Feeling pressure to attend the Memorial?
As a former elder I write this response to hopefully help those genuinely feeling “guilt” before their God. If you are a Jehovah’s Witness or an “ex-JW” (for example, disfellowshipped or lapsed), then I hope that this will be of help to you. Please read on, as I quote from Watchtower’s own literature:
Watchtower 1993 February 1st, page 31
Those who are of Jesus’ “other sheep” class, with the hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth, are not under command to partake of the bread and the wine. (John 10:16) It is important to attend the annual celebration, but they do not partake of the emblems. So if one of them is sick or is traveling and thus not with any congregation that evening, he or she could privately read over appropriate scriptures (including the account of Jesus’ instituting the celebration) and pray for Jehovah’s blessing on the event worldwide. But in this case there is no need for any additional arrangement for a meeting or a special Biblical discussion a month later. (w93 2/1 31)
Please think of what that Watchtower article is saying: If you still believe Watchtower’s doctrine, and you would normally not partake if you attended the public Memorial, then that article is stating that you do not need to make any special arrangements if you are (1) sick, (2) travelling, or (3) “not with any congregation that evening”. According to Watchtower’s own doctrinal teaching, you have not committed a sin. Please also notice that they recommend “privately” reading the scriptures. If you still identify yourself as a Christian, then would not your Heavenly Father value your sincere reverence for Christ’s sacrifice as He listens to your private prayer and notes your private reading and mediation upon His Word? [pause for thought here before continuing…]
Watchtower 2010 March 15th, page 27, paragraph 16
Paul also helps us to understand that those with an earthly hope do not partake of the Memorial emblems. He said to anointed Christians: “For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives.” (1 Cor. 11:26) When does the Lord ‘arrive’? When he comes to take the last of his anointed bride class to their heavenly home. (John 14:2, 3) Clearly, the annual observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal is not to continue endlessly. “The remaining ones” of the woman’s seed yet on earth will continue to partake of this meal until all of them have received their heavenly reward. (w10 3/15 27 par. 16)
Why is that article helpful? According to Watchtower’s own doctrinal teaching, their public Memorial is “not to continue” after all the anointed are raptured to heaven. So, after that event you won’t be able to attend the public Memorial – because Jehovah’s Witnesses will have ceased that annual ceremony! Will you, however, with a sincere desire to show your appreciation of Christ’s sacrifice, still privately read God’s Words and perhaps engage in prayerful mediation? Then why feel any twinge of conscience for doing that privately now, instead of going to a public event?
Finally, please meditate upon God’s words of comfort to Elijah at 1 Kings 19:18
. . .And I still have left 7,000 in Israel, all whose knees have not bent down to Baʹal . . .
Why may those words be relevant? At that time Jezebel and Ahab had created a hostile environment for any who sincerely loved God in their hearts; 450 prophets of Baal with 400 prophets of the sacred pole, a temple to Baal, true prophets killed and the last remaining 100 forced to hiding in caves. This lasted for 2 decades! Interestingly, Josephus reports that Jezebel’s father was a priest of Astarte (Insight on the Scriptures 1, page 59). At the time of the Passover, for some 2 decades, the woman in control of Israel would have ensured that Easter (or Astarte) was celebrated throughout the land instead. Although the Bible makes no specific comment, do you think that it was possible to celebrate the Passover by joining up with “God’s organization” of that era? Or, would you – Elijah and the other 7000 - have privately meditated on the meaning of the Passover and privately celebrated it? [pause for thought here before continuing…]
I hope that no one feels obligated to attend a public event when “your Father who looks on in secret” (Matthew 6:6) has not asked you to attend. You have at least 3 reasons, written in Watchtower’s own literature for not attending:
(1) You were “sick” – it’s nobody’s business prying into the details, so thank anyone who asks, but explain that you’re OK now and thank them for not prying into the embarrassing subject of personal sickness
(2) You were “travelling” – it’s nobody’s business what your travel was; maybe it was a drive to a quiet place to privately reflect and mediate. Either way, thank them for respecting your “private situation that involved me travelling”, and explain that you’re not in a position to give them any details “at this time”.
(3) You were “not with a congregation” that evening – again, it’s nobody’s business as to the specifics. Maybe you could assure any enquirers that you did privately mediate upon God’s Word, as recommended in the Watchtower, but that you are unable to discuss the specifics of your situation “at this time”; be sure to thank them so much for respecting your privacy, and for their genuine concern.
Any persistent repeat enquirer could be asked: “Would you mind reading the following scripture, and then maybe we can discuss this on another occasion, when I feel up to it? Don’t read it now – look it up later, after we finish this conversation. Thank you so much.”
“Make it your aim to live quietly and to mind your own business. . .” (1 Thessalonians 4:11)
I hope that this commentary on the subject may help some to be at peace with not attending the Memorial publicly this year, perhaps instead making some private arrangement.