Sincere Believer and Responsible Citizen—How to Be Both
WHAT were two of the characteristics of Jesus’ ministry? First, Jesus sought to change individual hearts, not political institutions. For instance, note what Jesus stressed in his Sermon on the Mount. Just before he spoke about the need to be like salt and light, he told his audience that true happiness belongs to those who are “conscious of their spiritual need.” He added: “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, . . . the pure in heart, . . . the peaceable.” (Matthew 5:1-11) Jesus helped his followers to see the importance of adjusting their thinking and feelings to God’s standard of what is good and bad and the importance of serving God wholeheartedly.
Second, when Jesus saw human suffering, his compassion for his fellow men moved him to alleviate their misery. However, he did not make it his goal to eliminate all suffering. (Matthew 20:30-34) He cured sick people, but sickness remained a fact of life. (Luke 6:17-19) He brought relief to the oppressed, but injustice continued to cause suffering. He provided food for the hungry, but famines continued to plague mankind.—Mark 6:41-44.
Changing Hearts and Alleviating Suffering
Why did Jesus focus on changing hearts and alleviating suffering but not on changing institutions or eliminating distress? Jesus knew that God had purposed to use His Kingdom at a future time to put an end to all human governments and erase the causes of all suffering. (Luke 4:43; 8:1) Therefore, when the disciples once urged Jesus to spend more time on curing the sick, Jesus said to them: “Let us go somewhere else, into the village towns nearby, that I may preach there also, for it is for this purpose I have gone out.” (Mark 1:32-38) Jesus alleviated the physical suffering of many, but he gave priority to preaching and teaching God’s word.
In their preaching work today, Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to imitate Jesus. They are moved to alleviate suffering by giving practical help to individuals in need. But the Witnesses do not strive to eliminate the world’s injustices. They believe that God’s Kingdom will erase the causes of all suffering. (Matthew 6:10) Like Jesus, they endeavor to change hearts but not political institutions. That approach is realistic because man’s main problems are, not political, but moral.
At the same time, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that it is their Christian responsibility to be good citizens. Hence, they honor and respect governmental authority. Through their publications and their witnessing work, they encourage their neighbors to be law-abiding. However, when a government demands what is in direct conflict with what God commands, the Witnesses do not comply. They “obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29; Romans 13:1-7.
Jehovah’s Witnesses visit all those in their community to offer Bible education free of charge. As a result of this education, millions of hearts have been changed. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are helped to overcome such damaging practices as smoking, drunkenness, misuse of drugs, gambling, and sexual promiscuity. They have become morally responsible citizens because they have learned to apply Bible principles in their lives.—See the article “The Bible Changes Lives,” on page 18 of this magazine.
In addition, Bible education helps family members to deepen their respect for one another and to improve communication—between spouses as well as parents and children and among the children themselves. These are factors that strengthen family bonds. Stronger families, in turn, result in stronger communities.
After reviewing the points that have been considered in these articles, what do you think: Does the Bible approve of those who mix religion and politics? The answer is clear; it does not. But should true Christians be responsible citizens? Yes, they should. How can they do so? By following Jesus’ command to be like salt and like light to the world.
Those who strive to apply these practical directions of Christ will bring benefits to themselves and their families—as well as to the community in which they live. Jehovah’s Witnesses in your area will be glad to share more information with you about the Bible education program that is currently being carried on in your community. *
^ par. 12 If you prefer, you can also contact Jehovah’s Witnesses at www.watchtower.org
[Blurb on page 10]
Jesus sought to change hearts, not political institutions
[Blurb on page 11]
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe it is their responsibility to be good citizens