in a congregation of Jehovah’s people.
12. Murmuring can have what effect on our relationship with God?
12 Murmuring about men whose duty it is to shepherd the flock of God may lead to reviling. Such murmuring or slanderously calling down evil upon them can detrimentally affect our relationship with Jehovah. (Exodus 22:28) Unrepentant revilers will not inherit God’s Kingdom. (1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:10) The disciple Jude wrote about murmurers who were “disregarding lordship and speaking abusively of glorious ones,” or responsible men in the congregation. (Jude 8) Those murmurers did not have divine approval, and we wisely shun their wicked course.
13. Why are not all complaints objectionable?
13 Granted, not all complaints are displeasing to God. He did not ignore “the cry of complaint” about Sodom and Gomorrah but destroyed those wicked cities. (Genesis 18:20, 21; 19:24, 25) In Jerusalem, shortly after Pentecost of 33 C.E., “a murmuring arose on the part of the Greek-speaking Jews against the Hebrew-speaking Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution.” Consequently, “the twelve” corrected the situation by appointing “seven certified men” over the “necessary business” of food distribution. (Acts 6:1-6) Present-day elders must not ‘stop up their ears’ to legitimate complaints. (Proverbs 21:13) And rather than criticizing fellow worshipers, the elders ought to be encouraging and upbuilding.—1 Corinthians 8:1.
14. To keep free from murmuring, what quality is especially needed?
14 All of us need to keep free from murmuring, for the spirit of complaint is spiritually unwholesome. Such an attitude would disrupt our unity. Instead, let us always allow the holy spirit to produce love in us. (Galatians 5:22) Complying with ‘the kingly law of love’ will help us to keep on serving Jehovah shoulder to shoulder.—James 2:8; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 1 Peter 4:8.
Guard Against Slander
15. How would you differentiate between gossip and slander?
15 Since murmuring can lead to harmful gossip, we must be careful about what we say. Gossip is idle talk about people and their affairs. Slander, though, is a false report intended to damage another person’s reputation. Such talk is malicious and ungodly. God therefore told the Israelites: “You must not go around among your people for the sake of slandering.”—Leviticus 19:16.
16. What did Paul say about certain gossipers, and how should we be affected by his counsel?
16 Since idle talk may lead to slander, Paul spoke out against certain gossipers. After mentioning widows who qualified for congregation assistance, he referred to widows who learned “to be unoccupied, gadding about to the houses; yes, not only unoccupied, but also gossipers and meddlers in other people’s affairs, talking of things they ought not.” (1 Timothy 5:11-15) If a Christian woman finds that she has a weakness for the kind of talk that could lead to slander, she will do well to heed Paul’s counsel to be “serious, not slanderous.” (1 Timothy 3:11) Of course, Christian men must also guard against harmful gossip.—Proverbs 10:19.
17, 18. (a) What did Jesus say about judging our brother? (b) How can we apply Jesus’ words about judging?
17 Even if we do not slander anyone, we may have to make an earnest effort to avoid becoming judgmental. Jesus condemned such a spirit when he said: “Stop judging that you may not be judged; for with what judgment you are judging, you will be judged; and with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you. Why, then, do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the rafter in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to extract the straw from your eye’; when, look! a rafter is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye.”—Matthew 7:1-5.
18 We should not presume to offer to extract a mere “straw” from our brother’s eye to help him when our own ability to render proper judgment is impaired by a figurative “rafter.” In fact, if we really appreciate how merciful God is, we will not be inclined to judge our spiritual brothers and sisters. How could we possibly understand them as well as our heavenly Father does? No wonder Jesus warned us to ‘stop judging that we may not be judged’! An honest appraisal of our own imperfections ought to hold us back from making judgments that God would consider unrighteous.
Frail but Honorable
19. How should we view fellow believers?
19 If we are determined to serve God shoulder to shoulder with fellow believers, we will not just avoid being judgmental. We will take the lead in showing them honor. (Romans 12:10) In fact, we will seek their advantage, not our own, and will joyfully perform humble tasks in their behalf. (John 13:12-17; 1 Corinthians 10:24) How can we maintain such a fine spirit? By bearing in mind that every believer is precious to Jehovah and that we need one another, just as each member of the human body is dependent on the others.—1 Corinthians 12:14-27.
20, 21. What meaning do the words of 2 Timothy 2:20, 21 have for us?
20 Admittedly, Christians are frail earthen vessels entrusted with the glorious treasure of the ministry. (2 Corinthians 4:7) If we are to carry out this blessed activity to Jehovah’s praise, we must maintain an honorable standing before him and his Son. Only by staying morally and spiritually pure can we remain an honorable vessel for God’s use. In this regard, Paul wrote: “In a large house there are vessels not only of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for an honorable purpose but others for a purpose lacking honor. If, therefore, anyone keeps clear of the latter ones, he will be a vessel for an honorable purpose, sanctified, useful to his owner, prepared for every good work.”—2 Timothy 2:20, 21.
21 Individuals who do not conduct themselves in harmony with divine requirements are ‘vessels lacking honor.’ By pursuing a godly course, however, we will be ‘vessels for an honorable purpose, sanctified, or set apart, for Jehovah’s service and prepared for every good work.’ So we may well ask ourselves: ‘Am I an “honorable vessel”? Do I have a good effect on fellow believers? Am I a member of the congregation who works shoulder to shoulder with fellow worshipers?’
Continue Serving Shoulder to Shoulder
22. To what may the Christian congregation be compared?
22 The Christian congregation is a familylike arrangement. There is a loving, helpful, and pleasant atmosphere in a family when all its members worship Jehovah. A family may be composed of a number of individuals with varying personalities, but everyone has an honorable place. The situation is similar in the congregation. Though all of us are different—and imperfect—God has drawn us to himself through Christ. (John 6:44; 14:6) Jehovah and Jesus love us, and like a united family, we definitely need to show love for one another.—1 John 4:7-11.
23. What should we remember and be determined to do?
23 The familylike Christian congregation is also a place where we rightly expect to find loyalty. The apostle Paul wrote: “I desire that in every place the men carry on prayer, lifting up loyal hands, apart from wrath and debates.” (1 Timothy 2:8) Paul thus associated loyalty with public prayer “in every place” where Christians meet together. Only loyal men should represent the congregation in public prayer. Of course, God expects all of us to be loyal to him and to one another. (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14) Let us therefore be determined to work together harmoniously, like the members of the human body. May we also serve unitedly as part of the family of Jehovah’s worshipers. Above all, let us remember that we need one another and will enjoy divine approval and blessings if we keep on serving Jehovah shoulder to shoulder.
How Would You Answer?
• What enables Jehovah’s people to serve him shoulder to shoulder?
• Why do Christians avoid partiality?
• What would you say is wrong with murmuring?
• Why should we honor fellow believers?
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Peter perceived that “God is not partial”
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Do you know why God humiliated Miriam?
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Loyal Christians joyfully serve Jehovah shoulder to shoulder