Love and Justice in the Christian Congregation (Part 2 of 4)
“Go on carrying the burdens of one another, and in this way you will fulfil the law of the Christ.” – Galatians 6:2.
[From ws 5/19 p.2 Study Article 18: July 1-7, 2019]
Love and Justice in the Christian Congregation. Does it really exist?
Love and Justice in the Christian Congregation. Who has the authority?
Paragraph 2 shows a problem with attitude, when it says, “Under this law, how should those in authority treat others?” Now remember in context this is talking about in the Christian congregation. So, is there any scriptural support for any to have authority over fellow Christians in the congregation?
Simply put, No, there is not.
A review of all scriptures containing the word authority revealed the following key scriptures:
Matthew 20:25-28 – Wielding authority is a thing of the world, Christians serve their brothers, the reverse of the world.
Matthew 28:18 – Jesus has been given all authority by God.
Mark 6:7, Luke 9:1 – Jesus gave some of the early disciples authority to cast out demons and cure sickness.
Acts 14:3 – Authority of Jehovah to preach boldly. Original Greek text does not contain a word “authority”. This is an unjustifiable addition to the NWT Reference Edition.
1 Corinthians 7:4 – The husband has authority over wife’s body and wife has authority over husband’s body. The Greek word translated “ authority“ coveys the meaning of “delegated authority” not absolute authority. Who delegates this authority? It could be God of course, but another logical reasonable understanding is that it is the spouse. How so? By virtue of the marriage agreement thereby each spouse delegates some authority to their spouse to touch their bodies in personal ways they would not allow others. Delegated authority also coveys the thought that it can be rescinded. This understanding is also compatible with the law of love. What a contrast to the interpretation prevalent in the world that a husband can do many hurtful things to his wife, both physically and mentally, because he has the right, power and authority (allegedly from God and sometimes the state) to do so.
Titus 2:15 – NWT Paul speaking to Titus says, “Keep on speaking these things and exhorting and reproving with full authority to command”. Here the Greek word translated “authority” is different and conveys the meaning of speaking in an order that arranges things so they build on (Greek “epi”) each other to achieve the needed goal. I.E. the things spoken by Titus would be the authority in themselves. It does not imply imposing oneself and forcing others to do one’s will.
In summary, there is not one scripture which uses the word authority and gives any individual Christian authority over any other Christian or anyone else for that matter. Therefore, those who are “in authority” in the Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses (and any other Christian religion for that matter) do have not scriptural support to claim and wield authority over their fellow Christians.
“What is the law of Christ?” is the theme of paragraphs 3-7 and is an acceptable introduction.
Paragraphs 8-14 discuss “A law based on love”.
Is Congregation Law based on Love?
There is some double speak in paragraph 12 when it says “Lessons: How can we imitate Jehovah’s love? (Eph. 5:1, 2) We view each of our brothers and sisters as valuable and precious, and we gladly welcome back “a lost sheep” who returns to Jehovah.” Yes, most certainly that is the correct view to have, but then we have to ask the question, why do the Governing Body authorise the making and publishing of videos and suggestions in other articles which subtly encourage the shunning of those considered “spiritually weak” because of missing meetings or field service.
This attitude which is becoming prevalent in a way which it never was 10 plus years ago, is not only unchristian, being contrary to Ephesians 5 cited in the paragraph, amongst other scriptures, but also is highly counter- productive. If someone has been for example partly stumbled, this shunning policy would finish off stumbling them and be an even bigger blocker against their possibly returning to the congregation. Please see the Lego animation video by Kevin McFree, “The six degrees of shunning” for a good accurate summary of this practice.
Yes, maybe we want Witnesses to wake up to “the truth about the truth”, but just as importantly we do not want them to be stumbled, as frequently happens, to the point of them losing their faith in God and Jesus. The unofficial, unwritten policy of shunning anyone weak in faith in the Organization, or having difficulty practicing Christian habits perfectly is morally repugnant and should be discontinued immediately. Furthermore, clear direction to the contrary should be given such as a video countermanding the notorious one which encouraged it. Sad to say, of course we would all be shocked if that ever happens.
Love and Justice in the Christian Congregation. From the Elders?
We also must not forget the implication of the wording “and we gladly welcome back “a lost sheep” who returns to Jehovah. (Ps. 119:176)” (Par.12). What this translates to is, welcoming back one who returns to the Organization. In the eyes of most Witnesses, leaving or coming back to the Organization is the same as leaving or coming back to Jehovah. However, as we know, it is not. The author would be considered by the congregation as having left Jehovah if only they knew what I did on this site. But I can honestly say, I do far more Bible Study now than I ever did as a Witness and I still believe Jehovah is the Creator. Also, for all the controversy about the pronunciation, that is still the name I use along with “Father”, as that identifies him as the God of the Bible to most English-speaking people. I may have almost left the congregation, but I feel closer to Jehovah as my father than I ever did as a Witness.
Paragraph 13 and 14 discuss John 13:34-35. Verse 35 says “By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” According to these paragraphs, this love is manifested “when we regularly go out of our way to pick up an elderly brother or sister for a meeting, or we willingly give up our own preferences in order to please a loved one, or we take time off from secular work to help with disaster relief”. Is that really what Jesus had in mind when he gave them the new commandment?
Putting this into practice according to James 1:27 involved “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” Neither Jesus nor James intended their words to be interpreted as taking along the elderly to a meeting prescribed or commanded by the Organization as vital to their salvation to be indoctrinated with false teachings such as 1914, 1975 and the overlapping generations. The disaster relief efforts on the face of it are commendable, although they seem to be being scaled down due to lack of funds, and this is another topic by itself.
Paragraph 15-19 consider how Christ’s Law promotes justice. Some points, worth repeating are that unlike the religious leaders of that time, “Jesus, however, was fair and impartial in dealing with all” And “he was respectful and kind to women”.
To show how fair and impartial the elders and Organization are in dealing with alleged wrongdoers and elderly widows click on the links for YouTube videos showing the reality. Both Eric and Christine are known to the author and frankly their treatment is appalling, even the courts of secular authorities would treat them far better. Once again, the Organization pays lip service only to Jesus teachings. Jesus words in Matthew 15:7-9 aptly sums up their attitude where he says “YOU hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about YOU, when he said ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines”.
How should those in authority treat others?
The final section of paragraphs 20-25 has the theme “How should those in authority treat others?”. As discussed at the beginning of this review, the only authority a Christian is given is to perform certain actions, none of which include having authority over others, only ourselves.
Paragraphs 20-22 makes the right noises about how husbands should treat their wives, but again does not make it clear that mistreating their spouse would invalidate any congregation privileges and appointments and their standing before Christ. Jesus words in Matthew 18:1-6 should have been cited, even discussed. Here, Jesus warned that anyone who stumbled a young child from serving him (as many victims of child molestation have been) was better drowning in the sea with a millstone round their neck. Strong words indeed!
Paragraph 23 makes the statement “They recognize that the secular authorities have the God-given responsibility to handle civil and criminal cases. That includes the authority to impose such penalties as fines or imprisonments.—Rom. 13:1-4”. Most tellingly is what this paragraph does not say, i.e. that any accusations of criminal behaviour against a congregation member should be addressed to the secular authorities directly.
If you witnessed anyone including a fellow witness kill someone, would you not have the moral and legal duty to report it to the secular authorities? Child sexual abuse and fraud and rape are no different. While they are Biblical sins, they are also criminal actions and there is no scriptural requirement or suggestion to keep such actions solely within the Congregation. The widely misquoted scripture often used to justify no reporting is 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, but this is talking about “trivial things” and “lawsuits” which are civil proceedings for monetary compensation, not reporting major criminal acts to secular authorities.
Paragraph 24 then gushes as to how the elders carefully consider the scriptures to weigh matters and make decisions! If only! Misogyny, favouritism, and incompetence are the hallmarks of most elders judicial decisions in my experience. More importantly do you notice one very important consideration left out of the following “They keep in mind that love is the foundation of the law of the Christ. Love moves the elders to consider: What needs to be done to help any in the congregation who have been victims of the wrongdoing? Regarding the wrongdoer, love moves the elders to consider: Is he repentant? Can we help him to regain his spiritual health?” Nothing is said about considering the safety of the congregation above the welfare of one particular individual.
Just because someone is repentant, is no excuse to have a total news blackout on the problem. Indeed, if it is a serious sin and a criminal act then they are likely to repeat the offence. This is recognised by secular authorities around the world. At least, in most first world countries these days, secular authorities only tend to lock up those offenders who they consider at high risk of re-offending, and this includes murderers and child molesters. Indeed child molester offenders are known to be usually at such a high risk of reoffending that now many countries register them and stop them from having the opportunity to work in environments where they could have a lot of contact with children and could be tempted to reoffend or might deliberately try to work so as to have access to more potential victims.
Paragraph 25 concludes “How can the Christian congregation reflect God’s justice when dealing with child sexual abuse? The next article will answer that question.”
This next article will be put under the microscope to see if they have addressed anything raised by the Australian Royal High Commission on Child Abuse. Do not hold your breath hoping for change. Nothing in this article indicates a serious change of heart on the part of the policy makers within the Organization, otherwise this article would have been far more direct and forthright in its statements.