Sometimes we’ve been criticized because our sites focus on Jehovah’s Witnesses to the virtual exclusion of other religions. The contention is that our focus indicates we believe Jehovah’s Witnesses are better than the rest, and thus, deserve more attention than other Christian religions. That is simply not the case. The adage to all writers is “write what you know.” I know Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I would naturally use that knowledge as my starting point. Christ willing, we will branch out in our ministry, but for now, there is much work to be done in the small field which is JW.org.
With that in mind, I will now answer the title question: “Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Special?” The answer is No…and Yes.
We’ll deal with the ‘No’ first.
Is the JW field more fertile than others? Does more wheat grow among the weeds in JW.org than grows in other fields, like Catholicism or Protestantism? I used to think so, but I now realize my past thinking was the result of some small kernel of indoctrination planted in my brain from decades of studying Watchtower publications. As we awaken to the truth of God’s word apart from the doctrines of the men of the Organization, we are often unaware of the many implanted preconceptions that continue to color our perception of the world.
Being raised as a Witness caused me to believe I was going to survive Armageddon—as long as I stayed true to the Organization—while the billions on earth would all die. I recall standing on an atrium-spanning bridge overlooking the first floor of a large mall and grappling with the thought that virtually everyone I was looking at would be dead in a few years. Such a feeling of entitlement is hard to eradicate from one’s mind. I now look back on that teaching and realize how ridiculous it is. The thought that God would entrust the eternal salvation of the world’s billions to the paltry efforts of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society is silly in the extreme. I never fully accepted the idea that people who were never even preached to would die eternally, but the fact that I bought into even part of such a ludicrous teaching remains a source of shame for me personally.
Nevertheless, that and related teachings all contribute to a feeling of superiority among Witnesses which is difficult to fully dismiss. As we leave the Organization, we often bring with us the notion that of all religions on earth today, Jehovah’s Witnesses are unique in their love of truth. I know of no other religion whose members routinely refer to themselves as being “in the truth” and mean it. The idea that all Witnesses carry—erroneous, as it turns out—is that whenever the Governing Body discovers that a teaching isn’t fully supported in Scripture, it changes it, because accuracy in truth is more important than upholding past traditions.
Admittedly, truth isn’t that important to the majority of professing Christians.
For instance, we have this news item from just last year:
On the plane returning from his journey to Africa on November 30, Pope Francis condemned Catholics who believe in “absolute truths”, and labelled them as “fundamentalists”.
“Fundamentalism is a sickness that is in all religions,” Francis said, as reported by the National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican correspondent, Joshua McElwee, and similarly by other journalists on the plane. “We Catholics have some – and not some, many – who believe in the absolute truth and go ahead dirtying the other with calumny, with disinformation, and doing evil.”
For many Christian faiths, emotion trumps truth. Their faith is all about how it makes them feel. “I found Jesus and now I’m saved!” is a refrain frequently heard in the more charismatic branches of Christendom.
I used to think we were different, that our faith was about logic and truth. We were not bound by traditions, nor influenced by emotion. I came to learn just how wrong the perception is. Nevertheless, when I first came to recognize that most of our unique JW teachings are not scriptural, I was working under this misconception that all I had to do was reveal this truth to my friends to see them also embrace it as I had done. Some listened, but so many have not. What a disappointment and disillusionment that has been! It became evident that, generally speaking, my JW brothers and sisters are no more interested in Bible truth than the members of any other religion I’ve had occasion to witness to over the decades. Like those other religions, our members are committed to maintaining our traditions and organizational identity.
It gets worse, however. Unlike most mainstream religions in Christendom in the modern age, our organization chooses to oppress and persecute all who disagree. There are Christian religions of the past who practiced this, and there are religious sects today—both Christian and non-Christian—who practice ostracism and persecution (even killing) as a form of mind control, but surely Witnesses would never consider themselves in kinship with such.
How tragic that those I considered to be the most enlightened of Christians stoop consistently to insults, belligerent intimidation, and vehement personal attacks when faced with those who only speak the truth found in God’s word. All this they do to defend, not Jehovah, but the teachings and traditions of men.
So are Jehovah’s Witnesses special? No!
Yet, this should not surprise us. It has happened before. The Apostle Paul wrote:
“I am telling the truth in Christ; I am not lying, since my conscience bears witness with me in holy spirit, 2 that I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were separated as the cursed one from the Christ in behalf of my brothers, my relatives according to the flesh, 4 who, as such, are Israelites, to whom belong the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the sacred service and the promises; 5 to whom the forefathers belong and from whom the Christ [sprang] according to the flesh: God, who is over all, [be] blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:1-5)
Paul expresses these sentiments about Jews, not gentiles. The Jews were God’s people. They were the chosen ones. The gentiles gained something they never had, but the Jews did have it, and lost it—except for a remnant. (Ro 9:27; Ro 11:5) These were Paul’s people, and he felt a special kinship with them. The Jews had the law, which was a tutor leading them to the Christ. (Gal 3:24-25) The gentiles had no such thing, no pre-existing foundation upon which to base their newfound faith in Christ. What a privileged position the Jews enjoyed! Yet they squandered it, treating God’s provision as of no value. (Acts 4:11) How frustrating for Paul, himself a Jew, to witness such hardheartedness on the part of his compatriots. Not just stubborn refusal, but in one place after another, he experienced their hatred. In fact, more than any other group, it was the Jews who consistently opposed and persecuted the Apostle. (Ac 9:23; Ac 13:45; Ac 17:5; Ac 20:3)
This explains why he speaks of “great grief and unceasing pain” of heart. He expected so much more from those who were his own people.
Nevertheless, we have to acknowledge that the Jews were special. This was not because they earned a special status, but because of a promise made by God to their forefather, Abraham. (Ge 22:18) Jehovah’s Witnesses do not enjoy such a distinction. So any special status they may have exists only in the minds of those of us who have spent our lives working with them shoulder to shoulder and who now wish for them to have what we have found—our pearl of great value. (Mt 13:45-46)
So, “Are Jehovah’s Witnesses special?” Yes.
They are special to us because we have a natural affinity or kinship with them—not as an Organization, but as individuals with whom we have labored and striven, and who still have our love. Even if they now consider us enemies and treat us with contempt, we must not lose that love for them. We must not treat them with contempt, but with compassion, for they are still lost.
“Return evil for evil to no one. Provide fine things in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, as far as it depends upon YOU, be peaceable with all men. 19 Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.” 20 But, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals upon his head.” 21 Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Ro 12:17-21)
Our JW brothers and sisters may now consider us to be apostates, rebels like Korah. They are merely responding as they have been taught, not from the Scriptures, but by the publications. The best we can do is to prove them wrong by “conquering the evil with the good.” Our attitude and respect will go a long way to countering their preconception about those who “drift away.” In ancient times, the metallurgical refining process involved heaping burning coals to form a furnace in which the minerals and metals would melt. If there were precious metals within, they would separate and flow out. If there were no precious metals, if the minerals were valueless, that too would be revealed by the process.
Our kindness and love will effect a similar process, revealing gold in the heart of our enemies, if gold is there, and if not, then what is there in its place will also be revealed.
We cannot make a true disciple by force of logic. Jehovah draws those who belong to his Son. (John 6:44) By our words and actions we can hinder or aid that process. When we used to go house-to-house to preach the good news according to JW.org, we didn’t start out by criticizing the leadership of those we preached to, nor by finding fault with their doctrine. We didn’t go to the door of a Catholic and talk about the child abuse scandal. We didn’t find fault with the Pope, nor did we immediately criticize their form of worship. There was a time for that, but first we built a relationship based on trust. We spoke of the wonderful reward we believed was being held out to all humankind. Well, now we realize that the reward being offered is even more wondrous than that mistakenly taught since the time of Rutherford. Let us use that to help our brothers wake up.
Since Jehovah draws those known to him, our method should coincide with his. We want to draw out, not attempt to push out. (2Ti 2:19)
One of the best ways to draw out people is by asking questions. For instance, if you’re challenged by a friend who’s noticed you are not going to many meetings anymore, or are not going from door-to-door, you might ask, “What would you do if you found you could not prove a key doctrine from the Bible?”
This is a pretty bullet-proof question. You haven’t said the doctrine is false. You’re only saying you could not prove it from Scripture. If the friend asks you to be specific, go for a major doctrine, like the “other sheep”. Say that you’ve looked at the doctrine, researched it in the publications, but found no bible verses that actually teach it.
A Christian who truly loves the truth will engage in further discussion. However, one who loves the Organization and all it represents over the truth of God’s word will likely go into lockdown mode, and come out with pat defensive statements like “We have to trust the Governing Body”, or “We should just wait on Jehovah”, or “We don’t want to allow the imperfections of men to stumble us and cause us to miss out on life”.
At that point, we can evaluate whether further discussion is warranted. We are not to throw our pearls before swine, but sometimes it is hard to determine whether we’re dealing with sheep or swine. (Mt 7:6) The important thing is never to let our desire to be right motivate us, to push us into argument-mode. Love should motivate us always, and love always looks for the advantage of those we love.
We recognize that the majority will not listen. So our desire is to find that minority, those few who God is drawing out, and to devote our time to helping them.
This is not a life-saving work in the absolute sense. That is a falsehood that motivates Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the Bible shows that this is the season for selecting those who will be priests and kings in the kingdom of the heavens. Once their number is filled, then Armageddon comes and the next phase of salvation begins. Those who miss out on this opportunity will likely regret it, but they will still have the opportunity to grasp everlasting life.
Let your words be seasoned with salt! (Col 4:6)
[The foregoing are suggestions based on my understanding of Scripture and my own experience. However, each Christian needs to work out the best way to engage in the preaching work as revealed to him or her by the spirit based on personal circumstances and abilities.]