Jehovah's Witnesses are among the religious groups that practice extreme shunning of former members. Of all the Watchtower Society's legalistic doctrines, this one is perhaps the most responsible for uprising among former members against the Organization that has resulted in exhaustive examination and exposés of their flawed teachings and history.
Former members who disavow faith in the Watchtower organization's doctrines are branded "apostates." Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that they must hate such ones. An article titled "Search Through Me, O God" appeared in the October 1, 1993 Watchtower. Speaking about "apostates" on page 19, beginning with paragraph 15, we read:
15 Regarding them, the psalmist said: "Do I not hateAn article in The Watchtower, September 15, 1981, on page 29 under the heading "DISFELLOWSHIPED RELATIVES NOT LIVING AT HOME" has this to say (beginning at paragraph 18):
those who are intensely hating you, O Jehovah, and do I
not feel a loathing for those revolting against you? With a
complete hatred I do hate them. They have become to
me real enemies." (Psalm 139:21, 22) It was because
they intensely hated Jehovah that David looked on them
with abhorrence. Apostates are included among those
who show their hatred of Jehovah by revolting against him.
Apostasy is, in reality, a rebellion against Jehovah. Some
apostates profess to know and serve God, but they reject
teachings or requirements set out in his Word. Others
claim to believe the Bible, but they reject Jehovah's
organization and actively try to hinder its work. When they
deliberately choose such badness after knowing what is
right, when the bad becomes so ingrained that it is an
inseparable part of their makeup, then a Christian must
hate (in the Biblical sense of the word) those who have
inseparably attached themselves to the badness. True
Christians share Jehovah's feelings toward such
apostates; they are not curious about apostate ideas. On
the contrary, they "feel a loathing" toward those who have
made themselves God's enemies, but they leave it to
Jehovah to execute vengeance.--Job 13:16; Romans
12:19; 2 John 9, 10.
18 The second situation that we need to consider is thatSee also the reference to this article on page 20 of The Watchtower, November 15, 1988.
involving a disfellowshiped or disassociated relative who is
not in the immediate family circle or living at one's home.
Such a person is still related by blood or marriage, and so
there may be some limited need to care for necessary
family matters. Nonetheless, it is not as if he were living
in the same home where contact and conversation could
not be avoided. We should keep clearly in mind the
Bible's inspired direction: "Quit mixing in company with
anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy
person . . . , not even eating with such a man."--1 Cor.
The primary scripture for consideration is:
But now I am writing you to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.--1.Cor. 5:11 (NWT)The text is clear that a person with whom the congregation should not mix company is one who is:
There were two kinds of association for religious worship:
1) public meetings, such as at the temple and in synogogues, which anyone was allowed to attend; and
2) private gatherings of the different sects.
Christians and Jews participated in both. Christians, met in private homes, usually over a special meal with prayer. A presiding minister hosted the meal using either fellowship funds or personal funds. (Acts 20:20; see the footnote in older editions of the NWT)
Christians were instructed to "greet" one another with a kiss.
(Rom.16:16; 1.Cor.16:20; 2Cor.13:12; Ti.3:15; 1Pet.5:14)
When Paul sent his "greetings" in a letter to the Christians in Thessalonica,
he requested that the "brothers" be greeted by a "holy kiss" on his behalf. (1Thess.5:26)
It was by this sign that Judas betrayed Jesus. (Luke 22:47,48)
Clearly, Paul did instruct Christians to expel from the congregation's fellowship any person who was purposely practicing willful sin. The disassociation would quite naturally exclude them from being greeted by the identifying "holy kiss," as well as not being allowed to share in meetings and the meals for Christian worship and prayer. However, Paul's instruction did not prohibit normal conversation or witnessing to former members. Nor were they barred from attending worship in the temple or the synagogues. Jesus, the apostles and Paul, along with the rest of the Jews, worshipped God both publicly in the temple and synagogues, and privately with small groups in various homes. (Acts 5:42) It was from the private Christian fellowship for worship that sinners were excluded.
What of 2 John 10,11?
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.--2 John 11 (NWT)The above scripture is not about people who have been expelled from the Christian congregation. When read in context, it is about anyone who "does not bring this teaching" [of the Christ]. Because they held congregation meetings in their homes (which might be little more than a dug-out or tent outside the city walls of Jerusalem), in their culture their neighbors might view inviting a non-Christian into the home as the Christian sharing worship with non-Christians.
How did Jesus say one expelled from congregation should be treated?
Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he does not listen to them, speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations ['Gentile' in some translations] and as a tax collector.--Matt.18:15-17 (NWT)
Next, while passing along from there, Jesus caught sight of a man named Matthew seated at the tax office, and he said to him: "Be my follower." Thereupon he did rise up and follow him. Later, while he was reclining at the table in the house, look! many tax collectors and sinners came and began reclining with Jesus and his disciples. But on seeing this the Pharisees began to say to his disciples: "Why is it that your teacher eats with tax collectors and sinners?" Hearing [them], he said: "Persons in health do not need a physician, but the ailing do. Go, then, and learn what this means, 'I want mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came to call, not righteous people, but sinners."
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."--1 Tim.5:8 (NIV)Even for the rest, Paul counseled against abandoning those separated from the congregation:
For your part, brothers, do not give up in doing right. But if anyone is not obedient to our word through this letter, keep this one marked, stop associating with him, that he may become ashamed. And yet do not be considering him as an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.Instruction in the undistributed elders' guide
"Normally, a close relative would not be disfellowshipped for associating with a disfellowshipped person unless there is spiritual association or an effort made to excuse the wrongful course."--"Flock book", page 103, last paragraph.Despite this documented exclusion, Jehovah's Witnesses the world over are taught that to please Jehovah God they must shun their siblings, their children, and even their parents who either choose to leave or are disfellowshipped--especially if the crime is variance with Watchtower doctrine for which they are branded "apostates." And it is a fact that many Witnesses have been disfellowshipped for refusing to shun their disfellowshipped relatives.
The law of love
If the law of Christianity can be summed up in one word, it is "LOVE." Does not love rescue and recover the sinner? Would Jesus shun the sheep who strayed from the flock?
Now all the tax collectors and the sinners kept drawing near to him to hear him. Consequently both the Pharisees and the scribes kept muttering saying: "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Then he spoke this illustration to them, saying: "What man of you with a hundred sheep, on losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine behind in the wilderness and go for the lost one until he finds it? And when he has found it he puts it upon his shoulders and rejoices. And when he gets home he calls his friends and his neighbors together, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.' I tell you that thus there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who have no need of repentance.--Luke 15:1-7 (NWT)Note that the sheep did not have to come back and find the shepherd, the shepherd went after the lost sheep.
Let us pray that the Watchtower Society will soon be blessed with "new light" on their policy of extremist shunning of former members, thereby liberating thousands--both within and out of the organization--from the heart-strickening anguish imposed by this cruel, unjust, and unscriptural dogma.
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