“They are no part of the world.”—JOHN 17:16.
1, 2. (a) Why is loyalty to God important to Christians, and how does this relate to neutrality? (See opening image.) (b) What loyalties do many people display, but in what might that result?
LOYALTY and neutrality are always issues for true Christians, not just in times of war. Why? Because all who are dedicated to Jehovah have promised him their love, loyalty, and obedience. (1 John 5:3) We want to abide by God’s righteous standards wherever we live and whatever our background, nationality, or culture. Loyalty to Jehovah and to his Kingdom transcends any other attachment we may have. (Matt. 6:33) Such loyalty requires that Christians remain separate from all conflicts and controversies of this world.—Isa. 2:4; read John 17:11, 15, 16.
2 People who do not share our faith may feel a special loyalty to their country, tribe, or culture or even to their national sports team. Challenges to such loyalties have resulted in competition and rivalry and, in extreme cases, bloodshed and genocide. The way that people resolve these issues, for better or for worse, might touch us or our families personally because we are inescapably a part of human society. Since God made man with an innate sense of justice, the decisions that human governments make may offend our sense of what is right and fair. (Gen. 1:27; Deut. 32:4) How do we react under such circumstances? It would be all too easy to take sides in worldly issues and be drawn into controversy.
3, 4. (a) Why do Christians remain neutral in the controversies of this world? (b) What will this article address?
3 The institutions that govern human society may pressure citizens to take sides in conflicts that arise. True Christians cannot do so. We do not participate in the political controversies of this world; nor do we take up arms. (Matt. 26:52) We are not swayed by efforts to involve us in exalting any portion of Satan’s world over another. (2 Cor. 2:11) Being no part of the world, we rise above worldly rivalries.—Read John 15:18, 19.
4 Because we are imperfect, though, some of us may be struggling to eliminate divisive attitudes characteristic of our former way of thinking. (Jer. 17:9; Eph. 4:22-24) Hence, this article will consider some principles that can help us overcome such tendencies. We will also examine how we can train our mind and conscience to be loyal to God’s Kingdom.
WHY WE DO NOT TAKE SIDES IN THIS WORLD’S ISSUES
5, 6. How did Jesus react to diversity in the nation in which he lived, and why?
5 If you are ever in doubt as to how you ought to behave in any given situation, it would be wise to ask yourself, ‘What would Jesus have done?’ The nation in which Jesus lived was made up of people from various regions—Judea, Galilee, Samaria, and others. Bible accounts reveal that there were tensions between people of these different areas. (John 4:9) Tensions also existed between Pharisees and Sadducees (Acts 23:6-9), between the people and the tax collectors (Matt. 9:11), and between those who had received a Rabbinic education and those who had not. (John 7:49) In the first century, Israel was ruled by the Romans, whose presence was deeply resented by the local people. While Jesus championed religious truth and acknowledged that salvation originated with the Jews, he never encouraged his disciples to foster rivalries. (John 4:22) On the contrary, he urged them to love all men as their neighbor.—Luke 10:27.
6 Why did Jesus not endorse common Jewish prejudices? Because neither he nor his Father takes sides in this world’s controversies. When Jehovah through his Son created man and woman, his intent was that they fill the whole earth. (Gen. 1:27, 28) God designed humans in such a way that they could produce different races. Neither Jehovah nor Jesus exalts one race, nationality, or language above another. (Acts 10:34, 35; Rev. 7:9, 13, 14) We must follow their perfect example.—Matt. 5:43-48.
7, 8. (a) On what issue must Christians take sides? (b) What must Christians recognize when it comes to resolving social and political problems?
7 On one issue, however, we must take sides—in supporting Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. Controversy first arose in this regard in Eden when Satan challenged Jehovah’s rule. Now, all must decide whether they believe that God’s way of doing things is superior to Satan’s or vice versa. In all sincerity, do you take Jehovah’s side by choosing to obey his laws and standards instead of doing things your own way? Do you see his Kingdom as the only answer to mankind’s woes? Or do you believe that man is capable of governing himself?—Gen. 3:4, 5.
8 Your answers to these questions will determine how you respond when people ask your opinion on controversial matters. Politicians, activists, and reformers have long struggled to find solutions to divisive issues. Their efforts may be sincere and well-motivated. Yet, Christians recognize that only God’s Kingdom can solve mankind’s problems and guarantee true justice. We must leave the matter in Jehovah’s hands. After all, if each Christian advocated the solution he thought best, would not our congregations soon become divided?
9. What problem existed in the first-century congregation in Corinth, but what solution did the apostle Paul recommend?
9 Note how some first-century Christians reacted to one divisive issue that arose within the congregation. Individuals in Corinth were saying: “‘I belong to Paul,’ ‘But I to Apollos,’ ‘But I to Cephas,’ ‘But I to Christ.’” Whatever the underlying issue, the apostle Paul was indignant about its effect. “Is the Christ divided?” he asked. What was the solution to such disruptive thinking? Paul exhorted the Christians: “Now I urge you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you should all speak in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you may be completely united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” Neither should there be divisions of any kind in the Christian congregation today.—1 Cor. 1:10-13; read Romans 16:17, 18.
10. How did the apostle Paul illustrate a Christian’s need to remain neutral in this world’s disputes?
10 Paul urged anointed Christians to focus on their heavenly citizenship rather than on earthly things. (Phil. 3:17-20)* They were to act as ambassadors substituting for Christ. Ambassadors do not meddle in the affairs of the nations to which they are assigned. Their loyalties lie elsewhere. (2 Cor. 5:20) Christians with an earthly hope are also subjects of God’s Kingdom, so it is inappropriate for them to take sides in this world’s disputes.
TRAIN YOURSELF TO BE LOYAL TO JEHOVAH
11, 12. (a) What kind of environment can make it challenging for a Christian to maintain loyalty to God’s Kingdom? (b) What issue did one Christian face, and how did she deal with it?
11 In most parts of the world, communities are close-knit. They are united by a common history, culture, and language in which the local people take great pride. In such settings, Christians have to train their mind and conscience to respond appropriately when neutrality-related issues arise. How can they do this?
12 Take, for example, Mirjeta* from a region of the former Yugoslavia. She was raised to hate Serbians. On learning that Jehovah is impartial and that Satan is responsible for inciting ethnic problems, she strove to rid herself of nationalistic sentiments. Yet, when ethnic violence broke out in her area, old hatreds began to resurface in her, causing Mirjeta to find it difficult to preach to Serbs. She realized, though, that she could not just sit back and hope that such unwholesome feelings would go away. She begged Jehovah for help not only to overcome this challenge but also to increase her service and qualify to become a pioneer. “I have found that focusing on the ministry is the best help ever,” she says. “In the ministry, I try to imitate Jehovah’s loving personality, and I have seen my negative feelings melt away.”
13. (a) What situation made one Witness uncomfortable, but how did she react? (b) What lesson can we learn from Zoila’s experience?
13 Consider another example, that of Zoila. Originally from Mexico, she now attends a congregation in Europe. She noted that in the congregation, some brothers who were from certain parts of Latin America made tactless and disparaging remarks about her homeland, its customs, and even its music. How would you have reacted? Understandably, such comments made Zoila uncomfortable. But commendably, she sought Jehovah’s help to quash any negative reaction that arose in her heart. We have to admit that some among us are still struggling to deal with similar issues. Never would we want to say or do anything that could foment divisions or promote inappropriate loyalties among our brothers—or among anyone else for that matter.—Rom. 14:19; 2 Cor. 6:3.
14. How can Christians train their mind and conscience regarding questions of loyalty?
14 Has your upbringing or environment exposed you to national or regional loyalties? Do any such feelings still linger in your heart? Christians should not allow nationalistic fervor to taint their view of others. But what if you realize that you do have negative thoughts toward people of other nations, cultures, languages, or races? Then it would certainly be profitable to meditate on how Jehovah views nationalism and prejudice. Researching these and related topics may prove to be a worthwhile project for personal study or family worship. Then petition Jehovah for help to embrace his point of view on these matters.—Read Romans 12:2.
15, 16. (a) How should we expect others to react to our remaining loyal to God? (b) How can parents help their children to meet the challenge of Christian loyalty?
15 Sooner or later, all of Jehovah’s servants will find themselves in situations in which their conscience obliges them to stand out as different from those around them—whether colleagues, classmates, neighbors, relatives, or others. (1 Pet. 2:19) Yet, stand out we must! We should not be surprised if the world hates us for our stand; Jesus warned us that it would. Most opposers do not appreciate the importance of the issues involved in Christian neutrality. For us, though, these are matters of utmost importance.
16 Loyalty to Jehovah requires that we be steadfast in the face of threats. (Dan. 3:16-18) Fear of man can affect people of all ages, but young people may find it especially difficult to go against the flow, so to speak. If your children are facing such issues as the flag salute or nationalistic celebrations, do not hesitate to assist them. Use Family Worship sessions to help your children understand the issues involved so that they can meet those challenges courageously. Help them to express their personal convictions clearly and respectfully. (Rom. 1:16) To back up your children, take the initiative to speak with their teachers about these matters if necessary.
APPRECIATE ALL OF JEHOVAH’S CREATION!
17. What attitude should we avoid, and why?
17 It is understandable that we might feel some affection for the land, the culture, the language, and the food of the country we were raised in. However, we must avoid the “mine is best” attitude. For our pleasure, Jehovah has created great variety in all things. (Ps. 104:24; Rev. 4:11) So why insist that one way of doing things is superior to another?
18. How will adopting Jehovah’s view result in blessings?
18 God wants people of all sorts to come to an accurate knowledge of truth and to enjoy everlasting life. (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:3, 4) Open-mindedness toward a diversity of acceptable ideas enriches us and protects our Christian unity. As we maintain our loyalty to Jehovah, we must avoid involvement in the world’s controversies. Partisan allegiances have no place among us. How thankful we are to Jehovah for freeing us from the divisive, prideful, competitive practices that dominate Satan’s world! May it be our determination to cultivate a peaceful attitude like that expressed by the psalmist: “Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”—Ps. 133:1.
Philippi was a Roman colony. Some members of the congregation there may have had a form of Roman citizenship, which would have afforded them certain privileges above those of their brothers.
Some names have been changed.