To all ---About Faith.
I posted this some months ago on another board. The comments then were thoughtful and appreciated. I'd like to know yours, too.
A brief background first: I first became active in service in December of 1946, and have been disfellowshipped for over 12 years now, not for gross wrongdoing, but because I asked too many questions and wouldn't quit. All of my family are still in the organization, and counting aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., probably number upward of 80 or 90 people.
I think in some of my previous posts (On the other board) I’ve made a few comments to the effect that I was affected very little by my disfellowshipping, especially as to faith, and that is true. Actually, my faith is stronger now than at any other time of my life, including those times that we moved to unassigned territory or pioneered. Now it just feels comfortable, peaceful, almost proven, and there is an eagerness in it that surpasses anything I’ve ever known before.
Now be patient with me here. While that may sound like bragging, or even a crowing over others, I don’t feel that way at all. Actually, it bothers me, because in looking around at others who have experienced the same sort of shabby treatment from the Society, I see a considerable amount of agony.
I also see that they have almost completely lost faith in anything, even the Bible and Jehovah himself. In realizing the fact that they were at one time, like me, in the congregations and thoroughly believing all of these things, is rather startling to me. The question that bothers me so much is this: These are normal people. Why have I not been as drastically affected as they have? Am I a freak or something? (No wise guys, now. GGG)
I’ve always attributed this equanimity to the fact that I was a loner. I never really cared all that much what man’s opinion was. If someone said something, I’d check it out, even as the Bible says that we should. If that somebody got his dander up due to my checking it out, that was good, excellent even. After all, like it says in Zedekiah 3:8 --- “Always keep a pompous ass in a state of perpetual outrage. It’s the ONLY Christian way to fly.”
I feel that I have been in the doghouse most of my life due to my own insistence on not doing things because I was “supposed to”. I felt that it was highly important that I do them because I wanted to and decided to. Others, of course, usually interpret that as an independent streak or even rebelliousness.
It wasn’t, though. It truly bothered my conscience, and it took a long time to figure out how to express that in words.
You undoubtedly remember such scriptures as 1 Thess. 5:19 where it says “Do not put out the fire of the spirit”; like Col. 3:23, “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men” (my italics); of how we are supposed to have joy, as it is a fruitage of the spirit (Gal. 5:22); such as Matt. 22:37, You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind”; and when teaching, that we should be careful to “sound it down into their hearts”.
It seemed to me that many individuals and even the organization itself was doing exactly that: “putting out the fire of the spirit.” Let’s examine some of the ways they were doing that:
On the simplest level, such things as joy and love are not things that we can get simply because we are “supposed to” have them. They are things that are delicate and precious and have to be nurtured. They stem from the things we have in our life such as our activities and associations. We cannot force these qualities out of ourselves any more than we can force them out of our wives and children by beating on them until they give it to us.
Those who condemn others for not having enough love for God or joy in their service are on a par with those who would condemn someone for bleeding just because they got stabbed. The only things they accomplish are to demonstrate their own lack of understanding as to what true love and joy is, and to add to the load of the one they are trying to motivate.
To lay a guilt trip on such ones only makes things worse, for love that is forced is not love. It is at best only fealty. Likewise joy that is forced is not joy. It is a hypocritical false front that destroys one’s self-respect and confidence. Both are destructive to the individual himself (or herself) and to any relationship he may have with his heavenly father. Long term exposure to such things can lead to everything from a hatred of those he should love - to suicide.
To have a lack of love or joy in one’s service to God does not necessarily mean that one’s heart condition is bad. In my experience, the problem is usually that someone or something is obscuring that one’s vision or understanding of what Jehovah desires of us. That leads us to the next problem.
There are far too many numbskulls (Paul called them “superfine apostles” in 2 Cor. 11:5 & 12:11) who seem to have convinced themselves that they are so holy that they have the right, responsibility, and moral capital to pass judgement on every aspect of other people’s faith. To illustrate, as it is now, we cannot get baptized – without someone else’s permission. We cannot pioneer – without someone else’s permission. We cannot express ourselves in meeting – without someone else’s permission. We cannot raise questions – without someone else’s permission. Of course, all of these things can be argued interminably, so let’s just cut to the chase by using an illustration: How long would you tolerate someone standing between you and your wife in order to pass judgement on and guarantee that everything you said to her was just so?
Likewise, anyone who stands between me and the God that I love in order to make sure that I do everything just so, is an interloper and meddler. And I don’t give the foggiest damn how holy he thinks he is or how much his butt weighs. There is war in camp until he moves that stinking butt. Indeed, I feel so strongly about this that I have no intentions whatsoever of giving him any respect, let alone appeasement, and won’t be satisfied unless he’s running in panic with his tail between his legs and yelling “Ki-yi, ki-yi, ki-yi!” all the way out the door. (The one exception to that, of course, is Jesus Christ himself.)
Let’s look at it another way. We desire our wife’s love and we have authority. Suppose we lay down the requirements that she “prove her love” by coming to us every hour on the hour and smooching us up real good and submitting to sex promptly at 10:00 every morning and evening. Let’s also say that she actually cooperated with this arrangement. Now, would this prove that she loved us? Or could it mean that she is afraid of us and doesn’t want to make us mad? My point here is that in such things as true love, whole-souled service, and joy, there is an element of spontaneity. There is a freedom from fear and a knowledge that if we are not absolutely perfect that it will not be held against us.
So tell me, how can we exercise this spontaneity toward Jehovah while someone is standing between us, watching every move we make, and demanding that we ask their permission before doing anything whatsoever? Their very presence destroys the spirit, as he is demanding that we serve him, a man, rather than God.
As to the thought about “sounding these things down into our hearts”: here too we must consider the mechanics of how such a thing is done. If all we do is take the word of these “superfine apostles” that we should believe simply because they are holy and they tell us to (as seems to be the requirement these days), then we are building our house upon sand. Why? Because all they have to do is make one mistake of any kind and it calls into question all of what they have taught. Moreover, we violate the commandment given to all of us to “test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, . . .” (1 John 4:1)
Rather, Paul emphasizes in his definition; “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities (those that have evidence demonstrating their authenticity) though not beheld.” (Heb. 11:1 --- Italics are mine.) Because somebody says so is not evidence, and faith without this evidence is not faith. It is gullibility.
The point is this: To sound things down into our heart, we must have the freedom to test, to question, to probe, to challenge, to bounce it on the floor, to hit it with a hammer, to dip it in acid, to do whatever it takes to convince our hearts that it is something to be trusted. That is impossible to do as long as someone is standing there demanding we believe because they tell us to.
There is no way to overemphasize the importance of this. Its import extends far beyond our own salvation, but goes to the very core of the heavenly dispute between Jehovah and Satan. Here’s how:
"Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me." (Proverbs 27: 11) There is no way to escape the conclusion that Jehovah needs something from us, and that it is important. You may remember this passage in the “Truth” book:
"Satan's false charges against God may be illustrated, to a certain extent, in a human way. Suppose a man having a large family is accused by one of his neighbors of many false things about the way he manages his household. Suppose the neighbor also says that the family members have no real love for their father but only stay with him to obtain the food and material things he gives them. How might the father of the family answer such charges? If he simply used violence against the accuser, this would not answer the charges. Instead, it might suggest that they were true. But what a fine answer it would be if he permitted his own family to be his witnesses to show that their father was indeed a just and loving family head and that they were happy to live with him because they loved him! Thus he would be completely vindicated. --- Proverbs 27: 11; Isaiah 43: 10." (The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, page 67, paragraph 7.)
This makes sense as far as it goes. But upon reflection one must realize that there has to be more to it than that. To let one's own family provide the answer would work only under the right conditions, otherwise Satan need merely claim that Jehovah had intimidated them into it. "Well, sure, they would say that. After all, if they say any different you will kick them out in the cold like you did Adam and Eve."
He could also claim that because Jehovah had poisoned our minds we are too frightened to examine the evidence impartially. Or he could say that we cling to Jehovah for the simple reason that that is all we know and that we would never stick to him if we were aware of all the wonderful things he (Satan) had for us.
The only way for such questions to be answered is for Satan himself to have access to us. AND if our answers are to be of any use whatsoever, then they must be uniquely ours. No careful repetition of dogma, no predetermined “approved” phrasing of words, and no blind following of others’ instructions will do any good whatsoever.
They must come straight from our own heart. This is the reason that we will all be tested alone at the time of the end. How can we form that answer without practice? How can we get that practice if someone else is constantly interfering and condemning us for “thinking independently”?
To go back to the illustration above, while it would be absolutely infuriating to have someone step between a man and his wife, it could also be very damaging to their relationship. It’s much like when a woman is raped. Even though it may not be her fault whatsoever, the relationship with her husband changes dramatically, and not for the good.
Could you be in a similar situation now? That thanks to those meddlers, your relationship with Jehovah has become strained, uncomfortable, and severely damaged? That the reason you argue so vehemently against the Society and others was not so much that you hated them, but because you had to have time to think and try to heal your spiritual relationship? (I realize that there are many other and good reasons. I’m just wondering what a factor, if any, that this was.) But that the situation is so confused, thanks to them, that you don’t know where to start?
I’ve come to realize that this is probably the biggest reason that these things haven’t affected me as much. I’ve always tested everything out using the worst acid tests I could devise and paid no attention whatever to those fools who thought they were indispensable to my spiritual well being. To find that they were not worthy of my confidence came as no surprise, because I never really thought they were anyway.
What are your thoughts?