Does the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses provide Instructions to Elders involved in congregational Judicial hearings?
source: The Watchtower magazine, September 15, 1989
Elders—Treat God’s Flock With Tenderness!
“We became gentle in the midst of you, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children.”—1 THESSALONIANS 2:7...
5 We can rightly expect Christian elders to treat us in a compassionate way. They are not like worldly rulers, who often lord it over their subjects...
6 A Christian man who is ‘reaching out for an office of overseer is desirous of a fine work.’ (1 Timothy 3:1) ... The term “elder” does not elevate any man above other worshipers of Jehovah. Rather, the congregation has reason to expect all elders to be spiritually mature, experienced, and humble men who take the lead in sacred service. Indeed, elders should view themselves as humble slaves of Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, and fellow Christians.—Romans 12:11; Galatians 5:13; Colossians 3:24.
7 Humbly slaving in behalf of others naturally restrains an elder from trying to “lord it over” them. And how good it is that our overseers display an attitude similar to that of Paul! He told Christians at Corinth: ‘We are not the masters over your faith, but we are fellow workers for your joy.’ (2 Corinthians 1:24) Accordingly, those who exercise loving oversight do not burden fellow believers with unnecessary human regulations. Instead, overseers among Jehovah’s Witnesses are governed by Scriptural principles and render kind, helpful service. They also show deep regard for God’s flock by quickly applying instructions received from the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.—Acts, chapter 15.
...Sources of Relief and Refreshment
9 Pointing to this day of Kingdom rule by Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah foretold that a king would “reign for righteousness itself” and “princes” would rule “for justice itself.” Hence, elders in the present-day theocratic organization are handling the interests of the established heavenly Kingdom—princely service indeed! To these responsible men apply Isaiah’s further prophetic words: “Each one must prove to be like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.”—Isaiah 32:1, 2.
10 Unlike Christendom’s oppressive religious leaders, elders among Jehovah’s Witnesses are sources of relief and refreshment. As bodies of older men, they promote peace, tranquillity, and security among Jehovah’s people. Individually, each elder can contribute to this fine condition by treating God’s flock with tenderness.
With Justice and Righteousness
11 ... An unclean organization could never be peaceful and joyous, and it surely would not have God’s approval and blessing. He is “too pure in eyes to see what is bad,” to tolerate wrongdoing. (Habakkuk 1:13) Among other things, then, elders are expected to care for judicial matters in an upright, Scriptural manner. But what are some factors to remember when handling such cases?
12 For one thing, in cases involving personal differences, it may be possible for individuals to settle matters privately. (Matthew 18:15-17) Since elders are not ‘masters over our faith,’ they are not expected to look into purely personal affairs that do not involve serious violations of Bible laws or principles. Naturally, if there is evidence that a person has taken “some false step before he is aware of it,” those having spiritual qualifications should “try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness.”—Galatians 6:1.
13 Elders are to serve “for justice itself,” always being impartial. So they should act on evidence of wrongdoing, not on mere hearsay. Paul counseled: “Do not admit an accusation against an older man, except only on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:19) According to Jehovah’s standard, in ancient Israel a person charged with a capital sin was to be put to death ‘at the mouth of two or three witnesses, not one.’ Moreover, the accused apparently had the opportunity to face his accusers, and if the evidence was adequate, ‘the hand of the witnesses first of all was to come upon him to put him to death.’—Deuteronomy 17:6, 7.
14 There must be a sound Scriptural basis for judicial action. How glad we are that congregation overseers are not like proud Diotrephes of the first century C.E.! He wrongly tried “to throw out of the congregation” those wishing to receive traveling brothers hospitably. The apostle John did not view this and other misdeeds lightly but warned: “If I come, I will call to remembrance his works.” (3 John 9, 10) Thus, a present-day judicial committee must be sure that there is a Biblical basis for any disfellowshipping action they take. Of course, God expects Christian elders to be just in dealing with others. Indeed, those administering the affairs of Jehovah’s earthly organization must be “capable men, fearing God, trustworthy men.”—Exodus 18:21...
16 Elders know that a fellow believer accused of wrongdoing is a “sheep” in God’s flock and should be treated with tenderness. (Compare Ezekiel 34:7-14.) Literal sheep need tender care, for they are timid creatures dependent on their shepherd for protection. So, what about the figurative sheep in the local congregation? They undoubtedly feel secure in the care of the Great Shepherd, Jehovah God, and the Fine Shepherd, Jesus Christ. But undershepherds of the flock must act in ways that contribute to the inner peace and sense of security of sheeplike servants of Jehovah. If you are a Christian undershepherd, then, do your brothers and sisters feel secure and tranquil in your care? True, elders must firmly uphold Bible laws and principles. But they are Scripturally required to deal with the sheep in a loving way and to conduct judicial hearings in a calm, orderly, kind, and considerate manner.
17 Being imperfect, “we all stumble many times” in what we say. (James 3:2) Each one of us needs God’s mercy and Christ’s “propitiatory sacrifice.” (1 John 1:8–2:2; Psalm 130:3) So a Christian undershepherd ought to take a humble view of himself. He should also remember Jesus’ words: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.” (Luke 6:31) Especially should this counsel be applied during judicial hearings. Spiritually qualified men should try to readjust an erring Christian ‘in a spirit of mildness, as they each keep an eye on themselves, for fear they also may be tempted.’—Galatians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 10:12.
18 If elders were to treat others harshly during judicial hearings, this might prove harmful to such individuals. But even if emotional or physical harm did not result, there could be grave spiritual injury, and the qualifications of the overseers could also be called into question. (Compare James 2:13.) Hence, during judicial hearings and at all other times, elders should be kind and must guard against stumbling others. Of course, all Christians need to exercise care in this regard, for Jesus said: “Whoever stumbles one of these little ones that believe, it would be finer for him if a millstone such as is turned by an ass were put around his neck and he were actually pitched into the sea.” (Mark 9:42) An upper millstone could be so large that an animal’s strength was normally needed to turn it, and nobody cast into the sea with such a weight around his neck could survive. Surely, then, an elder should be careful not to cause stumbling that could result in lasting spiritual harm to himself and any individual thus stumbled.—Philippians 1:9-11...
What Is Your Thought?
□ What should elders do when instructions are received from the Governing Body?
... 7. (a) How should elders apply 2 Corinthians 1:24 in dealing with others? (b) What should elders do about instructions received from the Governing Body?