From time to time there have been those who have used the commenting feature of Beroean Pickets to promote the idea that we must take a public stand and renounce our association with the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They will cite scriptures like Revelation 18:4 which commands us to get out of Babylon the Great.
It is clear from the command given to us through the apostle John that there will come a time when our lives will depend on getting out of her. But do we have to get out of her before the time of her punishment has arrived? Could there be valid reasons for maintaining association prior to that deadline?
Those who would have us follow a course of action they feel is right will also cite Jesus’ words at Matthew 10:32, 33:
“Everyone, then, that confesses union with me before men, I will also confess union with him before my Father who is in the heavens; but whoever disowns me before men, I will also disown him before my Father who is in the heavens.” (Mt 10:32, 33)
In Jesus’ time there were those who put faith in him, but would not openly confess him.
“All the same, many even of the rulers actually put faith in him, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess [him], in order not to be expelled from the synagogue; for they loved the glory of men more than even the glory of God.” (John 12:42, 43)
Are we like such ones? If we do not publicly denounce the Organization’s course and false teachings, thereby disassociating ourselves, are we like the rulers that put faith in Jesus, but for love of glory from men remained silent about him?
There was a time when we listened to the opinions of men. Their interpretations of the Scriptures greatly influenced our life course. Every element of life—medical decisions, choice of education and employment, entertainment, recreation—was affected by these doctrines of men. No more. We are free. We now listen only to the Christ on such matters. So when someone new comes along and takes a Scripture and gives it his or her own little slant, I say, “Hold on, just a minute, Buckaroo. Been there, done that, got a closet full of T-shirts. I’m going to need a little more than your say-so.”
So let’s look at what Jesus actually has to say and make our own determination.
Guided by the Christ
Jesus said that he would confess, before God, union with whomever first confessed union with him. On the other hand, disowning the Christ would have Jesus disowning us. Not a good situation.
In Jesus day, the rulers were Jews. Only Jews who converted to Christianity confessed the Christ, but the rest did not. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses are all Christians. They all confess that Christ is the Lord. True, they give too much emphasis to Jehovah and too little to Christ, but that is a question of degree. Let us not be quick to equate the denunciation of a false teaching as a requirement to confessing union with Christ. These are two different things.
Let us suppose you’re at the Watchtower Study and as part of your comment, you express belief in Christ; or you draw the audience’s attention to a Scripture from the article that glorifies Christ’s role. Are you going to be disfellowshipped for that? Hardly. What will likely happen—what has reportedly happened often—is that brothers and sisters will come up to you after the meeting to express appreciation for your comment. When all there is to eat is the same old, same old, a delicacy is especially noticed and appreciated.
So you can and should confess Christ in the congregation. By doing this, you bear witness to all.
However, some might ask, “But if we conceal our true beliefs, are we not failing to confess Jesus?”
This question assumes the problem can be treated as a black or white situation. Generally speaking, my Jehovah’s Witness brethren do not like greys, preferring the black and white of rules. Greys require thinking ability, discernment and trust in the Lord. The Governing Body has obligingly tickled our ears by providing rules that remove the uncertainty of grey, and then added in lots of reassurance that if we follow these rules, we’ll be special and even survive Armageddon. (2Ti 4:3)
However, this situation is not black or white. As the Bible says, there is a time to speak up and a time to remain silent. (Ec 3:7) It is up to each one to decide which applies at any given moment in time.
We do not always have to denounce falsehood. For example, if you live next to a Catholic, do you feel obliged to run over there at the first opportunity and tell him there is no Trinity, no Hellfire, and that the Pope isn’t the Vicar of Christ? Perhaps that will make you feel better. Perhaps you’ll feel you’ve done your duty; that you are confessing Christ. But how will it make your neighbor feel? Will it do him any good?
It is often not what we do that counts, but why we do it.
Love will motivate us to look for occasions to talk truth, but it will also cause us to consider, not our own feelings and best interests, but those of our neighbor.
How should this Scripture apply to your situation if you are continuing to associate with a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
“Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with humility consider others superior to you, 4 as you look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Php 2:3, 4)
What is the determining factor here? Do we do something out of contentiousness or egotism, or are we motivated by humility and consideration for others?
What was the factor that caused the rulers not to confess Jesus? They had a selfish longing for glory, not love for the Christ. Bad motivation.
Often the sin is not in what we do, but in why we do it.
If you formally wish to renounce all association with the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, then no one has a right to stop you. But remember, Jesus sees the heart. Are you doing it to be contentious? Does it stroke your ego? After a life of deceit, do you really want to stick it to them? How could that motivation equate to a confession of union with the Christ?
If, on the other hand, you feel that a clean break will benefit members of your family or send a message to many others to give them courage to stand up for what is right, then that is the type of motivation that Jesus would approve of.
I know of one case where the parents were able to continue attending but their child was becoming troubled by the two conflicting schools of thought. The parents were able to handle the conflicting teachings, knowing what was false and dismissing it, but for the sake of their child, they withdrew from the congregation. Nevertheless, they did so quietly – not officially – so that they could continue to associate with family members who were just beginning their own awakening process.
Let us be clear on one point: It is up to each one to make this decision for him/herself.
What we are looking at here are the principles involved. I am not presuming to counsel anyone on a particular course of action. Each one must determine how to apply the relevant Bible principles in his or her own case. Accepting a blanket rule from someone else with a personal agenda is not the way of the Christian.
Walking the Tightrope
Since Eden, serpents have been given a bad rap. The creature is often used in the Bible to represent negative things. Satan is the original serpent. The Pharisees were called a “brood of vipers”. However, on one occasion, Jesus used this creature in a positive light by counseling us to be “innocent as doves, but cautious like serpents”. This was specifically in the context of a congregation in which there were ravenous wolves. (Re 12:9; Mt 23:33; 10:16)
There is a deadline for getting out of the congregation based on our understanding of Revelation 18:4, but until that line in the sand appears, can we do more good by maintaining association? This requires us to apply Mt 10:16 in our own case. It can be a fine line to walk, for we cannot confess union with the Christ if we preach falsehood. Christ is the source of truth. (John 1:17) True Christians worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)
As we’ve already discussed, that does not mean we must speak truth at all times. Sometimes it is best to be silent, like a cautious serpent hoping to go unnoticed. The thing we cannot do is compromise by preaching falsehood.
Avoiding a Bad Influence
Witnesses are taught to withdraw from anyone who isn’t in complete agreement with them. They view uniformity of thought on all levels as necessary for God’s approval. Once we have awakened to the truth, we find that it is hard to eradicate old indoctrination. What we may end up doing without realizing it is to take the old indoctrination, turn it on its ear and apply it in reverse, withdrawing from the congregation because we now view them as the apostates; people to be avoided.
Again, we have to make our own decision, but here is a principle to consider taken from an account in the life of Jesus:
“John said to him: “Teacher, we saw a certain man expelling demons by the use of your name and we tried to prevent him, because he was not accompanying us.” 39 But Jesus said: “Do not try to prevent him, for there is no one that will do a powerful work on the basis of my name that will quickly be able to revile me; 40 for he that is not against us is for us. 41 For whoever gives YOU a cup of water to drink on the ground that YOU belong to Christ, I truly tell YOU, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Mr 9:38-41)
Did the “certain man” have a full understanding of all Scripture? Were his teachings accurate in every detail? We do not know. What we do know is that the disciples were not happy with the situation because he “was not accompanying” them. In other words, he was not one of them. This is the situation with Jehovah’s Witnesses. To be saved, you have to be “one of us.” We are taught that one cannot find God’s favor outside of the Organization.
But that is a human point of view, as demonstrated by the attitude of Jesus disciples. It is not the view of Jesus. He set them straight by showing that it was not who you associate with that ensures your reward, but who you side with—who you support. Even supporting a disciple with a trivial kindness (a drink of water) because he is a disciple of the Christ, ensures one’s reward. That is the principle we must bear in mind.
Whether we all believe the same things or not, what is important is union with the Lord. This is not to suggest for a minute that truth is unimportant. True Christians worship in spirit and truth. If I know the truth and yet teach a falsehood, I am working against the spirit that reveals truth to me. This is a dangerous situation. However, if I stand by the truth yet associate with someone who believes a falsehood, is that the same thing? If it were, then it would be impossible to preach to people, to win them over. To do that they must have confidence and trust in you, and such trust is not built up in a moment, but over time and through exposure.
It is for this reason that many have decided to continue in contact with the congregation, though they limit the number of meetings they attend—mostly for their own sanity. By not making a formal break with the Organization, they can continue to preach, to sow seeds of truth, to find those with a good heart who are also awakening, but stumbling in the dark looking for support, for some outside guidance.
Dealing with Wolves
You must openly confess faith in Jesus and submission to his rule if you are to have his approval, but that will never get you disfellowshipped from the congregation. However, too much emphasis on Jesus over Jehovah will get you noticed. Lacking evidence to remove what they might see as a poisonous element, the elders will often try attacks based on gossip. So many associated with this site have encountered this tactic that I have lost count. I’ve run into it several times myself, and have learned through experience how to deal with it. Christ gave us the model. Study his many encounters with the Pharisees, scribes, and Jewish rulers so as to learn from him.
In our day, a common tactic is to be told by the elders that they wish to meet with you because they’ve heard things. They will assure you they only want to hear your side. However, they won’t tell you the exact nature of the accusations, nor their source. You will never even know the name of the ones accusing you, nor will you be allowed to cross examine them in line with Scripture.
“The first to state his case seems right,
Until the other party comes and cross-examines him.”
In such a case, you are on solid ground. Simply refuse to answer any question based on gossip and for which you cannot confront your accuser. If they persist, suggest that they are enabling gossip and that this calls their qualifications into question, but do not answer.
Another common approach is to use probing questions, a loyalty test as it were. You may be asked how you feel about the Governing Body; if you believe they have been appointed by Jesus. You need not answer if you do not wish to. They cannot proceed without evidence. Or you could confess your Lord in such cases by giving them an answer such as this:
“I believe Jesus Christ is the head of the congregation. I believe he has appointed a faithful and discreet slave. That slave feeds the domestics with truth. Any truth coming from the Governing Body is something I will accept.”
If they probe deeper, you could say, “I’ve answered your question. What are you trying to achieve here, brothers?”
I will share a personal decision with you, though you should make up your own mind in such cases. If and when I’m called in again, I will put my iPhone on the table and tell them, “Brothers, I’m recording this conversation.” This will likely upset them, but what of it. One cannot be disfellowshipped for wanting a hearing to be public. If they say that the proceedings are confidential, you can say that you waive your right to a confidential hearing. They may bring out Proverbs 25:9:
“Plead your own cause with your fellowman, and do not reveal the confidential talk of another. . .” (Pr 25:9)
To which you can reply, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you wanted to reveal confidential matters about yourself or others. I’ll turn it off when the conversation comes to that, but as to where it concerns me, I’m quite okay with having it on. After all, the judges in Israel sat at the city gates and all cases were heard in public.”
I very much doubt that the discussion will continue for they do not love the light. This all too common situation is nicely summed up by the apostle John.
“He that says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness up to right now. 10 He that loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in his case. 11 But he that hates his brother is in the darkness and is walking in the darkness, and he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1Jo 2:9-11)
I am adding this addendum post-publication because, since the article was published, I’ve had some angry emails and comments complaining that I am acting as the Watchtower has acted by imposing my view on others. I find it remarkable that no matter how clearly I think I am expressing myself, it seems there are always those who misread my intent. I’m sure you’ve come across this yourself from time to time.
So I will try to be very clear here.
I do not believe you must leave the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses once you have come to a realization of the falsehoods that are regularly taught in the publications and Kingdom halls, but…BUT…I also do not believe you must stay. If that sounds contradictory, let me put is another way:
It is not for me, nor anyone else, to tell you to leave; nor is it for me, nor anyone else, to tell you to stay.
It is a matter for your own conscience to decide.
There will come a time when it is not a matter of conscience as revealed in Re 18:4. However, until that time arrives, it is my hope that the Scriptural principles outlined in the article can serve as a guide for you to determine what is best for you, your kin, your friends, and your associates.
I know that most got this message, but for the few who have suffered greatly and who are struggling with strong, and justified, emotional trauma, please understand that I am not telling anyone what they must do—either way.
Thank you for understanding.