The organization that we were a part of has a definite structure of rules. Many of these rules go “beyond the things written” (1 Corinthians 4:6). It must be admitted that this structure helped some spiritually immature ones avoid some harmful things. However, the same structure stunted the growth of our conscience.
Many of the rules that the Society has were conscience issues at one time. Then in the mistaken belief that devising a rule would help the brothers keep from sinning, rules were instituted. Later over the course of time more was added on these rules and some of them even became disfellowshipping offenses. In many cases the leaders of the org. have tried to enforce their own conscience on to others.
The result of the enforcement of a large body of rules is that the conscience of many JWs never gets a chance to develop. When a question arises over how they should act in a given circumstance they check the publications to see what has been said about it. If the matter has not been dealt with in the publications then many JWs think there is no harm in it. To give an example of this one brother told me that he wouldn’t watch boxing because the Society has spoken against it, but he was a fan of UFC fights that are much more violent than boxing because at the time the publications said nothing about UFC fights. Would you say that this brother had a stunted conscience?
When many JWs leave the organization they don’t know how to determine right from wrong since their conscience has never developed. They were simply following rules. The fear that someone would report them to the elders if they did something wrong was enough to keep them inline. Now however that fear has been taken away along with the structure of rules. They are adrift without any anchor so many simply adopt the relative morality of society in general.
Other ex-JW Christians struggle with other conscience issues such as: Should I vote or become involved in politics in any way? Can I celebrate birthdays, Christmas and other holidays? What type of entertainment should I choose? Should I become involved with a church so as to have fellowship with a group of Christians? These are but a small sample of the many questions that all of us face. We must take personal responsibility for our decisions and not simply leave the choices to an organization or other church.
If you are reading this chances are you are already experiencing increased freedom. For some right now at present it is only mental freedom from the shackles of Watchtower narrow mindedness and indoctrination. For others the freedom is more tangible. How will we use this freedom?
Galatians 5:13,14 ” For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Jews under the Law were under a rigid system of do’s and don’ts. Paul here tells the Galatians that they were free. There was no longer a rigid system of rule keeping that would gain God’s approval. Curiously many of the Galatians were seeking to be put under the Law with it’s rigid requirements, just like today some seek out a highly structured system of rules. In reality they were free from those rules, but they were not to use that freedom to work the desires of the flesh. What are the desires of the flesh?
Vs. 19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”
The freedom the Galatians had and we also have is the freedom to serve one another through love. Instead of checking the publications to see if something is alright we know that if a certain act shows love to others and our Creator than we are free to participate in it. Does a certain act show selfishness, pride, or intensify our desires of the flesh? Then the mature Christian wisely avoids it.
Once the conscience is mature it isn’t necessary to consult some Watchtower publication to see how we should act in a certain situation, nor will we need the threat of being reported to some congregational authority as pressure to do what is right. We are a free people in Christ. We do not put our conscience under some other person’s authority nor do we set ourselves up as an authority to dictate to others how they should handle conscience matters. We may give advice but we wisely leave the decision to each individual.
Galatians 5:1 ” For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Romans 14:1 “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.”
Romans 14:4 “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”
Romans 14:10 “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;”
Of course while exercising our Christian freedom we will wisely avoid stumbling weaker ones (Romans 14:13-23).
Being spiritual adults also has much to do with our choice of personal study. Babies are spoon-fed and swallow whatever is put into their mouths. Adults are more discerning about what they choose to eat. When we were followers of the Watchtower we were spoon-fed and we generally swallowed whatever was given us. If the organization taught something or made a change in teaching or in procedure, we swallowed it down without considering if it was scriptural or not. The Society made numerous changes on blood issues. What did we do? We swallowed. The Society said that the generation of Matt 24 was in actuality an overlapping generation that started in 1914 and will end sometime in the future. What did we do? We swallowed. The Society said that God talks through them and uses them as his sole channel. What did we do? We swallowed. Don’t get higher education! Swallow. All outside the organization are worldly and condemned by God. Swallow.
Now we are becoming more discerning. We no longer believe someone just because they say something. We check it for ourselves in the bible. We now accept personal responsibility for our decisions, what we believe, and what we teach others.
Truly knowing our Father and His son requires work. Instead of being lazy as to bible reading and study, we realize that having a mature, accurate understanding of the bible requires effort. We probably realize now that our understanding of the bible as a JW was superficial and very incomplete. We realize that in a number of doctrinal issues things aren’t black and white. Two mature, knowledgable Christians may have different viewpoints on a number of issues. Spiritual adulthood will help us to smooth over these differences and not cease fellowship because of them.
The road to Christian maturity can be a difficult one and we may periodically backslide, but let us put away the traits of a babe and walk as spiritual men and women.
For more see the article: http://www.jwstruggle.com/2011/03/christian-maturity/