Throughout my life I have been shunned by many many people.. friends and relatives. For what reason? Well that’s one of the problems of shunning.. they rarely tell you. To tell you would be communication, which is what they are avoiding.. so it’s a catch 22 situation, and incredibly hurtful and un loving.. which is why I have considered shunners the least respected people in society and something I vowed never to do.. until now..
The Friday and Saturday night ‘steps’ outreach I have been involved in has been going great this year. We talk to a lot of people about God and have someone commit their life every few weeks. Recently there has been another person on the scene that came up to me to talk about the importance having a Bible with the name ‘Jehovah’ in it, rather than the standard modern translation of ‘Lord’. Yep, he was a ‘Jehovah’s Witness’ (JHW).
I had never chatted with a JHW before, except once (years ago) when some came to my door and I asked them what the difference was between what they believed and regular Christianity, and they didn’t know. They said they would ask their pastor and come back and tell me.. but they never returned and I never thought about it any further. So when this guy came up to talk to me I was curious to understand more about who they were.
He said he was just interested in open discussions of the scriptures but as we talked it seemed more instructional than discussional, and it chewed up a lot of time. I did some research and discovered JHW’s don’t consider Jesus part of the trinity of God, Hell not to exist and the Gifts of the Spirit to be dead and finished.. among many other very worrying doctrines. I tried to discuss it with him but he kept referring back to key verses that he said you had to know the original Greek to understand. For every point I made he had a counter point ready. I felt like he was using a telesales call centre phone script which pre plan conversational flow charts for every variant and response to keep the customer on track for the sale. In fact he had just that.. a guide book to argue JHW theology, which he later showed me.
While I like to discuss God with anyone, the amount of time (hours each week) he was taking up was becoming a problem because it was drawing me, and others, away from the ministry outreach we were there for. But he kept interrupting us despite our requests to be left alone during our outreach. And so he changed from ‘Pharisee’ (someone more interested in arguing theology than acting it out) to a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ (someone appearing Godly and Christian motivated but actively/deliberately having a negative effect on the outreach gospel message work).
At first when the pastor I was outreaching with asked me not to spend time with him, I wasn’t convinced it was the right response. But it took time for the JHW’s true nature to come out (Deception, Distraction and a Devaluation of the God I believe in). I told him I didn’t mind him being there but I asked him not to interrupt me during my outreach as it was no longer an appropriate time or place to talk to him. Then I took it to God in prayer about how to handle the situation.
Surprisingly I got a very clear response back from God that I was ‘not to engage him’. Despite my previous feelings on shunning (and I think there are many problems of interpretation and application in reference to the ‘Expel the immoral brother’ Biblical passage..) I have a much stronger position.. and that is to follow God’s instructions when they are clearly given. I viewed myself as a warrior on a battlefield, and although I felt strong enough to handle the enemy I was facing, I needed to submit to the general’s command of when to advance and, when to retreat. So the next week when JHW came up to talk to me I said “God has told me not to engage you” and he replied “How could he do that? God doesn’t interact with humans..” I almost chocked. The whole Bible is God interacting with Humans! I responded “That’s your view, not mine” and walked away.
The following week I had a dream. The JHW got into an argument with a steps pastor and it became a physical fight. Then I went and talked to the JHW church and explained that Jehovah is also know as Father and a father interacts with his children. Jesus is known as Friend and friends communicate with each other. And the Holy Spirit is know as Councillor and councillors talk to their clients. So by their very names the God Trinity is defined as a God of interaction. In the dream the JHW Church listened and agreed there was no argument against that line of reasoning, but nor were they interested in changing.
So last weekend we were out on the steps again, and even as people stopped to listen to our testimonies the JHW guy would come up to them and draw them away from listening to us. And when we would be talking directly to people he would step in and question what we were saying. At one point the JHW guy had bumped into the Pastor as he pushed his way into the Pastors conversation with someone, and so the Pastor gave the JHW a paper print out listing the verses that refer to the Trinity and Hell, to which the JHW guy responded that he was going to sue him..
So I am beginning to see the wisdom in God’s instruction in this case. I see the possibility that shunning may have a role, but only after very careful prayer and consideration. It is a very dangerous and destructive tool when inappropriately applied (I did give the curtesy of explaining ‘why’ to the person I applied it to). Now I have to have Faith that the matter is in God’s hands to deal with, and focus on those who’s hearts God has prepared: to sow the good seed.