If you're going to err..err on the side of Grace
Quite often I am surpised at how my JW thinking still controls me without my knowledge. And the stark differences between the JW idea of "christianity" and idea of "christianity" displayed by the church I now attend.
I work in a children's ministry music program . I've been doing it for two years now, and this week I was reading an e-mail I was cc'd on where the ministry leader explained that the policy of the church is for anyone involved in leadership to be a member, or working towards membership. Although I have now been attending regularly for over three years, and have been baptised, I've never moved towards membership. I just can't - the thought of it brings up way too many bad feelings. JW's always misquote that scripture in John saying Peter's response was "where shall we go?" - when in fact it's "to WHO shall we go". I feel that membership in any religious organization is not necessary - it's not about WHERE we go to worship, but WHO we worship. Becoming a "member" to me just kind of feels like I'm right back in an alliegance to an earthly organization and I CAN'T do that again.
I was so bummed - I was convinced that I'd have to remove myself from this ministry that I love so much because...well...it's POLICY, and we all know how policy and rules are handled by JW's - NO EXCEPTIONS, NO QUESTIONS ASKED. So - without question, I assumed that was the way it always was. I wrote a long e-mail to the ministry leader explaining my feelings and just decided to accept whatever decision was made.
To my suprise - she contacted me within an hour and said "don't worry about it. - we made an exception for you". I was confused - EXCEPTION - what do you mean EXEPTION? She explained that rules are necessary as a general standard or you end up with chaos - but they're not a legalistic church. They don't live by rules - they live by grace. She had asked the pastor what his thoughts were and he said the rule wasn't as important as the heart.
Then she made a comment that really blew me away - she said their standard was "if you're going to err...err on the side of grace".
WOW! What a different concept of christianity - and here I was still thinking legalistic like a JW and mad at myself for not being able to follow a rule instead. Whether or not you believe in christianity - I think it's helpful to recognize the difference between the JW view of it and what it really SHOULD be.
So - how many of us would still be JW's had we been shown grace - if the elders had said "if you're going to err...err on the side of grace"?
It's easy for me now to say I still wouldn't be a JW - but honestly, had I been shown grace, I probably would have stayed. Then again - I would never have experienced the wonderful freedom I now have and have been able to grow so much emotionally AND intellectually.
Dawn (from the "needs a lot of grace" class)
thats great dawn. and being shown compassion,understanding and love does make a big difference.
i've said many times if i had been shown any kind of love at all , heck if i'd even been NOTICED i never ever would have left. all doctrinal questions wouldn't have mattered because the people representing god would have shown love and that would have been enough for me.
i'm happy for you and your pastor and churchmates sound like great people.
Strangely enough my dad gave me one good piece of advice, when I was appointed as an Elder. He said "Ross, if you find yourself on a Judicial Committee and are in any doubt about repentance, give the benefit of the doubt. If they are unrepentant they'll just repeat...".
For JW-think, that was quite radical, I thought.
It still comes nowhere near the graciousness I see in most Christian denominations, though.
Thanks for posting about this, Dawn. It demonstrates just one of many gulfs that divide the WTS from real Christianity.
I once commented along this lines to a couple of the overseers in the Service Department at Bethel.
We were discussing difficult judicial cases and I mentioned, "well if they were to err, I would hope it would be on the side of love. What is the loving thing to do?"
The reply almost in unison? "It's better not to err."
How can you ever err when there is love and grace?
What many 'spiritual' people seem to miss is that spiritually speaking, the little rules and judgements you make based on those rules is really quite irrelevant. That's just mind stuff. But I don't want to sound like I'm implying love is an emotional matter as opposed to an intellectual one, for me it is more a matter of both, and is actually something else altogether, something 'bigger'.
Just following the rules will not get someone to understand the intent behind it, which is hopefully love itself when you get right down to it. Strictly speaking, in an absolute sense rules are only needed when someone is not aware of the spiritual significance behind them, because otherwise it is all just based on love. When you just focus on the rules and build more and more rules upon them it only serves to take you farther away from love, you get into the foolishness of "this rule is better than that one" or being better rule followers, when it's supposed to be a matter of following love itself.
I've heard this saying around JW circles, except with "kindness" in place of "grace." Unfortunately, we all know that they don't live by that saying.
I'm very glad you found a church that practices what it preaches, Dawn.