Love, Worldly Style
Photo courtesy of The Halfway Point.
I was raised to believe that the "world alienated from God," (read: the realm of non-Jehovah's Witnesses) is an ugly, selfish, brutish place. As you might guess, I was in for a surprising -- though not rude -- awakening.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not bitter about this. I received more than my share of love and hospitality from the Witnesses. Once, when vacationing with my family in Italy, we were at the end of our trip and barely had money to get home. Then we missed our flight out of Milan and had to stay an extra night. An elderly Witness brought us into her home, fed us and even offered us money on the way out the door. Except for the fact that we shared the same religion she didn't know us from Adam. I will never forget her guileless open-handedness.
At the same time, however, I can also share stories of betrayal and mean-spiritedness. Both kindness and unkindness can be found among the Witnesses -- just as in the world at large. Which is to say, in my experience, there isn't much difference between Witness culture and "the world."
After I was disfellowshipped, I tried vigorously to return. For a couple of years, I pursued an intense program of counseling and treatment (along with a near-perfect record of meeting attendance) in an effort to overcome character flaws that I was sure would bar me from gaining everlasting life. While putting 20 or more hours each week into these activities, something strange began to happen. Non-Witnesses that I had occasion to interact with began to appear in a new light. It wasn't that my faith was weakening, because I was still convinced that Jehovah's Witnesses worshiped "the only true God"; rather, those individuals showed me love, unselfconsciously sharing their time and material possessions with me, gladly putting up with my imperfections (not least of which was my smug air of religious superiority) for no benefit to themselves, except to pay forward love that had been shown them. Such experiences happened over and over again. It was overwhelming.
The words attributed to Jesus at Mark 10:29 became more true for me than ever: “Truly I say to YOU men, No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time." (NWT) True, I hadn't left the Witnesses for the "sake of the good news," but I did accept my disfellowshipping as part of God's will for me (as I experienced God at that time), and my life sprouted more "brothers" and "sisters" than I know what to do with.
"[Some people] claim that anger and hatred are so much a part of human nature that humanity will always be dominated by them. I do not agree. ... I believe that if ... the human mind had been primarily controlled by anger and hatred, our overall population would have decreased. But today, despite all our wars, we find that the human population is greater than ever. This clearly indicates to me that love and compassion predominate in the world. And this is why unpleasant events are "news"; compassionate activities are so much a part of daily life that they are taken for granted and, therefore, largely ignored."