“Objects of Hatred by All the Nations”
1 In recent years all of us have rejoiced to hear thrilling reports about marvelous blessings experienced by Jehovah’s people around the world. Legalization of the work in Malawi after 26 years of brutal oppression moved us to tears of joy. We heaved a sigh of relief when we witnessed the collapse of godless Communism in Eastern Europe that resulted in the freeing of literally thousands of our brothers from its oppressive yoke. We watched with anxious concern as our freedom of worship was challenged in Greece; we were elated when we won a resounding victory in the highest court in Europe. We have been delighted to hear reports about the large-scale expansion of the Society’s branches that has made possible the production of massive quantities of literature for truth seekers. We could not help but marvel when we learned that more than 7,400 were baptized at the convention in Kiev, Ukraine. Yes, these dramatic advances in the Kingdom work have lifted our spirits to new heights!
2 While our cause for rejoicing is great, we have to guard against becoming overly elated. A series of favorable reports could cause us to conclude that opposition to the good news is crumbling and that Jehovah’s people are gaining acceptance around the world. Such thinking can be deceptive. While we have won some satisfying victories and achieved a measure of success in lowering barriers to the good news in some lands, we must not forget that our fundamental relationship with the world remains unchanged. As followers of Jesus, we are “no part of the world.” As such, we are sure to be “objects of hatred by all the nations.” (John 15:19; Matt. 24:9) As long as this system of things remains, nothing is going to change the basic rule that “all those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.”—2 Tim. 3:12.
3 The pages of history attest to the truthfulness of this warning. While Jesus, the Founder of Christianity, gave marvelous testimony before powerful rulers and their subjects, he suffered daily abuse and was in constant danger of being put to death. Even though his apostles helped many become disciples, shared in writing the Christian Greek Scriptures, and manifested miraculous gifts of the spirit, they were likewise hated and mistreated. In spite of their good conduct and love of neighbor, all Christians were viewed by the majority as a contemptible “sect” that was ‘spoken against everywhere.’ (Acts 28:22) While the worldwide Christian congregation today has been used by Jehovah in a marvelous way to accomplish his will, it has been continuously opposed and maligned by every element of this wicked system of things. There is no reason to expect that opposition to cease.
4 In the first century, Satan persecuted Jesus’ disciples in a variety of ways. Hateful opposers told outright lies that misrepresented them. (Acts 14:2) There were vicious threats in an attempt to intimidate them. (Acts 4:17, 18) Angry crowds tried to silence them. (Acts 19:29-34) They were imprisoned without just cause. (Acts 12:4, 5) Persecutors often resorted to physical violence. (Acts 14:19) In some cases innocent ones were deliberately murdered. (Acts 7:54-60) The apostle Paul personally endured virtually all these forms of abuse. (2 Cor. 11:23-27) Opposers were quick to exploit any opportunity to interfere with the preaching work and to inflict suffering on these faithful workers.
5 Today Satan is using similar tactics. Outright lies have been told, falsely portraying us as a misguided sect or cult. In some lands, authorities have judged our literature to be disruptive and have banned it. Our respect for the sanctity of blood has been publicly ridiculed and challenged. In the 1940’s, angry mobs incensed over the flag-salute issue attacked our brothers, inflicted injuries, and destroyed their property. Thousands have been sent to prison over the neutrality issue. In totalitarian lands our brothers have been falsely accused of being subversive, resulting in hundreds being brutally tortured and killed in prisons and concentration camps. The pressure has been relentless, clearly showing that we are objects of hatred without just cause.—See Proclaimers, chapter 29.
6 What Does the Future Hold? While Jehovah’s people may achieve a breakthrough from time to time to relieve the pressure in some part of the world, the overall situation remains the same. The Devil continues to be angry over his debasement in 1914. He knows his time is short. His rage is sure to intensify as the great tribulation draws near. He is totally committed to his war against the enthroned King, Christ Jesus, and he is determined to fight to the finish. He and his demons can vent their anger only on Jehovah’s people here on earth, who faithfully “observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.”—Rev. 12:12, 17.
7 So as we look to the future, we need to be realistic in what to expect. There is no reason to think that the Devil will back down or give up. The hatred of us that he has instilled in this world can flare up at any time and in any place. In many lands our freedom to preach has been secured only after a long struggle. That freedom may be very fragile, maintained only by some current sympathetic ruler or unpopular law. Dramatic upheavals can occur overnight, bringing chaos and wanton abuses of human rights.
8 The present prosperity and freedom that we enjoy in some lands could end abruptly, subjecting our brothers to the same abuses they have suffered in the past. We dare not allow ourselves to be lulled into a spirit of apathy or indifference, thinking that our adversaries have been subdued. This world’s hatred may not always be fully manifested, but it remains intense. Everything in God’s Word shows that the world’s opposition will intensify rather than subside as the end approaches. So we have to be on guard, showing ourselves to be “cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) We should realize that we will have “a hard fight” right to the end, and endurance is the key to our survival.—Jude 3; Matt. 24:13.
9 In the part of the world where we live, the work may be prospering without any noticeable hindrance by opposers. This could make us skeptical about there being any cause for serious concern. Nevertheless, there is a need to be vigilant. Circumstances can change quickly. Without warning, opposers can exploit some issue and use it against us. Apostates are constantly searching for some cause for complaint. Irate clergymen who feel threatened by our work may publicly denounce us. Our plans to construct a Kingdom Hall in our community may spark a controversy that upsets the whole neighborhood. Inflammatory statements may appear in print, casting us in a bad light. Prominent local figures may purposely misrepresent us, causing our neighbors to be hostile when we call. Even loved ones in our own household may become resentful and persecute us. So there is a need to be on guard, realizing that the enmity of the world is very much alive, and it can surface at any time.
10 How Should This Affect Us? All of this rightly affects our thinking and our outlook for the future. In what way? Should this make us apprehensive, fearful about what we may have to endure? Should we slow down in our preaching work because some in our community may be disturbed by it? Is there a valid reason to feel agitated when we are unjustly maligned? Is it inevitable that harsh treatment will rob us of our joy in serving Jehovah? Is there any uncertainty about the outcome? No, never! Why not?
11 We must never lose sight of the fact that the message we proclaim originates, not with us, but with Jehovah. (Jer. 1:9) We are under obligation to heed the exhortation: “Call upon his name. Make known among the peoples his dealings . . . in all the earth.” (Isa. 12:4, 5) He has tolerated the mistreatment of his people for a specific purpose, namely, ‘to have his name declared in all the earth.’ (Ex. 9:16) We are doing a work decreed by Jehovah, and he is the one who gives us the courage to speak out with boldness. (Acts 4:29-31) This is the most important, beneficial, and urgent work that can be done in these final days of the old system.
12 This knowledge gives us the courage to take a firm stand in direct opposition to Satan and this world. (1 Pet. 5:8, 9) Knowing that Jehovah is with us makes us “courageous and strong,” dispelling any cause for fear before our persecutors. (Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:6) While we will always try to be tactful, reasonable, and discreet when threatened by opposers, we will make it clear that we are determined to “obey God as ruler rather than men” when our worship is challenged. (Acts 5:29) When there is reasonable opportunity to speak out in our defense, we will do so. (1 Pet. 3:15) However, we will not waste our time disputing with hardened opponents who are only interested in discrediting us. Rather than become incensed or try to retaliate when they malign or falsely accuse us, we simply “let them be.”—Matt. 15:14.
13 Our endurance through trials is pleasing to Jehovah. (1 Pet. 2:19) What price must we pay for that approval? Must we resign ourselves to serving without joy because we are hated and opposed? Far from it! Jehovah promises to reward our obedience with “joy and peace.” (Rom. 15:13) In the face of intense suffering, Jesus remained happy because of “the joy that was set before him.” (Heb. 12:2) The same is true of us. Because the reward for our endurance is so great, we are moved to “rejoice and leap for joy” though we suffer grievous trials. (Matt. 5:11, 12) Even in times of adversity, this joy is, in itself, a cause for giving praise and honor to Jehovah in support of the Kingdom message.
14 Is there any uncertainty about the final outcome, giving us reason to be apprehensive or indecisive? No, the outcome of the conflict between Jehovah’s organization and Satan’s world was decided a long time ago. (1 John 2:15-17) Regardless of the intensity or magnitude of the opposition, Jehovah will give us the victory. (Isa. 54:17; Rom. 8:31, 37) Even though we are fully put to the test, nothing can prevent us from receiving the reward. We have no cause to “be anxious over anything,” because Jehovah has granted us peace in response to our supplications.—Phil. 4:6, 7.
15 So we thank Jehovah every time we hear reports about our brothers being rescued from persecution or given freedom to preach in areas where they have been restricted in the past. We rejoice when changing circumstances open up new opportunities for thousands of sincere people to come in contact with the Kingdom message. We are truly grateful when Jehovah chooses to give us the victory in confrontations with hateful opposers. We know that he will bless and prosper our work in whatever way is necessary in order to exalt his house of true worship and give the “desirable” ones from all the nations an opportunity to enter.—Hag. 2:7; Isa. 2:2-4.
16 At the same time, we are fully aware that our enemy, Satan, is very powerful, and he is going to oppose us vigorously right down to the end. His attacks may be open and flagrant, or they may be subtle and deceptive. Persecution may erupt suddenly in places where we have known only peace in the past. Wicked opposers may be vicious and unrelenting in efforts to oppress us unjustly. In due time it will become clear to all such ones that they are “fighters actually against God,” and he will annihilate them. (Acts 5:38, 39; 2 Thess. 1:6-9) In the meantime, regardless of what we must endure, we are determined to remain steadfast in loyally serving Jehovah and preaching the Kingdom message. We are the happiest people on the face of the earth, knowing that ‘on becoming approved we will receive the crown of life.’—Jas. 1:12.