A HAND IN THE DARKNESS
When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only,
But in the one who sent me.
When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.
I have come into the world as a light,
so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 12:44-46 NIV
A HAND IN THE DARKNESS
MIDGE H. LOUAILLIER
1992 Published by Author
This book is Dedicated to all those who struggle in the unending search for Truth.
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. John 17:15,17-19
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Leaving
Chapter 2 Rebirth
Chapter 3 Born Again Christians
Chapter 4 Why Is Leaving So Difficult?
Chapter 5 More Questions
Chapter 6 Conclusion
In December of 1959, soon after I turned
nineteen years old, my husband and I started studying with Jehovah's Witnesses.
Three years later, in December of 1962, I was baptized. For the next sixteen
years I was very much committed to being a Witness. During that time my family
and I were first members of the Waimanalo Congregation. Then, the last two or
three years before I was disfellowshipped, we attended the Kailua Congregation,
both in Hawaii.
After I left the Organization, I joined a Bible study group made up of friends who had also been disfellowshipped. Within a period of two years about thirteen of us, all family and close friends, left the Organization. Because we went through everything together, we were able to encourage and support one another through the whole adjustment process. Most disfellowshipped Witnesses don't have that advantage. That can be very traumatic. It means so much to know that one is not alone, that Jehovah is still there, and that the Organization's estimate of who one is not the final word.
Many who have left the Organization have been falsely accused. The following thought, written by Dr. Lyman in 1914, has been helpful to me in dealing with the thoughts and feelings that come as a result. I hope it will encourage you also.
"There are very few who are not at some time brought under the shadow of false accusation. The natural way to meet it is by denial and self-defense. But that is not the New Testament way. There is a better, surer, higher way. It is to give the false accusation a plain, simple, square denial, and then leave the life and the truth to do the rest. It is not my business to take care of my reputation; it is all I can do to take care of my character. If that is clean and pure and luminous, the light that is in me will shine on and out, and by and by will pierce the clouds and dispel them.
"Do not run after accusers; do not trouble yourself about false accusations. Only be sure to make them false; then leave the falsehood to die. Go on with your life work; and accept the position in which false accusation, and consequent scandal and reproach, place you, only as a new opportunity to bear witness to the truth and the life by our own manifest and glorious possession of them."
If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you.
Phone: (808) 961-3914.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mailing address: Midge Louaillier
25-3535 Opalipali Street
Hilo, HI 96720.
A HAND IN THE DARKNESS
As I sat in the Kingdom Hall that April night in 1979, the Scripture in John 13:35 kept going through my head. "By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves." I looked around at the faces I'd known and worked with for so many years and thought, "There's no love here." I went home that night knowing that something was over for me. Inside something had died.
I was thirty-eight years old and had spent over half my life associated with Jehovah's Witnesses. I had raised my children as Witnesses, attended meetings faithfully, vacation pioneered, served as a temporary book study conductor and magazine/territory servant, conducted home Bible studies, gone on hundreds of return visits and walked many miles in the door to door work. What had brought me to the end of it all?
I want to share my story with you because, although each of us has our own story, what we go through--the pain, the confusion, the hurt and the darkness--is the same for all of us. Knowing others have come through similar circumstances, suffered those same feelings and have come out better for the experience helps a great deal toward healing one's own hurt and confusion. For such ones are proof that our heavenly Father is always there, that He loves us all without condition and that we are never alone. God can always be found by those who seek Him with all their heart.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12,13 NIV)
Those who seek Him will find Him through His son, Jesus (no matter how dark the way may seem). I pray some of the knowledge and insight I have gained since leaving the Organization will serve to guide you through some of the rough spots.
By February of 1979 I had been a baptized Witness for over sixteen years. I'd had my differences with the Organization's position on certain things through the years but I had never doubted that this was Jehovah's Organization. I felt that men were imperfect and made mistakes, we just had to accept that. Over the years I'd had many Scriptural discussions with people, even ministers, of other religious beliefs. I had read their literature, even some anti-Witness literature, but none of it even came close to convincing me that the Witnesses did not have the "truth." Yes, there were times I was dissatisfied, frustrated, and even angry at some of the things I'd seen. But I would reason that in Israelite times, when the leaders of the nation of Israel did wrong, or taught or believed incorrectly, the people didn't leave and join with the pagan nations outside. They stayed and bore up under that poor leadership because they believed their nation belonged to God and that He would make things right in His own time. I believed the Organization, like the nation of Israel, was the arrangement God had set up for His people. And so I stayed, no matter what happened or how I felt. That belief was soon to change.
In February 1979 I got a phone call from the daughter of an elder whom I respected highly. Shelley said her father, Doug Warne, had just received a letter stating he had been disfellowshipped. The news was a shock as Doug had been our book study conductor and had served on the congregation Committee for a long while. It was true that he had lately stopped attending meetings, but that was no reason to disfellowship him. I asked Shelley what the charge against him was. She said she didn't know. He hadn't been given a hearing, just that letter stating he had been disfellowshipped. I thought it must be someone's idea of a poor joke. I had never heard of someone just being disfellowshipped without first knowing the charges brought against him and being given a chance to answer those charges by facing his accusers at a hearing.
Doug's wife, Joan, was a very good friend of mine and had also recently been disfellowshipped. That year an elder from Brooklyn, Ray Schock, had come into the congregation and was "cracking down" on different ones he thought were "our of hand." My friend was one of them. As far as I could see, all she was guilty of was questioning and being honest. But he viewed her as a threat to the congregation. When he was finished maligning her character and insisting that she repent and fall in line, she didn't want any part of the Organization. I thought she was wrong in not sticking it out for Jehovah. But she said she did not believe the Organization spoke for Jehovah. To the contrary, she felt it had gone against Him by placing itself above his Son in the hearts of the people. She was happy because only outside the Organization had she been able to find that closeness to Jesus that every Christian must have.
I reasoned all this was affecting Doug, that he had just become disgusted with the new leadership in the congregation and with the hard line being taken. But his lack of meeting attendance was certainly not grounds for disfellowshipping. I called one of the elders on the Committee, Harold Rawson, to ask if he knew about the letter. He said he did know about it and that it was legitimate. He also said he was not at liberty to discuss the matter any further.
The next afternoon, at the Thursday book study, my sister and I asked our book study conductor, Doug Fisher, if the elders had given Doug a hearing. We were told that they "had many meetings with Doug." Further questioning was met with, "Who are you going to believe, the elders or Doug?' With that said, he informed us he did not wish to discuss the affair any further as it was a Committee matter and none of our business. He said if we had any questions we should go to the Branch office.
The next day I sent a letter to the Branch explaining the situation and asking them to look into the matter. The following Tuesday, in the service meeting, the elders gave an unscheduled talk on "The Korah Class." Korah was the one who led the rebellion against Moses in the wilderness. The congregation was told "there is a 'Korah' class in our midst," and that "these ones are speaking abusively of the 'holy ones,' the elders appointed by Jehovah." The elders had decided that questioning their actions was the same as rebellion. Of course everyone knew they were referring to my sister and I. From then on we were marked as ones to stay away from. At the close of that meeting we were handed a letter saying the elders wanted to meet with us. It was to be a Judicial Committee meeting. The charges were not stated but, according to one of the elders, Frank Griffin, they were for "murmuring and causing dissension on the congregation."
The next day I went down to the Branch and talked to the Branch servant, Nat Miller. I had known Brother Miller for years as he and his wife had served in our congregation before he became Branch servant. He had received my letter and felt that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding. I explained the situation to him again and informed him that, because of our inquiries into the matter, my sister and I had been called to go before the congregation Committee. He advised me to go to that meeting. He was sure things would be corrected at that time. But if, after going to that meeting, I still was dissatisfied, I must make a written complaint to the Branch. He then sent me on my way.
The irony of that meeting was, we had accused those elders of wrong doing and they had put us on trial. They had turned things around so they had become our accusers. The situation had gone beyond a group of elders not giving an accused person opportunity to face his accusers and speak on his own behalf at a disfellowshipping hearing. It now involved slander; for the elders, in an effort to justify their own actions, had unjustly labeled as dissenters and rebels the ones calling them to account.
Dissatisfied with the way the meeting turned out, I wrote a formal letter to the Branch again stating my concerns. On March 5, 1979 I received a letter, part of which states:
We note that you did not supply the elders involved with a copy of your letter to us. In order for us to be of any assistance in this situation, you should give a copy of your letter to the elders involved, so they in turn can write to us too on the case. We will have to hear both sides of the matter to be of any real help. Therefore, we are enclosing your original letter to us and also a copy. If you desire to follow through on the procedure outlined above, then please send the copy to the Judicial committee that handled the case in question and any other elders involved, and mail us the original again for our consideration.
It is well to keep this matter confidential between yourself and the elders referred to in your letter, whether it is pursued on your part or not. (Underlining mine)
I was not going to let the matter drop. I mailed another letter back to the Branch and gave the elders their letters. For two months my sister and I and a few others lived with the frustration of knowing that wrong had been done and that we were being marked and shunned for speaking out against it. Brother Van Fliet, the circuit overseer, finally made his visit to the congregation. He met with the elders involved and they were counseled for not following correct procedure. But, in the words of Doug Fisher, one of the elders involved, "Doug doesn't want to be a Witness anyway, so it really doesn't matter."
The elders were not held accountable for lying, covering up, falsely accusing us or for harming our reputations. They received their slap on the wrist and were required to apologize and admit what they had done to us only. The congregation was never told what really happened and our names were never cleared.
After it was all over things were not the same for me. I was disillusioned-- disillusioned when my friends had closed their ears and turned their faces from a wrong that was done because their loyalties were to men whom they had somehow mixed up with God. I was disillusioned when I heard some of the elders lie and the others remain silent in fear of being disloyal to the rest, each rationalizing he was doing right in view of what he believed was at stake. I was disillusioned when it became clear that the Branch office was more interested in maintaining proper procedure and covering up what the elders had done rather than disciplining them before the congregation and clearing us of the stigma of rebellion. And lastly, I was disillusioned when I thought back on the Society's responses to the many questions I had written them throughout the years. I saw that same "worldly," human thinking in the Governing Body as well.
Yes, I know these problems are common in all large organizations, but the point was, they should not be common in God's organization. I could understand if it only involved a few, but that was not the case. The mindset of the whole organization, from the Governing Body on down to the ordinary publisher, was such that love, truth and justice, the very things God is and stands for, came second to position, procedure, and loyalty to an organization that, in their eyes, had become indistinguishable from Jehovah Himself.
I saw how the people who had known me and my family for many years could judge me so easily, without the slightest hesitation, because they were afraid, afraid to listen to what we were saying for fear their lot would fall in with ours and that they, too, might be "deceived" into turning against Jehovah. And then there were others who did not want to know, for it had nothing to do with them. And, as I sat in the Kingdom hall thinking back on all these things, those powerful words of Jesus came through loud and clear "You will know my disciples by the love they have among themselves." Yes, I understood. The love the Organization nurtured and encouraged, insisted upon, was conditional love. Yes, they loved you as long as you thought, spoke and acted as they felt you should. But should you deviate from that in any way, you were disciplined and, if that failed, were cast out into the "world," there to be compared to a "dog who has returned to its vomit." (2 Peter 2:22)
It seems a lifetime ago since I walked out of that Kingdom Hall only to return once more, four months later, for my disfellowshipping hearing. I went to that meeting for the sole purpose of sharing with those elders why I no longer wanted any part of the Organization. For during those four months I'd learned why the Organization fell so far short of being Jehovah's organization. It had taken the place of Christ in the hearts and minds of it's members, deprived them of their God given relationship with Jesus and denied them the sonship that should have been theirs by virtue of that relationship. I don't know how much good it did but I planted the seeds that only God can make grow. I walked out that day in August and have not once looked back. I left a man-made, man-run organization that had no more to do with Jehovah than any other man-made religious system.
A HAND IN THE DARKNESS
Five days after my decision to stop attending meetings, I met with my friend Joan and her daughter, Shelley. Since Joan had been disfellowshipped I had not seen much of her. I knew the family was attending a church in Kaneohe and that they were happy going there. I wanted to hear what they had to say so I could judge for myself. I learned she and Doug were holding a Bible study in their home once a week. They were studying the book of John. After talking with her and Shelley, I decided to go and see what it was like.
Two days later, at their home, I met Leon, the pastor of the church they attended. He talked a lot about being "born again" and accepting Jesus into my heart. It all seemed confusing to me because, as a Witness, I had already acknowledged Jesus as my Lord, King and Savior. He said that, if I had done that, I was born again. I told him I didn't feel like someone who was born again and I couldn't consider myself as such until I did. What made so much sense to him made no sense to me.
At that time I was still looking for a group that had the "truth," that understood the Bible correctly. As a Witness I was accustomed to asking questions and getting Scriptural answers. I expected Christians to respond to my questions in the same way. But I found communicating difficult because their thinking framework, their understanding of Jehovah and his purposes, was so different from mine. I soon learned I was never going to be satisfied by looking to any source other than Jesus for the truth I sought. For it doesn't matter how much intelligence or Bible knowledge one has, unless he or she knows Jesus in a personal way and is taught by the Spirit of God, he or she will never find the truth that sets men free.
At this point, with so much of my life left behind, I had no idea where I was going. I only knew I did not want to be a Jehovah's Witness. According to what I had believed for the past eighteen years, attending that Bible study, discussing the Bible with a pastor of "false religion," and considering attending his church would send me straight into Satan's open arms. All I knew for sure was, I loved Jehovah with all my heart and I only wanted to do what was right. I did not want to go back because I had seen what the Organization was, just another man-made structure. But, even then, I would have gone back if I had believed that's where Jehovah wanted me to be. I had to trust that he knew my heart, that I was honestly seeking him.
The confusion I felt was like being in a large, pitch black room and not being able to find the door. I needed someone to take my hand and show me the way out. And yet, when that hand did come, I would not know whose hand it was, God's or Satan's. I could only trust that God would be the one to take my hand. I knew there was no way I could do this on my own. If God let Satan "get me," then he would just get me. There was nothing I could do about it. It was the first time in my life that I had to depend totally upon God. During this time Scriptures came to me, Scriptures like John 14:6 where Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." The Bible showed me that the way out of my confusion was Jesus. I knew I had to know him in a completely different way.
At this point I was still using the New World Translation as I didn't trust any other translation. At the Bible study I learned a lot from reading the book of John. It was like I had never read it before. I had so many questions. But this time there was no person, group or publication to which I could go for the answers. At times the search seemed
hopeless. Again I was forced to rely on Jehovah to answer my questions.
What did being "born again," "born of water," and "born of Spirit" really mean? From reading the book of John, I knew a Christian must be born again in order to leave the family of Adam, with its curse of sin and death, and become part of the family of God. This was done by "receiving him" (Christ) and "exercising faith in his name." (John 1:12) The Organization teaches this happens when a person acknowledges Jesus as his or her ransomer and example, dedicates his or her life to serving Jehovah and demonstrates that decision by undergoing water baptism. Immersion symbolizes dying to one's old self and being reborn with a life now devoted to serving Jehovah in association with the group Christ has put over all his affairs on earth, the "faithful and discreet slave" class.
As far as I knew, I had accepted Christ as a Witness. What I didn't know was there's a big difference between "exercising faith," as the New World Translation puts it, and "believing, committing to and trusting Jesus." The latter are the words Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible uses to express the meaning of "pisteuo," the Greek word from which "exercising faith" is translated. The Organization reduces "faith in Jesus' name" to "exercising faith" or acting on a head knowledge of Christ by participating in the preaching work. This is done for good reason, for the only relationship an ordinary (not of the remnant) Witness is allowed to have with Jesus is that of a follower, a disciple. The problem is, alone, a follower/disciple relationship is not enough to bring about rebirth. For everything about being a Christian, even knowing Jehovah, begins with a love/trust relationship with Christ. Unfortunately, this relationship was as much a blind spot in my spiritual vision as it is in the eyes of all Jehovah's Witnesses.
I believed that love, worship, prayer, service, allegiance, thanks, everything, was to be given to Jehovah alone. Yes, I acknowledged Jesus to be Jehovah's son, my ransomer and my example. In my head I recognized him as King and Lord, but only because Jehovah has appointed him such. I saw him more as one of us, but being greater and serving Jehovah on a much higher level. I had no concept of love or loyalty to him apart from Jehovah. I knew about Jesus but had no close relationship with him. I really wanted to know Jesus in the way the Bible says we should, but all of it was just words to me. Other people seemed to get it but it wasn't working for me.
As a Witness I was familiar with the following Scripture but I had never really understood its meaning.
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14 NIV)
We have received the Spirit from God so we may understand. We speak in words taught by the Spirit, communicating spiritual truths in spiritual words. However, the things from the Spirit of God are spiritually discerned and seem foolish to those without the Spirit. Unfortunately, as a Witness, I hadn't realized that before I could receive the Spirit of God, I must first receive Jesus in the right way.
So for me the answers just weren't coming and I didn't know why. But I did know, discouraging as things seemed, that I would find them if I was patient enough. For Jesus promised:
If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31,32 NIV)
As a Witness I believed that it was wrong to pray to Jesus, worship him or honor him in the way I did Jehovah. But as I studied the book of John, I began to believe differently. The following are a few of the Scriptures that helped me overcome that blind spot I had towards Jesus.
I have revealed you (the Father) to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me.... All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. (John 17:6,10 NIV)
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.... Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. ...no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.
(John 6:44,45,65 NIV)
Moreover the Father...has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (John 5:22,23 NIV)
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me* for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:14 NIV)
And they worshipped** him (Jesus) and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. (Luke 24:52 NIV)
If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23 NIV)
He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me (Jesus) is not worthy of me: and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37 NWT)
*The Witness publication The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, First Edition, p. 499, correctly places the "me" under the corresponding Greek character. However, in the English portion of the translation, it leaves out the "me" completely.
**From Matthew to Revelation there are many Scriptures that speak of Jesus being worshipped. However, The New World Translation obscures this fact by inconsistently rendering "proskunio," the Greek word for worship, as "worship" only when it is applied to Jehovah. When it is applied to Jesus, it uses the English word "obeisance."
He that loves me will be loved by my father. (John 14:21 NIV)
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV)
Sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts.... (1 Peter 3:15 NWT)
As I thought over these Scriptures, it became clear to me that, as a Christian, I not only belonged to Jehovah, I also belonged to Jesus. I was his because Jehovah had given me to him, drawn me to him, enabled me to come to him. It was Jehovah's will that I love, honor, worship and serve his Son. I knew I had to make a place in my heart for both Jehovah and Jesus.
Loving someone involves the closest of all relationships. It means thinking about that person in a special way, honoring him or her. It requires interacting with and talking to that person, being able to express one's love. Giving all this to Jesus went completely against what I had come to believe as a Witness. But I knew that without Christ in my heart, I could never receive all that Jehovah had for me. But having a head knowledge of all these things and having the reality were two very different things. I knew I could only rely on Jehovah to provide the reality. I knew He would.
So I say to you: "Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:9,10,13 NIV)
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12,13 NIV)
Then Joan gave me a book entitled The Normal Christian Life by a Chinese man named Watchman Nee. Reading the first chapter, "The Blood of Christ," brought about a turning point in my life. I know it wasn't just Watchman Nee. It was God's Spirit bringing the life of those words into my heart. What struck me so strongly was the concept that Christ did not die just so I could have forgiveness for my sins; he died that I, the sinner, could be forgiven. In Jesus, I not only had forgiveness for what I had done, I had deliverance from what I was. I did not stand before God a sinner forgiven his sins (yet still a sinner by nature); I stood before God a new man, no longer possessing the nature of a sinner within. I can't explain what happened to me by the time I finished that book. All I can say is, I was different, so happy. I felt God's love in a way I had never felt it before. I also felt an unusual love for others which was very different for me. I knew I was "reborn." I have no words to tell you how I felt or how I knew except to say that I did know.
Three days later I went to Bayview, the church Joan and Doug attended. I was a little nervous about going. I hadn't attended a church service in over twenty years. And, for a Witness, attending a Pentecostal service is like walking into the demons' lair. I didn't believe that but I knew things were going to be very different from what I was used to. I loved the music and the singing. The speaking in tongues was new to me but I wasn't bothered by it. I liked the pastor and the people. I sensed a love from them that the Witnesses lacked.
Three weeks later I was baptized once again, but it was not in connection with any group, church or organization. This time I was publicly acknowledging my rebirth in Christ. I don't remember what Leon said as he prayed with me but I do remember he prayed to Jehovah using his name. That meant a lot to me.
A HAND IN THE DARKNESS
BORN AGAIN CHRISTIANS
Bayview was a very special place. Because the
thirteen of us were so different from "regular" Christians, Leon wondered what
to do with us at times. Doctrinally we differed on many issues from the Hellfire
to Trinity. But that was what was so unique about Bayview. Being there wasn't
about doctrine, it was about loving and accepting one another and letting God's
Spirit teach each one what he or she must know. In the four years we were there,
they never tried to change us or pressure us to join them. We were free to
question, disagree, and even share, something that had been considered dangerous
in the organization from which we had come. Besides Bayview, there were other
Charismatic functions and Bible studies we attended as well. We found that same
loving spirit wherever we went.
Fellowshipping with born again, evangelical Christians was quite an adjustment. I knew they sincerely loved both the Father and Jesus, but it seemed they mostly talked about Jesus. It was the opposite extreme from being a Witness where they mostly talked about Jehovah. This bothered me. Their behavior, too, was different from that which I was familiar. Although I loved the music and the freedom of expression, I found some Christians very emotional, even fainting when a minister laid his hands on them. Some saw visions and most spoke in tongues and received messages from God. It wasn't that I didn't believe God's Spirit was guiding and speaking to His people, it was just that I'd wonder how one could tell what was really coming from God and what was just coming from the individual. Many times I just felt "out of it" and wondered if I'd ever fit in. But I found myself staying because I knew they had something--something very special. It was a loving spirit, a humility and openness before God and a heartfelt joy that came from the shameless love they had for Jesus and the Father.
They were interested in us because we came out of that "cult," the one whose members let their children die for lack of blood transfusions, who don't believe in the Trinity or hellfire. Many Christians had family or knew someone who was a Witness. Naturally, they wanted to know how we came to "see the light." They just assumed that, because we left the Organization, we no longer believed anything the Witnesses believed. Sometimes I'd get upset when I'd hear derogatory remarks made about the Witnesses. It wasn't that I wanted to defend them, it was that the remarks were unfair and based on false information. In many ways the attitude of some Christians toward Witnesses was the same as the Witnesses' attitude toward them. They could see the Organization's faults but they couldn't see the same faults within their own religious systems.
We did our best to help them see the Witnesses as people, dedicated people who, like them, loved God very much. They listened and many turned those negative attitudes around. It wasn't really their fault. They, like the Witnesses, had access to limited information.
By my close association with Christians, I could see they were not demonized or hypocritical. But, as I said, at times I found my self at a loss when trying to discern when someone was just being emotional or when he or she was really getting something from God. I finally decided that was God's problem, not mine. It was not my business to judge another's relationship with God. I just took in what made sense to me and trusted God's Spirit to teach me the things that were important for me to know.
The longer I associated with these people, the more I knew that accepting Christ is the number one priority for all people. After that, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to teach a person. (John 16:7,13-15) The important thing to Jehovah is that one comes into a loving, personal relationship with his Son, not that his doctrinal beliefs are in line with a particular religious system. It became evident to me that insistence on "true" doctrine is a great source of division and isolation in the body of Christ. God wants to unite Christians in love, not separate them from one another. Insisting that Christians adhere to a particular doctrine is insidious because it separates them and keeps them in spiritual bondage to man-made religious systems. Having an intimate relationship with Christ and an unconditional love for others are the identifying marks of a true Christian, not espousing "true" doctrine.
The Organization mocks Christians for their emphasis on love, saying it is sentimental and weak, that it gives Christians an excuse to sin and get away with it. It insists exercising discipline, sacrifice and determination in the preaching work is the real way to serve Jehovah. The Organization denies that this attitude encourages its members to rely on their works to save them. But, by the simple act of substituting "exercising faith" for "believing," the Organization connects faith with works (following Christ's example) rather than with relationship (a love/trust union with Christ). Consequently, a Witness must continually prove his or her love for Jehovah by doing, by working, by putting life on hold until the "new world." The guilt of not ever doing enough, the fear of not surviving Armageddon, and the pressure to conform to a set way of serving Jehovah places a heavy burden on many Witnesses. But Jesus said that serving God should be just the opposite..
Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.
(Matthew 11:28-30 NWT)
Serving Jehovah and Jesus should not be burdensome for a Christian. This is not because he or she must do any less or because he or she is free to do as he or she pleases. It is because a Christian is Spirit-motivated, not organizationally motivated. A person who loves God does not need to be controlled with rules, regulations and punishments. All he or she needs is the law of God written on his or her heart.
The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. (Hebrews 8:8,10,11 NIV)
As much as we loved the people at Bayview and those at the other Charismatic functions we attended, we didn't fit into the church structure or its set way of doing things. Like drops of oil in a glass of water, no matter how much we tried, we just couldn't blend in. As time passed, each one of us, in his or her own way, sensed it was time to go. But just because we left Bayview and the "born again" scene, so to speak, it didn't mean we felt any different about the people or loved them any less. We just realized Jesus, as head of his body, was leading each of us in a different way.
A HAND IN THE DARKNESS
WHY IS LEAVING SO DIFFICULT?
I've reserved the next two chapters to
address some questions I found myself asking after I left the Organization.
Knowing something about the answers has helped me to understand my own feelings
and has given me a sense of spiritual direction. I pray the information here
will be of help to you also.
Why Is Leaving So Difficult?
Every year, in various ways, there are hundreds of people leaving the Organization. Some just become inactive, others officially disassociate themselves. Still others are formally disfellowshipped for reasons that range from Scriptural wrongdoing to just talking to another disfellowshipped person about spiritual matters. Anyone who's been a Witness for any length of time knows it's never easy to just walk away. Feelings of anger, frustration, loss and confusion are common. It is normal and to be expected.
Jehovah's Witnesses are indoctrinated or taught to accept a system of thought uncritically. But indoctrination alone is not enough to hinder a Witness from leaving should he or she choose to do so. What is an effective deterrent, however, is the social, psychological and intellectual isolation the Organization manages to create in the lives of its members. Understanding how they produce this isolation and how it affects the individual, is useful in understanding one's own conflicting feelings and confusion upon leaving.
From a person's first contact with Jehovah's Witnesses, usually through a home Bible study, the isolation process begins. For the Witness conducting the Bible study does more than just instruct his or her student in the Bible. He or she prepares that person to become a member of the Organization by teaching him or her the Organization's thinking on Biblical matters. The student, even the Witness teacher, is unaware of the subtle difference between using the Bible as a prop to back up Organizational ideas and actually instructing a person in the Bible itself. And so, with the help of the Organization's literature, the study conductor communicates a way of thinking, a whole way of life that subtlety alienates the student from anyone or anything that is non-Witness. The student soon comes to view whatever is taught as "obviously" the Word of God, for does not the Bible support everything the literature proposes?
On the surface this seems reasonable enough. But what is not so easily detected is that there can be a great difference between an interpretation of what the Bible says using selective information, and what the Bible really says. And so gradually, without the student realizing it, he or she comes to view Jehovah, the Bible, the Organization and its literature as all interconnected. In the person's mind the Organization becomes God's Organization and to challenge or question it is to challenge God Himself.
After a time, the Witness encourages the student to attend the five weekly meetings. At those meetings, and at every other Witness activity, the Organization sees to it that certain ideas are presented and reinforced continually. One of these is the teaching that the Witnesses have the "truth" and all other conflicting ideas are in error. When a person accepts this idea, he or she begins to perceive others with contrasting beliefs from an "us and them" viewpoint. The Witnesses are seen as the in-group and the rest of the world, family, friends, co-workers, everyone else, is perceived as the "worldly" out-group. Quite naturally, any further association with this out-group becomes limited to work business or proselytizing.
To strengthen its teaching that only Jehovah's Witnesses have the "truth," the Organization, through the literature, meetings and assemblies, makes sure its members are well informed of the negative side of people and events on the outside. As a result, Witnesses see almost everyone and everything outside in an unfavorable way. A Witness categorizes outsiders as either "sheep" (potential Witnesses) or "goats" (everyone else). He or she perceives the outside as Satan's domain and firmly believes any affiliation with it will weaken him or her spiritually. He or she is no longer interested in world, national, or local events other than to observe how such events support Bible prophesy (according to the Governing Body's interpretation of those events). Trust and communication with outsiders is severely limited. Consequently, the person draws closer to fellow Witnesses. In time he or she develops a strong sense of loyalty and identification to the Organization and to other Witnesses.
Another teaching that strengthens the Organization's influence over its members is that the Governing Body is the one and only channel through which a person can receive anything from God. The Organization teaches that this body of men alone have been appointed by Christ to feed God's people spiritually. Any person who rejects or questions their interpretation of the Bible or their version of the "truth" is seen as prideful, thinking him or herself as knowing more than those "appointed by God." The Organization brands such ones guilty of "independent thinking." Believing this, the Witness has no other recourse than to rely upon this body exclusively for all information of a spiritual nature. For not only does he or she view outside sources as untrustworthy, but a Witness is suspicious of his or her own thinking process as well. And so, through a logical, subtle, gradual process, the Organization succeeds in isolating each Witness socially and psychologically.
The Organization uses Jesus'' instruction to "make disciples of people of all the nations...." as a further way to isolate the individual. It does this by channeling the preaching work into a structured activity under the supervision of Organization leaders. This way of doing things keeps the Witnesses properly supervised and working together. This common activity, because rejection is the norm, serves to further bond them together. It also reinforces the "us and them" mentality. As a result, Witnesses turn to fellow Witnesses for a sense of self-worth, security and acceptance. Understandably, they also feel obliged to conform to the thinking, actions and expectations of other Witnesses rather than to risk alienation.
Since the Society considers the door to door preaching work of the highest priority, a Witness could not, in good conscience, spend time seeking a higher education or a career. The Organization warns that pursuing such activities takes away time that would otherwise be spent in the door to door work helping others. It also warns that association with outsiders unnecessarily exposes a person to "worldly knowledge" and conflicting beliefs. The Organization strongly discourages its members from engaging is such "dangerous and selfish" wastes of time.
By accepting the Organization's priorities, the Witness has shut off another avenue of outside input and influence. And the Organization has once again succeeded in cutting him or her off, this time intellectually. It now has complete control of all the information a Witness, in good conscience, will consider. Regrettably, most Witnesses are completely convinced that this separation is exactly what Jehovah wants. For, as the Organization is quick to point out, "Did not Jesus say that his followers were to be no part of the world?"
The danger in cutting off all sources of information, save the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, is that a person sees matters only from the Organization's point of view. He or she has no comparison for judgment; all information received is one-sided. As a result, what a Witness learns does make sense but his conclusions are not valid because they are based on incomplete information. For the Organization not only makes available only what is necessary to support its position, it also distorts and changes information according to its purpose.
Of course a Witness finds even the possibility of such an idea difficult to consider, for he or she strongly believes that Jehovah is teaching His people through the Organization. Therefore, as long as a Witness sees the Organization and Jehovah as inseparably entwined, he or she will reject any evidence that presents the Organization in an uncomplimentary light.
To be honest, a Witness must admit that he or she pays a price (higher than is realized) for being "in the truth." Besides the obvious alienation from non-Witness family, friends, neighbors, and community, a Witness must give up much of his or her own identity as well. Life is very matter-of-fact in the Organization and the Society frowns upon individual expression. People are like bees in a hive, all doing the same thing, all thinking and speaking the same way, all giving their lives for a cause they believe in God's. There is no place for personal dreams and goals, the development of talents and gifts, or even free religious thought and expression. These things must all be postponed until after Armageddon which, for the Witness, is always just around the corner.
A Witness pays a still higher price, one in which he or she is not even aware. Because the Organization restricts a close, loving relationship with Jesus Christ to a comparatively few select ones. A Witness never truly comes to know his or her God. Jehovah is seen not through the eyes of Christ but through the eyes of the Organization. He is perceived as hard, unsympathetic, judgmental and destructive toward those who do not adhere to the dictates of the Organization. A Witness always feels that he or she is never doing enough, never quite measuring up to God's (in reality, the Organization's) standards. A Witness never experiences the unconditional love of God and, as a result, learns to evaluate every individual, including him or herself, according to that person's standing with the Organization.
Because a Witness is so thoroughly indoctrinated and psychologically isolated, he or she finds it extremely difficult to leave the Organization and remain psychologically intact. For a long time he or she has equated leaving with turning one's back on God. Such thinking does not go away overnight. In addition he or she knows that leaving means being shunned by family and friends. For no "strong" Witness will speak to or even acknowledge the presence of anyone who has left the Organization. In most cases, this includes parents (if the disfellowshipped person is a parent). If a person leaving had other close friends, the shunning might be a little more bearable. But, because the individual was part of a group that strongly discouraged outside association, he or she has few, if any, close friends or associates outside the Organization.
In addition, when a person leaves, he or she finds life has lost its order; all rules and restraints are gone. Many ask themselves, "If the Witnesses don't have the truth, who does?" Or "Is there really such a thing as 'THE truth?'" Adding to this doubt and confusion, the person suffers the impact of leaving a group he or she has associated and identified with for a long period of time.
The Organization's standards still have impact long after a person has ceased to be a member of the group. Even if the individual leaves on his or her own, feelings of condemnation and guilt can still persist. It's much worse for a person who has been forced out due to unchristian conduct. For deep down, the belief persists that somehow he or she deserves the punishment meted out and that God, along with those whose association and support mean the most, has turned His back on him or her. The individual may not even admit this idea to him or herself consciously but, subconsciously, there exists a nagging feeling of worthlessness and dishonor. As long as any ex-Witness believes that the Organization does indeed represent God, he or she will always feel this way at heart. And that person will find little rest until he or she goes back to the Organization, "repents" and is reinstated.
Many times rejecting the Organization and its control consciously and intellectually, is not enough. An ex-Witness needs to be with those who have been there, who have gone through the same things and who can relate to what he or she is going though. An ex-Witness needs to talk, to be heard and understood. And most of all he or she has to find God all over again apart from the Organization. This can be a difficult task because an ex-Witness has a tendency to go about the search in the same way any Witness would, intellectually. However, finding God is a matter of believing in Jesus, a matter of heart. The sooner a person realizes that the faster he or she will really find Him. Jehovah did not say, "you will find me when you seek me with your mind." He said "you will find me when you seek me with your heart." "I will give them a heart to know me." (Jeremiah 29:13; 24:7 NIV)
A HAND IN THE DARKNESS
Who Is The Faithful and discreet Slave?
Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, he will appoint him over all his belongings.
But if that evil slave should say in his heart, "My master is delaying," and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know, and will punish him with the greatest severity and will assign him his part with the hypocrites. There is where his weeping and the gnashing of his teeth will be.
(Matthew 24:45-51 NWT)
The basis of the Governing Body's authority over Jehovah's witnesses rests on the interpretation of this Scripture alone. The interpretation is then strengthened when interwoven with other Scriptures that are manipulated to seemingly support the Society's explanation. But before going into these Scriptures, consider the parallel Scripture to Matthew 24:45-51 in Luke chapter 12; In these verses there are four (not just two) slaves or servants mentioned. Concerning these other two slaves Luke says:
That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much;, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:47,48 NWT)
The Organization teaches that the "faithful slave" (which is a part of the 144,000) is representative of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses located in New York. It claims that since 1919 Jesus has appointed this body to be in charge of all the Kingdom interests here on earth. They alone are recognized as having complete authority in matters concerning God, the Bible and its interpretation. The Holy Spirit is said to reveal everything to them and they dispense it to the body of believers "at the proper time."
The "wicked slave" (also of the 144,000) is declared to be representative of those who have left the Organization and have used their knowledge and position to produce literature and propaganda against their brothers. Interestingly, there is no explanation given for the other two slaves or who they represent. The reason for this is that the existence of these other slaves does not fit into the interpretation given to the faithful and wicked slaves at Matthew 24. For if the "faithful slave" is a class, and the "wicked slave" is a class, then it follows that the other two slaves must also be representative of some class that is also from this 144,000 group. This raises the obvious question, "What class do these other two slaves represent?"
The truth is, none of the four slaves belong to any "class" of Christians. When Matthew and Luke wrote concerning the different slaves, they were speaking of the weighty responsibility the shepherds and teachers in the body of Christ bore before God. That responsibility was to care for God's people. It did not give those "slaves" license to think for their fellow Christians, or to be their conscience or to dictate the will and thoughts of God to them at the expense of their own personal relationship with their heavenly Father and His Son.
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:2-4 NWT)
Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own (son). I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples for themselves.
(Acts 20:28-30 NWT)
This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves....
(Ezekiel 34:10 NIV)
My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the LORD almighty will care for his flock.... (Zechariah 10:3 NIV)
God has always chosen shepherds to care for His people. But unlike what the Society claims for its "faithful and discreet slave," they have never been given the right to usurp Christ as leader and mediator. The slaves in Matthew chapter 24 and Luke chapter 12 are just what Jesus called them, servants, slaves, different types of shepherds within the Body of Christ. Some are faithful, caring for and loving those in their care. They will receive the reward spoken of in 1 Peter chapter 5. Others are evil and use their position to take advantage of God's people, lord it over them, mistreat and neglect them. They are like the shepherds in Ezekiel and Zechariah. They will be punished severely. In addition to these two extremes are the shepherds who, although they know what they should do, are apathetic and unaware of the nearness of their Master's return and the shepherds who don't know or have an inaccurate understanding of the wrong that they do. All the shepherds are accountable, but the severity of God's dealings with them depends upon the inner man, his heart and motives.
Who Are The Body of Christ?
A doctrine interwoven with the concept of an elite group dispensing spiritual truth to the people in their care is the idea that this select group makes up part of the body of Christ as well. The 144,000 spoken of in Revelation chapters 7 and 14, of which the "faithful and discreet slave" are a part, are said to make up the complete body of Christ. This position places them spiritually above the rank and file Witness.
However, the Scriptures liken all Christians to a body with no one member or group standing out as greater or as having more favor. Christ alone is the head of this body. In it's proper position, the Governing Body could only be a member, a part, of that body, not function as its head.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, everyone of them, just as he wanted them to be. ...God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there would be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (Corinthians 12:12,18,24-27 NIV)
There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. ...speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:4-7,11-13,15 NIV)
As Paul states in Ephesians, there is only one body, not one body governing another body. Christ, as the head, governs his body by means of God's Spirit, not through a group of "anointed" individuals from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Every Christian, regardless of whether he or she lives in heaven or on earth, is a part of that one body, the body of Christ. And every Christian's one hope is the hope of everlasting life through Christ Jesus in the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom will exist on earth as well as in heaven.
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. (Revelation 11:15 NWT)
Christians do not need an organization or church to function as a body. Whenever and wherever they gather together (whether they be two or two hundred) to study, share, preach, or minister to one another or to the world, they move under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
For where there are two or three gathered together in my (Jesus) name, there I am in their midst. (Matthew 18:20 NWT)
In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul explains that all Christians have their special place and function in the body. As its head, Jesus sees to it that each one uses his talents and gifts where they are needed.
Who Are The Children of God?
Another doctrine designed to strengthen the Society's idea of a select "faithful and discreet slave" class is the teaching that only a certain group, the 144,000 are born again, baptized by the Holy Spirit, and have an exclusive relationship with Christ. So exclusive is this relationship that they consider themselves the only ones who benefit directly from Christ's sacrificial death. Quoting from the April 1, 1979 Watchtower, page 31:
Christ is "mediator" only for anointed Christians.... The "great crowd"...is not in that new covenant. However, by their associating with the "little flock"...they come under benefits that flow from that new covenant.... (Also see the August 15, 1989 Watchtower, pages 30,31.)
In effect, these statements are claiming salvation is given only to "anointed" Christians (or the 144,000) and that they are the mediators between God and the rest of mankind. If one seeks salvation, it can only be attained in association with this group. It is as if the Scriptures have been rewritten to read:
For God so loved the world that he gave "the little flock" that whoever believes in "them" shall not perish but have eternal life. Whoever believes in "them" is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of "the little flock."
Even to a Witness, reading John 3:16,18 in this way sounds flagrant. Yet this is what the Organization requires its members to believe. Of course the concept is presented in a more subtle, acceptable manner.
Not only is there no Biblical support for this teaching, it is in direct conflict with what Jesus himself taught. For Christ alone is the mediator between God and every man. And, with the death of Christ and his appointment as High Priest, the days have ended when a man's standing with God is dependent upon the priestly functions of other men.
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men... (1 Timothy 2:3-6 NIV)
...but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
(Hebrews 7:24,25 NIV)
The Bible is clear about salvation coming directly and only through Christ. When a Christian receives Christ, takes him to be his or her Lord, King and Savior, that person becomes a child of God. Sonship puts him or her in line for salvation, not association with any "anointed" class.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, not of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (John 1:12 NIV)
Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God, and everyone who loves the one that caused to be born loves him who has been born from that one. (1 John 5:1 NWT)
Concerning the Greek word "pisteuo," rendered "believe" in most translations, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible says:
pisteuo; from 4102 (pistis); to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by impl. to entrust (expec. one's spiritual well-being to Christ)-believe, commit (to trust), put in trust with.
In emphasizing the superiority of the New World Translation, the Society states that it is faithful to continually use the same English word in translating the same Greek word. This is not true, however, when it comes to "pisteuo." In the book of John alone "pisteuo" is used some ninety-seven times. It is translated in the NWT fifty-nine times as "believe," twenty-one times as "put faith in," and seventeen times as "exercising faith." The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, first edition, 1969, rightly translates the Greek characters as "believe" but changes the "believe" to "exercising faith" in the English. (see John 1:12; 3:16; 8.36; 6:29,35,40; 7:5; 11:25,26; 12:36; 14:1,12; 16:9)
Interestingly, the New World Translation always substitutes "exercising faith" for "believe" when "pistueo" is used in connection with Jesus. It should be noted that there is an important difference in meaning between "exercising faith" and "believing" which, according to Strong's, involves a relationship, a heartfelt confidence, at trust. Having such a relationship is more in line with the concept of sonship, a relationship the Society reserves for only a certain number. In support of sonship for all who are led by God's Spirit, the Bible says:
For all who are led by God's spirit, these are God's sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: "Abba, Father!" (Romans 8:14,15 NWT)
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God. (Galatians 4:6,7 NIV)
By believing in Jesus for our salvation, receiving him into our hearts as our Lord, we become sons of God. Sonship is not just for the "faithful and discreet slave" class or the "remnant" or the "144,000." Whether one lives in heaven or on earth, the Scriptures say all who believe in Jesus are sons of God. As Jesus said to Nicodemus:
...most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3 NWT)
As has been stated, the Kingdom of God is not exclusive to heaven. If we are not reborn as children of God by believing, trusting in Christ, we cannot enjoy the heavenly or the earthly Kingdom of God. Every Christian must be reborn into the family of God. There is no Scripture that says only those with a heavenly hope are reborn. To the contrary:
To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone putting faith in him gets forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:43 NWT)
For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith (pisteuo) in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 NWT)
Everyone who receives Christ in his heart automatically becomes a child of God, born again. All Christians must be reborn. The Society has no Scriptural basis for teaching that rebirth is reserved for only 144,000. Being born again is fundamental to being a Christian. Through the new birth a person no longer belongs to the family of Adam, under the law of sin and death. He now belongs to the family of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, and is under the law of grace and life.
How Are Christians Taught And Led Today?
As sons of God, we are led by God's Spirit, not men. Jesus, through that Spirit, is our teacher. Nowhere does the Bible say our interpretation of Scripture, our understanding of God, is to come through men. To the contrary, it says:
So, if any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him. (James 1:5 NWT)
However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming. That one will glorify me (Jesus), because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you. (John 16:13,14 NWT)
For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.
For who among men knows the things of a man except the spirit of man that is in him? So, too, no one has come to know the things of God, except the spirit of God. Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God. These things we also speak, not with words taught with human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit, as we combine spiritual matters with spiritual words. However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things, but he himself is not examined by any man. (1 Corinthians 2:11-13,15 NWT)
But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my (Jesus) name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you. (John 14:26 NWT)
Jesus never intended his followers to become followers of men. Every single Christian must come to Christ alone, acknowledge him as his or her leader, teacher, and savior, pledge him (not an organization) loyalty and obedience. Every Christian has the responsibility to develop his or her own personal relationship with Jesus and the Father. Through the Holy Spirit, God teaches that person all he or she must know, not other men.
This is not to say that men do not teach and share; they do. But the Society, along with other churches and religious organizations, goes beyond the realm of teaching, in the sense it's spoken of in Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12, and enters into the realm of rulership. Jehovah did not appoint some men over other men to rule them spiritually under the guise of feeding and shepherding.
Where Is The True Church Today?
There is a true church on the earth today, but it's not affiliated with any one church or organization. The true church is people, people who believe in Jesus Christ, who accept him as Lord in their hearts, who are reborn into the family of God, who accept the Bible as the word of God as revealed by His Spirit, who walk with their God as best they can, who love one another, who are committed to carrying the message of salvation through Christ and the word of God's Kingdom to others. They do not represent anyone or anything other than Jehovah and his son Christ Jesus. Because Jehovah and Jesus live within them, dwell in their hearts, they are led by the Holy Spirit, not men. Christ is their head and directs their steps. They fellowship, pray, worship, share, and work together, but not under the authority of any man-made church or organization. It was to such ones that Paul directed the following prayer.
...to the end that he (the Father) may grant you according to the riches of his glory to be made mighty in the man you are inside with power through his spirit, to have the Christ dwell through your faith in your hearts with love; that you may be rooted and established on the foundation, in order that you may be thoroughly able to grasp mentally with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may in everything be filled with all the fullness that God gives.
Now to the one who can, according to his power which is operating in us, do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive, to him be the glory by means of Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:16-21 NWT)
A HAND IN THE DARKNESS
It's been over thirteen years since that April night in 1979. I no longer feel connected to the Organization, even on the level of ex-Witness. I am simply a Christian. When I run into Witnesses I knew back then I always smile and say "Hi." They usually put their heads down or turn away but it doesn't really bother me any more. I can only feel for them, for the fear they experience when they believe they're in danger of compromising their integrity, for their having to serve a God they believe to be so hard and unforgiving. I feel for them that they have been denied a relationship with Jesus and all that goes with such a relationship. And I know they are not as cold and unfeeling as they may appear.
It is very important for an ex-Witness to have an attitude of understanding and love for those still in the Organization. Harboring feelings of bitterness, anger, frustration, etc. only serves to hurt, not heal. The fate of the Organization and those running it is in the hands of the one who judges, Jesus Christ. Most Witnesses are only acting according to what they believe, according to the dictates of their conscience. This being the case, it is important to remember Paul's words at 1 Corinthians 10:24,28,32.
Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. ...if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake--the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. Do not cause anyone to stumble....(NIV)
Although Paul was speaking about a person's conscience towards different foods, the principle remains. Regardless of whether a person is actually right or wrong on a particular religious stand, no one has the right to expect or require him or her to go against his or her conscience. For if a person goes against his or her conscience, that one is doing what he or she believes to be wrong whether it is actually wrong or not. With God, accountability for wrong doing is determined, not according to a person's act alone but according to his or her beliefs, motives and heart attitudes.
It is natural to experience feelings of hurt, frustration and anger at being unjustly treated. But by thinking out the reasons, the motives behind the treatment, one can neutralize those feelings, realizing that each Witness must be true to what he or she believes. We want others to respect our beliefs. We must also respect their beliefs and not react to their actions on a personal level.
Also I do not believe it's productive to run down the Organization or, as a general rule, attempt to convince a Witness to leave the Organization because it is not what it claims to be. As Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him..." (John 6:44) Unless the Spirit of God is working within a person to draw him to Christ, all the preaching in the world is not going to help that person. It is Witness mentality to believe all that is necessary for a person to know Jehovah and Jesus is for them to be exposed to Bible teachings and the interpretations of men (however correct these interpretations may be).
As every ex-Witnesses knows, it is a formidable step to leave the Organization. And where a person will go after leaving is a serious question to consider. Unless he or she has God's Spirit behind him or her, that person can end up in a "limbo," not knowing where to go or how to get there. He or she could very well end up in a far worst state than being in the Organization. It is better to rely on Jehovah to bring out whom He will in His own way, in His own time. A Christian's job is to be prepared to help when that time comes. There is no set formula. Christ, as the head, directs each member of his body by means of God's Spirit as he chooses.
I'm very thankful for the education I've gained being a Witness, being associated with born again Christians from main stream Christian denominations, and being a part of our small home study group made up mostly of ex-Witnesses. But I realize without the Spirit of God providing the insight and understanding into what I've learned, I would have nothing of real value to show for all those years. For as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:1,2:
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God. (NIV)
Knowledge is available in any place you care to look. Live a million lifetimes and there is still more knowledge to be taken in. But knowledge is not necessarily truth. Knowledge can be used to distort and blind as well as straighten and clarify. Pieces of knowledge are only as valuable as one's ability to put them in the right place and apply them in the right way.
This is the problem with Christianity in the form of organized religion. Each sect has taken its own pieces of Bible truth and put them together to form a particular pattern of doctrine. The price a member pays for belonging to that group is freedom, freedom to question, to receive and share fresh insight, freedom to decide spiritual matters according to his or her conscience apart from organizational law. Exercising such freedoms are considered disloyal and detrimental to a denomination's strength and unity. Spirituality, the very thing a person's religion is set up to cultivate, is sacrificed for order and control.
When a person believes his or her religion, rather than Christ alone, is the truth and the only way to God, he or she loses that openness necessary to consider and evaluate spiritual things objectively. Actually, a person finds no need to evaluate at all. For his or her religion has already determined what's spiritually important. This environment encourages self-righteousness and distrust of others outside a member's sphere of belief. He or she tends to lose sight of the fact that "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...." (Romans 3:23) Members of religious organizations see only themselves as being in God's favor by virtue of the "truth" they perpetuate. And they learn to judge the world based on their view of that truth. For those outside, they replace love with judgment, giving love primarily to fellow members or to potential members of that group. This attitude of judgment and lack of unconditional love of others is the heart of what's wrong with considering oneself a member of any religious group that excludes the rest of mankind from God's love by virtue of their non-belief.
God is, not has, love. Those who are His must be love also. God's love is unconditional and given to all men. It's like the sunshine and the rain that warms and waters all beneath them. To withhold love from a person one considers "unworthy" makes no more sense than to withhold the sun and rain from a wilted plant. But having this type of love to give others means being free to accept others for who they are without judgment or condemnation.
Most of our lives we have been taught that only the worthy, the good, the valuable are loved. People who are bad must be punished, rejected or shunned. We are taught that this is God's way also. The good go to heaven and God loves them. The bad go to hell or are destroyed forever because God hates them. We learn what constitutes good and bad based on standards set by our particular culture or religion. We than set about judging others according to those standards, deciding who deserves to be loved and who deserves to be punished.
This thinking is hard to change because it is ingrained so deep. This is why God, through His Spirit must teach us, not men. For being a Christian means so much more than being correct doctrinally. First and foremost it means having a close, loving attachment to Jesus, thinking as he thought, learning as he learned, doing as he did, loving as he loved and giving as he gave. Like Jesus, it means being willing to accept whatever circumstances God allows to come one's way in order to grow and learn. Granted, God's ways are not easy to learn. But if a person's heart's desire is to find God, to really know Him and learn from Him, He can be found.
The things we learn from other men can be of some benefit, but without God's Spirit, they are nothing. It is what we learn from being open to Jehovah and Jesus, their love, their discipline, their teaching that is the only knowledge and understanding of real spiritual value. This is why we must learn to be alone with God in prayer and openness, free from the distraction of men and their ideas. We must give God permission and time to work out a whole lifetime of collected mental, emotional and spiritual garbage. And as God's Spirit changes us into a "new Creation," we begin to experience that love that is as the sun shines.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
(2 Corinthians 5:16-19 NIV)
As Paul writes, a Christian's message is one of reconciliation. He or she has no right to judge or condemn; for judgment is entrusted only to the one who knows the hearts of men. (Isaiah 11:1-5; John 5:22)
God's love is a fruitage of God's Spirit. It is not a quality one can consciously decide to give out. It comes naturally from a life surrendered and changed by God's Spirit through Christ. Possessing this quality is essential to serving God. Without it, everything one does in God's name has no value.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV)
These strong words every Christian must take to heart. For attempting to please God through knowledge or service or sacrifice, at the expense of love, is common practice. It is a practice perpetuated by religious organizations with their exclusiveness and judgmental attitudes.
It is so important to know that none of us, from the "best" to the "worst" are really so different from one another. A Christian has no basis for feeling superior to or more righteous than any other person. For those who know God have the responsibility to serve. The glory and prestige go to those who rule.
Learning from one another, sharing and encouraging one another is also very important to a Christian.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24,25 NIV)
But there is a meaningful difference between gathering together to encourage one another and gathering together as an established religions group that stands apart as "the way, the truth and the life." That description belongs to Jesus alone, not to any group of people or their particular set of beliefs. A Christian should have no "ax to grind," no organization to peddle. His or her life should simply be one of service, service first to God, then to fellow Christians and then to those outside. Like Christ, a Christian is here to bring the love and light of the Father and Jesus Christ wherever he goes. He or she brings it with his or her life, not just words alone.
I wish there was a way I might better put into words the things I want to share with you. But these are the things only the Spirit of God can communicate. Accepting Jesus, being reborn, experiencing the Spirit of God teaching, leading and changing one's life all have to do with one's own personal walk with Jehovah and Jesus. To really grasp these things, one must actually live them. Because each person is so unique, what he or she experiences and learns will be unique also. For we each have our own service to perform, our own way to walk. And Jesus, as our head, coordinates us all,
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, and each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:7,11-16 NIV)
Being part of the body of Christ is so different from being part of a religious organization. In the body one is led by the Spirit of God rather than by rules, regulations and set ways of doing things. A person serves God according to the grace apportioned him or her by Christ rather than being required to serve God according to the way organization leaders decide. In the body of Christ all members are equal, brothers, each performing his or her particular ministry to the whole. There are no positions of power where a few exercise authority over the many. The only authority in the body of Christ comes from its head, Christ Jesus. From a human standpoint, having no external control sees chaotic and ineffective. This is why men have felt the need to establish religious institutions that insist upon conformity and organization. Without God's spirit this is indeed the only way to maintain order.
I pray the things written here will help you get oriented in a world outside the Organization. It's a start. Jehovah and Jesus will take care of the rest. Jesus is the key. Find him and all other things will open up.
I am the light of the world. WHOEVER FOLLOWS ME WILL NEVER WALK IN DARKNESS, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)
Return to top