Does Neutrality Hinder Christian Love?
BEING a Christian embraces more than reading the Bible, praying, and singing hymns on Sundays. It involves doing things both for God and for people. The Bible says: “Let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18) Jesus had sincere concern for others, and Christians want to imitate him. The apostle Paul urged fellow believers always to have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) But what is the work of the Lord? Does it include trying to change government policy for the benefit of the poor and the oppressed? Is that what Jesus did?
Although Jesus was urged to intervene in political matters or take sides, he refused to do so. He turned down Satan’s offer of power over all the kingdoms of the world, he refused to be drawn into an argument over the paying of taxes, and he withdrew when a popular movement wanted to make him king. (Matthew 4:8-10; 22:17-21; John 6:15) But his neutrality did not prevent him from working for the benefit of others.
Jesus concentrated on what would bring lasting good to others. While his feeding the five thousand and curing the sick brought temporary relief for a few, his teaching made everlasting blessings available to all mankind. Jesus became known, not as an organizer of relief campaigns, but simply as “the Teacher.” (Matthew 26:18; Mark 5:35; John 11:28) He said: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.”—John 18:37.
Preaching Something Better Than Politics
The truth Jesus taught was not political theory. Rather, it centered on the Kingdom of which he himself would be King. (Luke 4:43) This Kingdom is a heavenly government, and it will replace all human administrations and bring permanent peace to mankind. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; 11:9; Daniel 2:44) It is, therefore, the only true hope for mankind. Is it not more loving to declare such a sure hope for the future than to encourage people to trust in men to provide a secure future? The Bible says: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish. Happy is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Jehovah his God.” (Psalm 146:3-5) So rather than sending his disciples out to preach a better way of organizing governments, Jesus taught them to preach the “good news of the kingdom.”—Matthew 10:6, 7; 24:14.
This, then, is “the work of the Lord” that Christian preachers are commissioned to do. Because subjects of God’s Kingdom are required to love one another, the Kingdom will succeed in eliminating poverty by distributing mankind’s resources in a balanced way. (Psalm 72:8, 12, 13) This is good news and is certainly worth preaching.
Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses are organized for this “work of the Lord” in 235 lands. In harmony with Jesus’ command, they are respectful toward all governments. (Matthew 22:21) But they also observe these words to his followers: “You are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”—John 15:19.
Some who used to preach politics have changed after making a careful study of the Bible. An Italian politician who was a member of Catholic Action, a church-controlled organization, said: “I went on to politics, feeling that a person should contribute actively to the political and social development of society.” After resigning as city mayor in order to preach God’s Kingdom as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he explained why the efforts of sincere people in politics fail. “The world is what it is, not because decent people have not tried to better social conditions, but, rather, because the sincere efforts of the few have been overcome by the wickedness of the many.”
Staying out of politics in order to preach the only true hope for mankind does not prevent true Christians from helping others in practical ways. Those whom they help to become subjects of God’s Kingdom learn to change destructive attitudes, to respect authority, to improve their family life, and to have a balanced view of material wealth. Even more important, Jehovah’s Witnesses help people to enjoy an intimate relationship with God.
Preachers of God’s Kingdom benefit the society in which they live. But more than that, they direct people to put confidence in a government that is real and that will bring permanent peace to all who love God. As a result of their neutrality, these Christians are free to provide the most enduring and practical help available today.
[Box/Picture on page 7]
From Politics to Preaching God’s Kingdom
As a boy, Átila learned liberation theology from his parish priests in Belém, Brazil. He enjoyed hearing of mankind’s being eventually freed from oppression and joined an activist community, where he learned to organize protest marches and civil disobedience campaigns.
But Átila also enjoyed teaching the group’s children, using a book he had been given, Listening to the Great Teacher. * It talked of good conduct and of obedience to authorities. This made Átila wonder why those who support liberation theology do not follow Jesus’ high moral standards and why some forget oppressed people when they gain power. He withdrew from the community. Later, Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on his door and talked to him about God’s Kingdom. He was soon studying the Bible and learning about the true remedy for mankind’s oppression.
About that time, Átila attended a Catholic seminar on faith and politics. “These are two sides of the same coin,” explained the instructors. He also attended a meeting at the Kingdom Hall. What a difference! For one thing, there was no smoking, drinking, or obscene jokes. He made up his mind to join them in their preaching work, and soon he was baptized. Now he can see why liberation theology is not the real solution to the problems of the poor.
^ par. 15 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Pictures on page 6]
The neutrality of Christian ministers does not prevent them from helping others