[Watchtower study for the week of August 11, 2014 – w14 6/15 p. 17]
This is the follow-up article to last week’s study on the need to love our God, Jehovah.
It begins with a review of the illustration Jesus gave of the injured Samaritan to show who really is our neighbor. To show that we, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, are like the Samaritan, paragraph 5 uses the example of the relief aid we provided to “our brothers and others” who suffered loss from Hurricane Sandy in New York in 2012. There is genuine Christian love at work in many of our brothers who willingly give of their time and resources to help others in such times. However, is that due to our Organization or to the love of the Christ? No mention is made in the article of any other relief efforts made by other Christians who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses as this might tend to negate the underlying teaching that only Jehovah’s Witnesses are true Christians. If love of neighbor is to be a criteria, then it is only of us to widen our search.
A simple google search reveals that many other Christian denominations engaged in relief efforts. [i] This is relevant in light of the illustration we are using to make our point, because for the Jews, a Samaritan was a despised individual. They were apostates who didn’t recognize the temple as the center of worship. Jews wouldn’t even talk to them. They were the ancient equivalent of a disfellowshipped person. (John 4:7-9)
The Simplified Edition states, “Jehovah’s Witnesses were different. They organized help for their brothers and others in the area because true Christians love their neighbor.” A witness child reading this will be led to believe that we were the only ones showing love of neighbor then, when in fact our relief efforts for those poor and suffering have long lagged behind those of other Christian denominations—ones which we view in the same way as the Jews did the Samaritans.
How We Can Show Neighbor Love
Paragraphs 6 thru 10 show us ways in which Christians can show love of neighbor. These are all valid, scriptural methods. However, they are not limited to the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are Christians in virtually every denomination who display these qualities. There are also those who call themselves Christians in every denomination (including ours) who do not display these qualities.
A Special Way to Show Neighbor Love
It seems we can rarely have an article which does not in some way promote the door-to-door preaching activity. Paragraphs 11 thru 13 do this. Paragraph 12 opens with: “Like Jesus, we help people to become conscious of their spiritual need. (Matt. 5:3)” Our translation offers an interpretive translation. What Jesus actually says is “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. The word he uses is ptóchos which is derived from ptōssō meaning “to crouch or cower like a beggar”. (Helps Word-studies) A beggar is already aware of his need. He doesn’t need anyone to tell him about it.
The Simplified Edition puts this differently. “Jesus helped many people to understand that they needed Jehovah.” Here we are giving Jesus’ message a subtle twist. Jesus preached only to Jews. The Jews knew they needed Jehovah. What they didn’t know was how to get reconciled to him. Some thought themselves rich, and so were not begging for the spirit. Others were intensely aware of their spiritual poverty. To these, Jesus preached the way to fill that need. (John 14:4)
Paragraph 12 (Simplified Edition) goes on to state, “We imitate Jesus when we tell people about “God’s good news. (Romans 1:1) We teach them that Jesus’ sacrifice makes it possible for them to have Jehovah’s approval and friendship. (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19) Preaching the good news is truly an important way to show love for our neighbor.”
The first sentence can only be considered true of us if we are really telling people about “God’s good news”. We have good news for people to be sure: Eternal life in health and youth on a paradise Earth. But is that the good news God gave us to declare? We cite Romans 1:1, but what of the following verses? Paul describes this good news in verses 2 to 5, then continues in 6 and 7 to show that the Romans were called to belong to Jesus Christ as God’s beloved ones, called to be holy ones. The beloved ones are also holy ones. Paul speaks of holy ones again in Romans 8:27, after showing in verse 21 that such ones are children of God. He makes no mention of friendship with God. So the good news we declare is not God’s good news. Jesus never preached a good news about become reconciled with God as his friends. A familial relationship with God as a child with a father is what he was preaching.
We cite 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19 as proof that we are correctly teaching that Jesus’ sacrifice makes it possible for our neighbors to gain God’s approval and friendship. It makes no mention of friendship. What Paul refers to in the preceding verse is “a new creation”.
“Therefore, if anyone is in union with Christ, he is a new creation;. . .” (2Co 5:17)
Paul tells the Galatians:
“For neither is circumcision anything nor is uncircumcision, but a new creation is. 16 As for all those who walk orderly by this rule of conduct, peace and mercy be upon them, yes, upon the Israel of God.” (Ga 6:14-16)
This new creation is the Israel of God. These are not God’s friends, but his children.
If we preach a good news other than that which God gave Jesus to preach, we are misleading people away from the Christ and from God. How can we consider that to be a loving thing to do? The Samaritan’s love for the injured Jew was manifest by his providing the needed care. A nice bowl of chicken soup would not have done the trick. It would have been an ineffectual display of love.
We excuse our lack of social services for the needy and poor, even among our own ranks, rationalizing that our preaching work is of greater importance. (w60 8/15 Social Reform or the Good News; James 1:27) But if our preaching work amounts to teaching another good news, then our love for neighbor—as sincere as it may be—is of little value. In fact, we may be working against God. (Ga 1:8)
An Inspired Description of Love
Paragraph 14 thru 18 offer good scriptural counsel on the application of Paul’s definition of love found at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Unfortunately, the application from our Organization given in paragraph 17 comes across as hypocritical. “Genuine love…”does not keep account of the injury,” as though we were making entries in a ledger when others do something unloving.” The Simplified Edition has a sidebar that states: “We should not keep a record of all the times that a person hurts us.”
The congregation and branch service desk filing cabinets are full of “ledger entries” recording the wrongs done by brothers and sisters. If a brother is disfellowshipped, those records are preserved even long after he has been reinstated (forgiven). We most definitely do keep a written and filed record of all the times a person has hurt us as an Organization. If a brother or sister sins, the files are consulted to see if he or she has done this before. Any past sins, though “forgiven” are not “forgotten” and may be used against them as a means to determine how genuine their repentance may be. We can all be so very happy that Jehovah does not keep an account of all our past sins. (Isaiah 1:18; Acts 3:19)
There is no scriptural basis for this policy of ours which has much in common with the criminal record- keeping practices of Satan’s world.
Keep on Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself
Jesus chose a Samaritan to make his point, because this was a man the Jews would consider as an apostate; one they would not even approach. What if the shoe were on the other foot? What if it were the Samaritan lying unconscious and injured on the road and the average Jew walking by?
Applying this to our day, how can we show love for our JW-equivalent of the Samaritan, a disfellowshipped one?
Back in 1974, we had this to say:
But consider a less extreme situation. What if a woman who had been disfellowshiped were to attend a congregational meeting and upon leaving the hall found that her car, parked nearby, had developed a flat tire? Should the male members of the congregation, seeing her plight, refuse to aid her, perhaps leaving it up to some worldly person to come along and do so? This too would be needlessly unkind and inhumane. Yet situations just like this have developed, perhaps in all good conscience, yet due to a lack of balance in viewpoint.
(w74 8/1 p. 467 par. 6 Maintaining a Balanced Viewpoint Toward Disfellowshiped Ones)
That such situations developed back then wasn’t really due to “good conscience”, but to a conscience that had been trained by article and discourse to hold an unloving attitude. Many acted this way out of fear for themselves; fear of the possible repercussions if they were seen talking with or assisting an disfellowshipped one. I recall this article as a breath of fresh air, yet, that was 40 years ago! There has been nothing similar since. We get “reminders” upon “reminders” of what we should and should not be doing, yet we get few if any reminders on how to lovingly deal with disfellowshipped “neighbors”. I’ve personally seen too many instances where the love the Samaritan showed has been sadly lacking in our dealings with disfellowshipped ones and their families.
[i] While not endorsing any institution or church, here are the top three I found with my google search: