(WDGR Lesson 13: “How Can You Find the True Religion?”)
Does Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” require political neutrality during wartime? During World War II, were the Jehovah’s Witnesses as politically neutral in their dealing with Hitler as they claim?
CINDY: Karen, what do you think is the “most outstanding mark” that identifies true Christians and sets them apart from any of the other religions of the world?
KAREN: Well, Cindy, our study in the Watchtower brochure What Does God Require of Us? notes that “the most outstanding mark of true Christians is that they have real love among themselves.”1. At John 13:35, Jesus told his disciples that “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”2.
CINDY: That’s right, Karen. Just as the Watchtower Society explains, true Christians “are not taught.…to hate people from other countries.…So they do not share in wars.…True Christians treat one another as brothers and sisters.”3. Unlike Christendom whose members fight each other in war, Jehovah’s Witnesses have consistently maintained strict neutrality even in the face of fierce persecution and opposition. One example of this occurred in the 1930’s, during the Nazis attack upon the Jews. The August 22, 1995 Awake! reports that “Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to heil Hitler. They refused because they attribute their salvation to God and have dedicated their lives to him alone.…The immovable neutral position of the Witnesses, along with their loyalty to God’s Kingdom, was unacceptable to the Hitler government.…Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the first targets of Nazi abuse.…When World War II started in 1939, there were already 6,000 Witnesses confined in camps and prisons.…Yes, history reveals that Jehovah’s Witnesses have always shown love for their fellowman, even in the face of intense pressure.”4.
KAREN: Cindy, at John 15:13, what did Jesus say was the greatest love a person could have for another person?
CINDY: Well, Karen, John 15:13 says that “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.”5.
KAREN: O.K. Cindy. Since Jesus said that the greatest love a person could have for another is surrendering one’s life for them, why didn’t the Jehovah’s Witnesses demonstrate this love by surrendering their lives to defend, protect, and rescue the 6 million persecuted Jews from Hitler’s control? According to this principle in the Bible, who showed greater love? The Jehovah’s Witnesses who were so neutral that they refused to join in the war-effort of the Allies to deliver the persecuted Jews, or those Christians like Corrie Ten Boom and her family who gave their lives in protecting and rescuing the Jews and other persecuted ones from Hitler’s power? (See http://www.corrietenboom.com/history.htm)
CINDY: But, Karen, the Jehovah’s Witnesses did take a stand against Hitler! The August 22, 1995 Awake! notes that while “Jehovah’s Witnesses.…take no part in the wars of the nations,” yet “when Hitler waged war throughout Europe, the Witnesses stood firm in the face of the Nazis’ brutal attempts to make them join in the orgy of killing.”6. In this article, the Society also explained that “even before the death camps were set up,” Jehovah’s Witnesses were “proclaiming the dangers of Nazism, through Awake!”7. So you see, Karen, “Love of neighbor is what compelled the Witnesses to warn the people of Germany not to be fooled by…the Third Reich.…Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the first targets of Nazi abuse, but they also loudly decried atrocities against Jews, Poles, the handicapped, and others.”8.
KAREN: Cindy, is the Society arguing that even though Jehovah’s Witnesses failed to demonstrate greater love by surrendering their lives in war to deliver the persecuted Jews, they demonstrated “love for neighbor” by exposing the atrocities of Hitler?
CINDY: That’s right, Karen. History reveals that while Jehovah’s Witnesses “were not afraid to speak out” and expose the evil of Nazism, “the Catholic church and other churches as well became handmaidens of the evil Hitler government.…Hitler was a baptized Roman Catholic, as were many of the leaders of his government.…True, a few courageous individuals from the Catholic, Protestant, and various other religions stood up against the Nazi State. But even as some of them paid with their lives, their spiritual leaders, who claimed to serve God, were serving as puppets of the Third Reich.”9.
KAREN: Cindy, is the Society saying that “unlike the churches, Jehovah’s Witnesses spoke out against Nazism”?10. That same Awake! article of August 22, 1995 states that after the Jehovah’s Witness convention in Berlin, on June 25, 1933 in which some 7,000 assembled to draft “a declaration of the Facts” to state their case to Hitler, persecution upon the Witnesses began as “the Nazis did not intend to tolerate any refusal to support their ideology.”11. Yet, this declaration which the Witnesses sent to Hitler is reproduced in the 1934 Year Book of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Would you read what the Jehovah’s Witnesses actually said in that declaration?
CINDY: OK. “The greatest and the most oppressive empire on earth is the Anglo-American empire. By that is meant the British Empire, of which the United States of America forms a part. It has been the commercial Jews of the British-American empire that have built up and carried on Big Business as a means of exploiting and oppressing the peoples of many nations.…The present government of Germany has declared emphatically against Big Business oppressors and in opposition to the wrongful religious influence in the political affairs of the nation. Such is exactly our position.…Instead of being against the principles advocated by the government of Germany, we stand squarely for such principles.”12.
KAREN: Cindy, how can the Society point at certain churches in Christendom which served as puppets for the Nazis, when they supported the socialistic ideals of the government of Germany against “the Anglo-American empire”? How can they claim that they refused “to support the ideology” of the Nazis when they stated in their declaration that “the greatest and most oppressive empire on earth is the Anglo-American empire.”?13. Does this sound like neutrality to you?
CINDY: OK, Karen. So maybe the Witnesses weren’t as politically neutral as they should have been when they were dealing with Hitler, but at least they did not participate in carnal warfare, and to this day, Jehovah’s Witnesses risk imprisonment and death rather than violate Christian neutrality. You see, Karen, at Luke 6:27-28 Jesus said “…Continue to love your enemies, to do good to those hating you, to bless those cursing you, to pray for those who are insulting you.”14.A Christian is not loving his enemies if he is killing them in war, is he?
KAREN: Cindy, since Jesus said to love your enemies, if an intruder were to break into your house and threaten to kill you, does this mean that you should not defend yourself? After all, you’re not loving your enemy if you end up killing him in self-defense, are you?
CINDY: Oh, Karen, that command to love your enemies doesn’t apply to self-defense. Even the Society admits that at Exodus 22:2, “in his Law to Israel, Jehovah God revealed that the individual had the right to self-defense.”15.
KAREN: But, Cindy, if the command to love your enemies does not apply to self-defense, why do Jehovah’s Witnesses apply it to a nation that is merely attempting to defend itself through war against enemies such as Hitler?
CINDY: I never thought of it that way before, Karen; but one thing Jesus made clear is that his “followers were to make disciples of people of all nations; so worshipers of the true God would in time be found in all those nations.…If true Christians in one nation were to go to war against another nation, they would be fighting against fellow believers, against people who prayed for help to the same God that they did.”16. How can Christian brothers have real love for each other if they kill each other in war?
KAREN: Cindy, suppose your husband Steve was in your presence when the intruder broke into your house, threatening your life. Now he would have three options. He could either come to your aid and protect you, be totally neutral in the conflict and do nothing to protect you, or he could join forces with the intruder and attack you. If he was truly on Jehovah’s side, which of these three options would he take: your side, the intruder’s side, or neutrality?
CINDY: Of course, my husband Steve would take my side and attempt to protect me, Karen.
KAREN: OK. So why would neutrality in this instance be a violation of God’s Law?
CINDY: Well, Karen, it’s because Jehovah God has given my husband the duty to protect me and those under his jurisdiction. So to take a neutral position in a conflict which threatens the lives of those individuals under his care would be a violation of Jehovah’s arrangement for life and order.
KAREN: That’s right, Cindy. Can you see why this same principle also applies to a nation’s responsibility to defend its people against warring nations? After all, wouldn’t you agree that in every conflict there is a right side and wrong side? In other words, if Steve were to take any other position—whether your intruder’s side or neutrality—he would be on the wrong side by negating his duty before Jehovah God to protect those under his care.
CINDY: Yes, I agree, Karen, but how does this change the fact that Christians who get involved in carnal warfare end up killing their Christian brothers in war?
KAREN: Cindy, since there is a right side and a wrong side to every conflict, if a true Christian were to evaluate the conflict in light of the principles in God’s Word, what is the likelihood of him choosing to join forces with the wrong side of the battle?
CINDY: Well, I guess you’re right. True Christians wouldn’t choose the wrong side of a war, so true Christians would not find themselves fighting on both sides of the battle. But I don’t understand, Karen. At Matthew 26:52, Jesus commanded Peter to lay down his sword because “all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Why would Jesus command this if taking up the sword to defend one’s country is not against God’s law?17.
KAREN: Cindy, in the Awake! article of September 8, 1975, the Society said regarding this verse that “Peter’s action in this case was not a matter of self-defense, but, rather, resistance to authorities and…God’s will.” Even the Society admitted that at Luke 22:38, Jesus’ apostles were known to have had at least two swords.18. Since Jesus’ disciples had several swords for self-defense, how could it be wrong for Christians to take up the sword to defend themselves and their country?
Friends, just as Jesus said at John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”19. So throughout history, true Christians have demonstrated the greatest love for their brothers—not by being neutral in times of conflict—but by surrendering their lives to defend and protect their family, friends, and country from enemy nations. Such sacrificial Christian love for brother is evidenced by the fact that no soldier ever gave up his position after becoming a Christian, and even John the Baptist exhorted the soldiers of his day to “be content” with their “wages.”20. How could they be content with their wages, unless, of course, they remained soldiers?
1. What Does God Require of Us?, 1996, p. 26:3
2. New American Standard Bible
3. What Does God Require of Us?, p. 26:3
4. Awake! August 22, 1995, pp. 4, 7, 9-10, 15
5. New World Translation
6. Awake! August 22, 1995, p. 15
7. Awake! August 22, 1995, p. 3
8. Awake! August 22, 1995, p. 9
9. Awake! August 22, 1995, p. 9
10. Awake! August 22, 1995, p. 15
11. Awake! August 22, 1995, p. 7
12. 1934 Year Book of Jehovah’s Witnesses, pp. 134-136
13. 1934 Year Book of Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 134
14. New World Translation; see also Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 271
15. Awake! September 8, 1975, p. 27
16. Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 272
17. Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 271
18. Awake! September 8, 1975, p. 28
19. New American Standard Bible
20. See Luke 3:14