This is the second of three posts highlighting stances that I believe can hinder the spread of the Gospel.
A while back I hosted a booth at a local Festival of Cultures. Next to me was a Jehovah’s Witness (JW) booth, allowing me time to become acquainted with them.
One of them, a woman about 60 years old, was showing me materials in the Nepali language, which she had learned as there has been an influx of people of Nepal and Bhutan in my area. Another JW in her group learned Kunama, a language of a minority group in the country of Eritrea. As many Kunama Eritreans have also come to this area as refugees, the other JW learned Kunama in order to do more effective outreach. Wow, I can’t imagine learning Nepali or Kunama in order to more effectively share your faith!
In fact, I was told that the JW Bible—New World Translation, and their other materials, are translated into 1000 languages.
As I marveled among some Christian friends about JWs’ amazing efforts, one of them shot it down as all a waste, believing that the JW belief system is completely false. I would have agreed, several years ago. I do have much concern about JW theology, especially as they deny that God is tri-une—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and as they believe that Jesus is less than Jehovah/God (New World Translation—“In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god” (John 1:1). That was significantly changed from these words in John 1:1 of the Bible—“…and the Word was God.” New World Translation—“Because it is in him (Jesus) that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9). That was changed from these words in Colossians 2:9 of the Bible—“all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”)
BUT, I don’t see their evangelistic commitment and fervor as a waste, for the following reasons: 1) For starters, I don’t consider a person a non-Christian based only on them being JW. My friend, Ongee, is a devout JW. After much discussion, while I am concerned about his JW theology, I heard from Ongee on several occasions that he loves Jesus as his Savior, and as the divine Son of God who effectively died on the cross for his sins. Based on that, and his deep devotion to Jehovah and to Jesus, I consider Ongee my brother in Christ. 2) JWs’ amazing commitment to the work of sharing their message with the world is inspiring. If the average Christian increased their level of sharing the Gospel to equal just 25% of a JW’s commitment, the world would be hugely impacted. 3) From my experience of communicating with JW(s), they do not touch on the subtle, yet important, differences of their theology very quickly in their outreach. Therefore, it’s not like everyone becomes a JW upon hearing from a JW, yet they probably do hear Gospel. So, seeds of Gospel may be sown into their lives, perhaps by a JW’s visit, and hopefully they will eventually join a Bible-believing church and grow there.
For most of my life I have leveled this same skepticism upon Mormons—as if what they teach is wrong, and a waste, without really knowing them. Recently, I read this link—https://mormonbeliefs.org/mormon_beliefs/who-is-jesus-christ/. It seems to me that they believe Jesus Christ is the Creator, the Redeemer, he is eternal, he is the Son of God and of the virgin Mary, and he died on the cross and resurrected from death in effectively saving us from sin if we repent of our sins. At the beginning of the article in that link, the author describes Mormons as Christians, and from the description of their understandings about Jesus, I am not going to deny that.
I have concerns about Mormons’ other scriptures, including The Book of Mormon, which was written by Joseph Smith in 1832, and the canonical authority that they give to it. I have concerns about some of what is written in the linked article above, especially in the teachings about Jesus which are not in what I believe is the only canonical Word of God—the Bible. But, regarding the number of books in the Bible, as a Protestant Christian, my Bible has 66 books, Catholics, whom we generally regard as Christians, have 73 books in their Bible, and Ethiopian Orthodox, whom we regard as Christians, have 88 books in their Bible. Those extra books, in part, have definitely been cause for different theological understandings, about which, interestingly, we don’t get very concerned. Hummm….maybe we get most alarmed by Mormons, and JW(s), because they are just that—“Mormons” and “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
As well, I hear that Mormons and JW(s) are very legalistic, but from what I’ve read, they believe they are saved by God’s grace, through Jesus Christ. By the way, I also get too legalistic.
In closing, I think it is a hindrance to the spread of the Gospel to be, in my opinion, overly skeptical toward, and ignorant of, others, therefore splintered as people of God. People who do not believe in God see this and rightfully think, “God might seem good, but his people are so disunified. I don’t know that I want to be part of that.” Or, they might think, “JW(s) and Mormons seem to live out what they believe, and they are kind, yet some “Christians” who don’t live out what they say they believe, and who can be jerks, tell me to stay away from those Mormons. I don’t get it.” As well, by disregarding JW(s) and Mormons, we don’t allow ourselves to be inspired by their commitment, and to perhaps learn from their methodology; Mormonism is the fastest growing faith group in American history.
Thought questions: 1) About whom have you been spiritually skeptical? Why? 2) Is there a place and time for being spiritually skeptical? When and where? 3) How can a person be freed, at least spiritually, from having feelings of skepticism and suspicion toward others?