.:WHY DID THE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES STOP BEING MY FRIENDS WHEN I STOPPED STUDYING WITH THEM?
“I have been studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses for a year and attending meetings. When I decided to stop studying for a while, all those friends are now no longer there. I had stopped studying because I found it hard to believe that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only true religion. I also couldn’t understand why they wanted me to take my 11-year old son out of Karate and not to prepare him for college. I know they want him to serve Jehovah, but he also lives with his dad who is Catholic. I miss my friends, but then again, they are only friends if I attend the Kingdom Hall. I am so confused!”
It is tough to discover the Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t as loving and supportive of you and your family as you once thought they were. This is one of the reasons that our ministry does not consider the Jehovah’s Witness lifestyle to be a healthy way of life for children to be raised under. If you do everything they expect you to do in controlling your son and sheltering him from the outside world (i.e., disallowing sports, college education, association with non-Jehovah’s Witness peers and requiring an extensive after school time commitment for meeting attendance and door-to-door preaching), your son will have a hard time adjusting to the rejection he will face from his worldly peers at school and without a college education, he will likely have a difficult time providing for his family as an adult. Indeed, this has led many Jehovah’s Witness kids to abandon the faith as adults or struggle providing a decent income for their families.
It is sad to read the countless stories we receive from these individuals. Some have even struggled with suicidal tendencies from being disfellowshipped (expelled) and shunned by their Jehovah’s Witness friends and family members for not living up to the Society’s standards or being threatened with the idea that they will be destroyed at Armageddon if they are not found faithful enough to meet the organization’s requirements. Fear and guilt are powerful motivators and the Jehovah’s Witness religion uses these to force compliance to their policies.
Every Jehovah’s Witness is under pressure to perform to the expectation of the elders. No matter how much you do, they are always pressing for more door-to-door service, more magazine placements, more studies, more public talks, more meeting attendance and theocratic ministry school assignments, more, more, more! Enough is never enough!
On top of this, just as you are beginning to discover, friendships in the Jehovah’s Witnesses are very conditional. Your best friend can turn his or her back on you at a moment’s notice simply because questioned or challenged a Watchtower policy or you slipped up by failing to meet one of their standards. You were right when you observed: “…they are only friends if I attend the Kingdom Hall.” As long as you tow the line and fit in perfectly with their cookie-cutter operation, they will accept you, but the minute you step out of line, watch out!
What you are experiencing with the Jehovah’s Witnesses is legalism. Legalism is an attempt to control outward actions by means of laws, enforced by penalties. It is fear-based and motivated by guilt. It often fosters a superficial appearance of righteousness because it is based upon a system of man-made standards by which the group can measure one’s spirituality through a religious scale that they made up. This is why the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ acceptance of you is so conditional. As long as you are performing to their expectations, they will fellowship with you, but the minute you slip up or buck the system, they will drop you. The fact that you refused to accept their guilt-trip of telling you that your son can’t “serve Jehovah” if he is involved in Karate or prepares for college, you demonstrated that you were not going to bow down to their fear-based control so they penalized you by removing their friendship.
But consider this: Where in the Bible does it say that one must avoid sports and a college education to serve Jehovah? Nowhere does the Bible make this claim, but legalistic groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses make up their own standards and add these to the Bible’s requirements to provide a visible system by which they can measure your spirituality and determine if you are “worthy” enough for their approval and friendship.
This is legalism! It is the opposite of God’s method of grace. Grace is the control of inward attitudes and outward actions by means of love, without a penalty. It is love-based and motivated by the freedom from the guilt of sin. In God’s system, when a person places his faith and trust in the shed blood of Christ, his sins are completely forgiven so that he no longer fears rejection from God. Then the indwelling Holy Spirit takes up residence in one’s heart and creates a desire to follow God’s standards. This is why God’s love of us is said to be unconditional. It is based upon the perfect righteousness of Christ that has been imputed to our account so that we can live in the freedom of God’s love. This is why Scripture states that where true love exists, there is no fear:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us.” —1 John 4:18-19 **
Consider this: How many Jehovah’s Witnesses do you know are afraid that if they don’t do enough for Jehovah by obeying all of the Watchtower’s requirements, they will be destroyed at God’s battle of Armageddon? How many are afraid that if they allow any type of “doubt” into their minds concerning the idea that the Jehovah’s Witness religion is “the truth” and the ONLY place of spiritual safety and salvation, they will be rejected for being disloyal to Jehovah God? Does this sound like the freedom from fear that Jesus said His Truth will bring?
“ ‘And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, “You will become free”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’ ”—John 8:32-36
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” —2 Corinthians 5:21
Notice what it is that makes a person free. Is it a system of laws and rules? Or is it a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son? The Jehovah’s Witnesses are fond of calling their religion “the Truth,” but notice WHO Jesus said the Truth is:
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’ ” —John 14:6
The Good News of Jesus’ Truth is so simple! It is a simple trust in the forgiveness offered in the blood of Christ and a commitment to let Jesus be the Lord of your life. Nowhere does the Bible say that you must join an organization and serve IT to be saved. Rather, service is to be based upon the personal leading of God’s Spirit through the Lordship of Christ. Then, as you listen to the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit through the reading of His Word, the Bible, you become a true servant of Jehovah.
“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”—Romans 10:9-10
It’s not about trying to measure up to please God, but rather about coming to Him in absolute humility brokenness, with your sins, hurts and pains and allowing His Son to wash you spiritually clean with His blood, purifying your thoughts through the reading of His Word and allowing His Holy Spirit to take up residence within your heart. We encourage you to read the following resources on our website because they will also help you gain a fresh perspective on how to serve Jehovah outside of the Watchtower organization and how to be free through developing an intimate relationship with His Son Jesus Christ based on the forgiveness He offers in his shed blood:
UNDERSTANDING GRACE—WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT? (4witness.org)
** All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.
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