Have You Loved A Jehovah's Witness Lately? (Part 1. First Half of the Story)
(Part 1 of 2 in series)
Part 1. My Personal Story
Let me introduce myself to you. My name is Bob Smith. I pondered long and hard on the tone of this hub. I have seen hubs that are corrective to the point that no Jehovah's Witness would ever read it, or even start it with any thought that the writer would feel anything but ill will toward them. I have also seen hubs that warn others of the Witnesses and their circular reasoning and traps. Those usually are so dire that all who read it sense a type of bitterness, instead of the purpose for which it was probably intended. I decided to straddle the fence, or should I say, dabble on each side. I need to be corrective and I need to warn. I need to be gentle and loving, but on the other hand, the Scriptures will cut through the blindness and it will not be easy to hear. In point of fact, it will be unbelievable to most Jehovah's Witnesses and as the person gives the verses a think, it can scare some, because they begin to see them as true. The fear can get intense (I know) and some can only take so much of the fear before a panic sets in. A thought screams that they are entertaining thoughts of the devil himself, even though it is pure Scripture they are hearing. It is so hard for them to think of anything as true, that contradicts the Watchtower or Awake magazine. I would go so far as to say that I don't know of any Jehovah's Witness (that is not just an initiate) that has ever, in their mind, challenged as untrue any printed statement of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. It would surprise me if any allow a trace of doubt to invade a thought that anything that appears on those pages, may not be of God. All just accept what's written, as essentially, the words of Jehovah God Himself. I realize that is quite a statement even for them to believe but they will have to say it's so - because it is - it is ingrained in the tone of the magazine itself. There are, (as every Jehovah's Witness is taught in individual home Bible studies), a "faithful and discreet slave" class of people that are behind every piece of material that is published by the Society. To me then, as to every Jehovah's Witness, these people will somehow be numbered as totaling 144,000, and thus with the passage of time are gradually dying off and going to heaven. There are purported to be some of these individuals left to assure that all information that is disseminated is without error. They were the ones originally that wrote the materials themselves and now they are the ones that receive it from God and His holy spirits (angels). I wonder if any Witness has begun to ask any questions regarding those individuals. For example: Just how old are these "involved" people that are making sure that nothing has crept in that is not supposed to be there? Since these folks would have to be at least 110 to 113 years old or more, how involved could they be? My sister told me when she called the office of the Watchtower Society in Brooklyn to ask a question that I had posed to her, they had one of these "faithful and discreet" men right there in the office to talk to her! I asked her if he sounded like he was very elderly. And of course, she said no, that he sounded young and very nice. I reasoned with her that if this man that talked to her was at the age of accountability, or able to understand the deep concepts of God and life, in 1914 as is currently taught, he would have to be well over 100 years old and does it make any sense that he would still be in the office and answering the tough questions from you?
My sister and I had many a conversation after I became a Christian, and she loved me enough to listen and interact. (Her motive was to bring me back to the fold. She thought to show my mom that she could reason me away from my salvation and back to going to the meetings. That was so we could all be together and love one another again.) She would listen and my words would strike a cord of truth, and she would say. "I can't hear this any more!" I would understand her fear and frustration, and know that the gospel Scriptures that I quoted to her would not come back void. The fear began to grip her as one Scripture or another rang true. I would tell her that I love her each time. I would understand that she honestly believed that she had been given infallible information from the pages of this magazine that was supposed to be a mere study aid to the Scriptures. I remembered how scared I was (irrationally afraid) when it came to hearing things that were contrary to what I had been taught. I would keep in mind where she was comfortable conversing and go back there the next time. I figured that the absolutely worst thing to happen would be that she would have those Scriptures working in her heart and she wouldn't call me back. And even if that happened, God still wins because God has a living Word and it was working on her as soon as she heard it. She would call, sometimes after a few weeks. She needed it in small pieces. She cried easily because of the confusion she had over how "screwed up" I was. She never gave up trying to convert me back until she herself came to the point of praying for her salvation in Jesus. I am not sure of her heart. Doubts may have been working or maybe she only was saying the words she knew I wanted her to say but she has since gone back to the Witnesses. I am glad for the time I had with her and the Scripture that is still in her and will not come back without working in her heart.
I realize that the statement that Jesus said, "I Am The Way, The Truth, and The Life" is hard for a Jehovah's Witness to ponder because it treads on a subject not spoken by Witnesses. That of the deity of Christ. At hand in the Jehovah's Witness arsenal, are plenty of references to Christ's humanity, but as for references that connect the sayings concerning Christ with the Old Testament sayings concerning Jehovah God, there is nothing to site in their arsenal. The Magazine just groups any notions in that direction as of the devil. As are other traditional Christian doctrines such as salvation, the promises of heaven, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Those are the verses that got to me, some as early as 11 years old. I just didn't know what to make of them and noticed them at that time. Between the ages of 12 and 18 God was preparing me to meet Him. I shouldn't have needed that long but I am thick-headed and stubborn. I would not let go of my "pet" Scripture references easily. I was sure that my view of those verses was unshakable.
I used to make my mother so proud because I always proclaimed my love for God. I never missed a meeting of the congregation every Thursday and Sunday. I would underline the answers to all of the study questions in every Watchtower issue. My mother once told me when I was about 9 or 10 years old that she thought I knew more about what the Bible really said then did any minister or pastor in any church. How that swelled my head! My mother loved me because I was learning about a God that loves me. How could I lose? I began to study all the harder. The problem I found at that very young age is that when I read the verse of Scripture referenced in the magazine, it often did not match what the paragraph was saying. At first I thought that it was me reading it wrong and for a couple of years I would run to my mother with my New World Translation open and ask her where it matched. At first it would elicit a big smile and she would do her best to tell me what she knew. Sometimes she would tell me that I would have to go to some elder at the congregation and ask them. But then the tone of her reception changed. She began to see my questions as digging too deep. I remember her telling me, "Don't ever question the Society and Jehovah!" She was so scared for me. She knew that if I kept down that road of digging into the Word of God that I was going to be turned by Satan away from the "truth". She had no idea where it would lead me.
I have no idea what it was. It was probably me reading to find those darn answers directly from the Bible that I couldn't find in the Watchtower publications that made me aware of the depth of Scripture and the shallowness of the magazines and books. I discovered how wondrous the Scripture really was. I remember when I came to the realization that the Bible was really more important than the Watchtower. That statement probably sends a chill down the back of a Witness somewhere. Why? because it brings to mind how the Magazine is held in higher regard than is the Bible itself. The Bible wasn't as important as the words of the Society to my mother. To her the Watchtower was God's way of speaking to mankind. She would get very afraid when I said things like. "Mom, why isn't there more Scripture in the Watchtower?" or "Mom, why don't the verses match what the paragraph is talking about?" or "Mom, which is more important, the Bible or the magazine?" I know, it must have seemed that I was really testing God, but I wasn't. I knew that the Witnesses taught that the magazine was a study aid to the Bible. That would make the Bible more important, wouldn't it? I came to that conclusion at a very young age and held it deep inside. I finally asked that question. My mother could take no more. "I will not stand by while you disrespect Jehovah!" She screamed at me. To her any question that involved any inspection of her religion was an affront to God Himself. I didn't ask her any more questions. But questions still remained.
I read the Bible all the more. My notion was that truth was truth. If something is true it will stand up to any question or problem that anyone has with it. If a liar speaks a truth as it was intended, the statement of truth stands. It is only if the meaning or content, or intent is changed is there cause for alarm. Stupid people can say very smart things. Anyone can point to a fact, and that does not change the fact, that a fact is still a fact. If it is not truth, there will eventually be something that will show up to reveal it. The word truth became very important to me. I remember talking to God. (My mom always told me I could talk to Him like He was a person sitting right next to me). I remember saying to Him when I was about 12 years old, "Jehovah, I want you to show me your truth. I don't care where or who gives it to me as long as it is Yours and it is in Your Bible."
That prayer I prayed as a young child was from the heart. It probably really would offend a Jehovah's Witness that reads it. I'm sorry if it did. I'm sorry if you think that Satan answered it, but you are wrong. The Bible became my study tool and I clung to it as if it were a lifeline. I began to read every day and ask no questions of my mother. That made mom very anxious. I know that she got on the phone with the woman that guided her into the Witnesses and "studied" the Bible with her. She spoke with her every day. She began to be suspicious of everything I did because, to her, I was allowing Satan to direct my thoughts. I resolved to leave home as soon as I graduated high school. I just knew that my mom would be better off without me there and I would be better off without the constant questioning screams and accusations of demon influence in my life. The day I graduated, I left my childhood home. I lived a lonely life for four years. I took up karate for some outlet to the pain. I was depressed.
I got a job with New York State and finally married in 1977. I was happy at first because this woman loved me. I was starved for love. I was thankful to a Gracious God for blessing me so. My wife was actually the first to mention the term "saved." She was similar to my mom in that at first she loved me for searching so hard to understand God but later the tone changed. She told me all she knew as if she was remembering a memorized cheat sheet. (Thinking on it later, I really didn't know if she ever had been sincere with God in asking Him into her heart as personal Lord and Savior). I told her of my childhood beliefs and she didn't know how to refute them so she cautiously encouraged me to keep looking.
From time to time, my depression returned. I had been out of karate for years by then and it was the exercise in that past time that seemed to take my depression away. I tried to find a class to attend and found none that were in my price range until I came across a class being held in the YMCA in Pittsford, New York. I got my sweats on and went to the class that held about 20 young men of college age. The teacher himself was young and very friendly. I was shy and had gained so much weight. I felt clumsy and awkward and was not paying much attention to the discussions taking place here and there in the class. All at once I heard the word witness. The young man was saying that he had gone street preaching with a friend and how he enjoyed "witnessing" in that manner. My attention was pricked. I heard in a short few minutes from various people in the group, the terms: Jehovah, evangelizing, God, and Bible. I knew these weren't Witnesses and my curiosity was on high alert because Witnesses used those same terms. "Can you tell me where you guys come from because you are using my words. Do you guys go to a church?" They all stopped and looked at me and knew all about me without me telling them a thing. I didn't know that they had met people like me before and they just smiled. I knew that I had to check them out so I said, "Where do you guys meet?"
The first time I set my foot in a church I must say I was skeptical. I had preconceived ideas of what I would find, none of which were true. The Kingdom Hall was solemn and quiet and though I heard giggling in the Hall sometimes, there was never laughter, talking happily or any lightness in the air like here. The preacher was the young karate teacher and he was preaching on the Gospel of John. Coincidence? I think not. The young church met in a little tiny clubhouse so small that the nursery was in the unheated sauna. The chairs and equipment for the whole church could fit into one closet that was unpacked and packed away after each service.
The teaching in John was verse by verse and every week that I went I learned the answers to some of the of the most perplexing things I had wondered about my whole life. Verses such as Jesus saying:
"Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment I have received from My Father." (John 10:17-18)
What was I to make of such verses? And there were a lot of them. The answers were all in the Book, just as I always believed. I went several weeks and heard the plan of salvation. I felt like I would be a hypocrite should I ask Jesus in my heart and not have some of these verses answered for me. I would ask the pastor and the pastor would give me an answer and a Bible passage to read. When one question was answered without fail another one would pop up. After the third week in a row of asking him various questions, the pastor said something very strange to me. He said, "I want you to write down any question you have on a piece of paper and if the question is not answered by the end of the service, then I will answer it for you." I didn't understand. What would writing the question down do to answer it unless I asked him about it specifically? But I did what he asked. And you know what? The question was answered within the preaching every time! I never had to ask him another question that occurred to me. And there were a lot of them, one then another, then another.
Then something began to dawn on me. Arguing about all these little points and being shown proof over and over and over, I began to realize, I was fighting with God. I knew what was being taught in that church was right. I knew that there were churches and groups of all different names and identities teaching these basic truths and I now knew what that truth was - that salvation is in Jesus Christ. I knew that there was an answer to every question and I knew that I could continue to find one argument after another, never embracing what I knew in my heart was truth - that salvation is in Jesus Christ. I did not need every one of my doubts laid to rest to believe I was a sinner and needed a Savior and Jesus was it.
I simply bowed my head and said, "Lord Jesus, I'm tired of fighting you. I know that you died to save me from my sins. I know that I can't save myself. I know that I'll continue to have questions and misunderstandings and problems but I know that you will answer them all and make it plain to me in Your time. Please forgive me and come into my heart and save me. Amen."
It was a simple prayer and I believe God saved me right then. But I also prayed it a few more times because doubts would come in from time to time, one fringe issue or another. I know now that those doubts come from Satan. I am a child of God because I see what the Bible says.
I challenge you to read Part 2. The Bible verses will speak to you. If the Bible is truly the basis for your faith then you have nothing to fear from reading it. I do love you and feel I know you for I came from you.
In Part 2. the reasons and reasoning that made me become a Christian.