Would the WT club have mandated the prodigal son be shunned?

by LexWatson 29 Replies latest jw friends


    When I questioned an elder why a disfellowshiped person might have to sit at the back of the hall for over a year before he/she is accepted back, I was told.

    "This is to allow the person to prove his repentance"

    I question the thinking and logic behind their dealings (Thinking of the prodigal son). If a person walks 20 miles a day it would have taken that person 7,300 miles to return (365days x 20 miles per day), assuming that a year is about the period the elders put on them. Is this Christianity? Is this the way to encourage repentance?



    When I questioned an elder why a disfellowshiped person might have to sit at the back of the hall for over a year before he/she is accepted back, I was told.

    "This is to allow the person to prove his repentance"

    I question the thinking and logic behind their dealings (Thinking of the prodigal son). If a person walks 20 miles a day it would have taken that person 7,300 miles to return (365days x 20 miles per day), (assuming that a year is about the period the elders put on them), is this Christianity? Is this the way to encourage repentance?


    Repetition for emphasis !!!

  • Gordy

    From when the 1981 Watchtower dealt with the Prodigal son, I was puzzled how they made it fit disfellowshipping.

    To me it was saying that if you left God, not some church/organisation. Then you realised you had made a mistake and returned to Him. He was there waiting and watching for your return. There were no recriminations, you had come back to Him thats all that mattered.

    Another parable that I always felt showed the real compassion of God was the Shepherd and the Lost Sheep.

    A sheep strays gets lost and trapped . The shepherd sets off to find it, leaving the other 99 safe in the pen. They are ok they at that time don't need the shepherd because they are already safe and sound. The shepherd finds the lost sheep picks it up and carries it back to the rest of the flock. Celebrating that he found the sheep.

    The Watchtower version would be that the sheep strays, gets lost and trapped. Its the sheeps own fault for leaving the flock(congregation) going off into the world and ending up in trouble. The shepherd/s (Elders) don't set off to find the sheep. They instead decide that the sheep should be ignored completly. If the sheep goes off like that its its own fault so we don't want anything to do with it. We will not allowed the rest of the flock tohave contact with it. If it wants to come back it will have to find its own way. If it does we will keep it in a separate pen for as long as we think it needs to be. And don't any of you other sheep dare speak to him.

  • Mulan

    This was one of the things that blew it for me. Our second son was disfellowshipped and begging to be able to see the family, especially his brothers and sister. He was 20.

    When we studied this in the book study, in The Greatest Man book, I blew up. I commented too, and no one argued with me. Of course my husband was the conductor, and it was in our house.

    My arguments:

    1. it was the brother, not portrayed well in the bible, who was angry and wouldn't have anything to do with him.

    2. the WTS says it was obvious he had changed..............why was it obvious? It says the father saw him from a long way off

    Lots more, but those are the main ones.

  • tijkmo
    by observing his sad, downcast countenance

    latest wt discussion on this (nov 15 2006) makes the point that shame is not repentance

    whether it is or not the father had no way of determining this from the distance..

    another interesting point is the idea that the father viewing from the window longing to see his son return gives to me the impression that had he known where his son was he would have gone to him first to see if he was ok.

    i have spoken to many witnesses who have df children who know where they are but who refuse to go and see them even to just check on their well being..they wouldnt even be involved in condoning whatever 'wrongdoing' was being practiced..they base this on the father of the prodigal son waiting till the son returned...but the father didnt know where he was.

    on his return the father didnt give the son the third degree asking if he had truly left the women behind or were they waiting round the corner, didnt ask if he was still in love with one, didnt accuse him of returning only to steal from the father and then go back to his wayward life..had the prodigal son been accused of this and treated accordingly and it had been untrue then he would have left and the father would have lost him forever.

  • tijkmo




    The prodigal’s brother well represents those who resented the compassion and attention that Jesus accorded sinners. These self-righteous ones were not touched by Jesus’ mercy; neither did they reflect the joy in heaven that arises when a sinner is forgiven. Instead, Jesus’ mercy provoked their wrath, and they began "thinking wicked things" in their hearts. (Matthew 9:2-4) On one occasion the anger of some Pharisees was so intense that they summoned a man whom Jesus had healed and then "threw him out" of the synagogue—apparently expelling him! (John 9:22, 34) Like the prodigal’s brother, who was "unwilling to go in," the Jewish religious leaders balked when they had opportunity to "rejoice with people who rejoice." (Romans 12:15) Jesus further exposed their wicked reasoning as he continued his parable.




    "Thenhisfathercameoutandbegantoentreathim.Inreplyhesaidtohisfather,‘HereitissomanyyearsIhaveslavedforyouandneveroncedidItransgressyourcommandment,andyettomeyouneveroncegaveakidformetoenjoymyselfwithmyfriends.Butassoonasthisyoursonwhoateupyourmeansoflivingwithharlotsarrived,youslaughteredthefattenedyoungbullforhim.’"—Luke 15:28-30.


    With these words, the prodigal’s brother made it clear that he had missed the true meaning of sonship. He served his father much the way an employee serves his employer. As he told his father: "I have slaved for you." True, this eldest son had never left home or transgressed his father’s commandment. But was his obedience motivated by love? Did he find real joy in serving his father, or had he instead drifted into smug complacency, believing himself to be a good son simply because he performed his duties "in the field"? If he was truly a devoted son, why did he fail to reflect his father’s mind? When given opportunity to show mercy to his brother, why was there no room for compassion in his heart? —Compare Psalm 50:20-22.


    The Jewish religious leaders resembled this older son. They believed that they were loyal to God because they strictly adhered to a code of laws. Granted, obedience is vital. (1 Samuel 15:22) But their overemphasis on works turned worship of God into a bookish routine, a mere shell of devotion with no true spirituality. Their minds were obsessed with traditions. Their hearts were loveless. Why, they regarded common folk like the dirt beneath their feet, even contemptuously referring to them as "accursed people." (John 7:49) Really, how could God be impressed with the works of such leaders when their hearts were far removed from him?—Matthew 15:7, 8.


    Jesus told the Pharisees to "go . . . and learn what this means, ‘I want mercy, and not sacrifice.’" (Matthew 9:13; Hosea 6:6) Their priorities were confused, for without mercy all their sacrifices would be worthless. This is indeed a serious matter, for the Bible states that the "merciless" are counted among those viewed by God as "deserving of death." (Romans 1:31, 32) Not surprisingly, therefore, Jesus said that as a class the religious leaders were destined for everlasting destruction. Evidently, their mercilessness contributed largely to their meriting this judgment. (Matthew 23:33) But perhaps individuals from this class could be reached. In the conclusion of his parable, Jesus strove to readjust the thinking of such Jews through the words of the father to his older son. Let us see how.




    "Thenhesaidtohim,‘Child,youhavealwaysbeenwithme,andallthethingsthataremineareyours;butwejusthadtoenjoyourselvesandrejoice,becausethisyourbrotherwasdeadandcametolife,andhewaslostandwasfound.’"—Luke 15:31, 32.


    Notice that the father used the expression "your brother." Why? Well, recall that earlier, in speaking to his father, the older boy had called the prodigal "your son"—not "my brother." He did not seem to acknowledge the familial bond between himself and his sibling. So now the father is, in effect, saying to his older boy: ‘This is not just my son. He is yourbrother, your own flesh and blood. You have every reason to rejoice in his return!’ Jesus’ message should have been clear to the Jewish leaders. The sinners whom they despised were in reality their "brothers." Indeed, "there is no man righteous in the earth that keeps doing good and does not sin." (Ecclesiastes 7:20) The prominent Jews had every reason, then, to rejoice when sinners repented.


    After the father’s plea, the parable abruptly ends. It is as if Jesus is inviting his listeners to write their own ending to the story. Whatever the older son’s response was, each listener was faced with the question, ‘Will you share in the joy that is experienced in heaven when a sinner repents?’ Christians today also have opportunity to demonstrate their answer to that question. How?




    Paul admonished the Ephesians: "Become imitators of God, as beloved children." (Ephesians 5:1) Hence, as Christians we should come to appreciate God’s mercy, implant it deeply into our hearts, and then display this quality in our dealings with others. However, a caution is in order. God’s mercy should not be misinterpreted as a soft-pedaling of sin. For example, there are some who might nonchalantly reason, ‘If I commit a sin, I can always pray to God for forgiveness, and he will be merciful.’ Such an attitude would amount to what the Bible writer Jude called "turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct." (Jude 4) Although Jehovah is merciful, "by no means will he give exemption from punishment" when dealing with unrepentant wrongdoers.—Exodus 34:7; compare Joshua 24:19; 1 John 5:16.


    On the other hand, we need to be just as careful in guarding against the other extreme—a tendency of becoming rigid and judgmental toward those who manifest genuine repentance and godly sadness over their sins. (2 Corinthians 7:11) Since elders are entrusted with the care of Jehovah’s sheep, it is essential that they maintain a balanced view in this regard, especially when handling judicial matters. The Christian congregation must be kept clean, and it is Scripturally proper to "remove the wicked man" by means of disfellowshipping. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) At the same time, it is fine to extend mercy when there is a clear basis for it. So while elders do not tolerate willful wrongdoing, they strive to seek a loving and merciful course, within the bounds of justice. They are ever aware of the Bible principle: "The one that does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy. Mercy exults triumphantly over judgment."—James 2:13; Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 5:7.


    The parable of the prodigal makes it clear that Jehovah desires erring ones to return to him. Indeed, he holds the invitation out to them until they prove themselves beyond hope. (Ezekiel 33:11; Malachi 3:7; Romans 2:4, 5; 2 Peter 3:9) Like the prodigal’s father, Jehovah treats with dignity those who do return, accepting them back as full-fledged members of the family. Are you imitating Jehovah in this regard? When a fellow believer, who for a time was disfellowshipped, is reinstated, how do you respond? We already know that there is "joy in heaven." (Luke 15:7) But is there joy on earth, in your congregation, even in your heart? Or, as with the older son in the parable, is there some resentment, as if no welcome is merited for one who should not have left God’s flock in the first place?


    To help us examine ourselves in this regard, consider what happened about the year 55 C.E. in Corinth. There, a man who had been expelled from the congregation finally cleaned up his life. What were the brothers to do? Should they view his repentance with skepticism and continue shunning him? On the contrary, Paul urged the Corinthians: "You should kindly forgive and comfort him, that somehow such a man may not be swallowed up by his being overly sad. Therefore I exhort you to confirm your love for him." (2 Corinthians 2:7, 8) Often, repentant wrongdoers are particularly susceptible to feelings of disgrace and despair. Hence, these ones need to be reassured that they are loved by their fellow believers and by Jehovah. (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 1:12) This is vital. Why?


    In exhorting the Corinthians to practice forgiveness, Paul gave as one of the reasons that "we may not be overreached by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs." (2 Corinthians 2:11) What did he mean? Well, earlier Paul had to reprove the Corinthian congregation for being too lenient. They had permitted this same man to carry on his sin with impunity. In doing so, the congregation—in particular its elders—played into Satan’s hands, for he would have loved to bring the congregation into a condition of disrepute.—1 Corinthians 5:1-5.


    If they now swung to the other extreme and refused to forgive the repentant one, Satan would be overreaching them in another direction. How? In that he could take advantage of their being harsh and merciless. If the repentant sinner became "swallowed up by his being overly sad"—or as Today’sEnglishVersion renders it, "so sad as to give up completely"—what a heavy responsibility the elders would bear before Jehovah! (Compare Ezekiel 34:6; James 3:1) With good reason, after cautioning his followers against stumbling "one of these little ones," Jesus said: "Pay attention to yourselves. If your brother commits a sin give him a rebuke, and ifherepentsforgivehim."—Luke 17:1-4.


    The thousands who return to pure worship each year are grateful for the mercy that Jehovah has extended to them. "I do not recall a time in my life that I have ever been so happy about anything," says one Christian sister of her reinstatement. Of course, her joy is echoed among the angels. May we too join in the "joy in heaven" that takes place when a sinner repents. (Luke 15:7) In doing so, we will be imitating Jehovah’s mercy.


    Although it seems that the wrongdoer in Corinth was reinstated within a relatively short period of time, this is not to be used as a standard for all disfellowshippings. Each case is different. Some wrongdoers begin to manifest genuine repentance almost immediately after being expelled. With others, it is quite some time before such an attitude is evident. In all cases, however, those who are reinstated must first show evidence of godly sadness and, where possible, must manifest works befitting repentance.—Acts 26:20; 2 Corinthians 7:11.





    Regarding the expelled wrongdoer who had manifested repentance, Paul told the Corinthian congregation: "I exhort you to confirm your love for him." (2 Corinthians 2:8) The Greek word translated "confirm" is a legal term meaning to "validate." Yes, repentant ones who are reinstated need to sense that they are loved and that they are once again welcome as members of the congregation.

    We must remember, however, that most in the congregation are not aware of the particular circumstances that led to a person’s expulsion or to his reinstatement. In addition, there may be some who have been personally affected or hurt—perhaps even on a long-term basis—by the wrongdoing of the repentant one. Being sensitive to such matters, therefore, when an announcement of reinstatement is made, we would understandably withhold expressions of welcome until such can be made on a personal basis.

    How faith-strengthening it is for those who have been reinstated to know that they are welcomed back as members of the Christian congregation! We can encourage such repentant ones by conversing with them and enjoying their fellowship at the Kingdom Hall, in the ministry, and on other appropriate occasions. By thus confirming, or validating, our love for these dear ones, we do not in any way minimize the seriousness of the sins that they committed. Rather, along with the heavenly hosts, we rejoice in the fact that they have rejected the sinful course and have returned to Jehovah.—Luke 15:7.

  • LongHairGal

    Yes, I believe they would have mandated that the prodigal son be shunned. They do seem to feel somebody has to "prove" their repentance. If this is the case, then a good actor would have it down pat.

    What a joke (as is their whole concept of confession)! Do they actually expect to see tears and a broken person and only then do they believe a person is repentant?? There is more than a little sadism in their thinking. Whey don't they make the repentant person walk a gauntlet and pelt them with rotten eggs and spit on them? Let the repentant person sit and be subject to unkind remarks from the jealous, ignorant morons in the congregation - depending on what their "sin" was. While this may sound ridiculous and extreme, it is actually more in the spirit of how they operate. They are just vengeful and controlling. That is what this is all about.


  • avidbiblereader

    These are all excellent points to consider, it just shows how far they have gotten from the Bible and as Jesus said if the light in you is really darkness, how great that darkness is.

    1 John 4:8 He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love

    James 2:13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.


  • anewme

    Avid, that line about mercy being shown to the merciful is definitely NOT TRUE.

    Mercy is a rare experience anywhere in the world anymore, especially in a JC room!


  • avidbiblereader
    Mercy is a rare experience anywhere in the world anymore, especially in a JC room!

    This is true, they wouldn't know mercy if it fell and hit them in the head, thank goodness it is talking about God's judgement of mercy. I guess that is why King David said that it would be better to fall into God's judgements then man's mercies.


Share this