Just one more thing: Note of encouragement
In the Sept. 17 Worldwide News, I published a "Just One More Thing" column titled "Do You Have It Made?" I mentioned that some close friends of mine had been disfellowshipped, and I reminded readers of the need to be constantly vigilant about using God's Spirit to grow and overcome. Otherwise we can put ourselves in danger of dying spiritually.
Judging from the surprising letters I received in response to that column, I need to explain a couple of often-misunderstood points and add a word of special encouragement.
The disfellowshipped person is like someone who has stumbled into quicksand. He was, along with many companions (symbolically, others in the Church), traveling through a swamp (spiritually, this world). He was in the swamp, but was not to become part of it! He should have realized the danger he was in and taken precautions to walk only on the most solid ground he could find.
Instead, he got off the solid ground. Perhaps he grew tired of watching carefully. Perhaps something — a personal sin, for instance — distracted him. Maybe he listened to the insidious but seductive voices of any of hundreds of enemies of God's Church.
He wandered onto unstable ground — and then found himself sinking in the quicksand, his eternal spiritual life in danger! He cut himself off from the rest of his companions (the Church).
His companion s (symbolically, the rest of the Church, led by the ministry under Jesus Christ) saw his deadly predicament and became alarmed. The ministry was forced to warn the other brethren to stay away from the quicksand victim and the area he was in, lest they be dragged under by the same satanic trap into which he fell.
Hope for the disfellowshipped Of course, if the now-disfellowshipped member rivets his attention on avoiding spiritual death and wants to regain solid ground again, to rejoin the other members in the Church, the ministry may be able to throw him a rope, figuratively, and help pull him out. Christ will not give up on anyone who sincerely wants to overcome and qualify for the Kingdom of God.
A person who finds himself in this condition — and some such may be reading this article — is not hostile to God and God's Church. If he sincerely repents, he can be restored to full membership and fellowship with God's people, and he can still be born into God's Kingdom at the return of Jesus Christ.
There is something other members, too, can do to help disfellowshipped people pull themselves back in! We can and should pray to God on their behalf!
Two types One disfellowshipped member wrote me and said that disfellowshipped members actually fall into two categories — those who are hostile to God's Church and those who are striving to repent.
He commented: "I think all too often, the [latter group], striving to be repentant people, are forgotten about... I believe we're all lumped together as outcasts, I believe some of us are striving to change our lives so that one day we can again be privileged to be a member of God's Church."
The apostle Jude instructed faithful Christians to be concerned with brethren caught in the deadly quicksand of personal sins, worldly temptations and satanic influence: "And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude 23).
Paul wrote: " Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1-2).
Of disfellowshipped people, Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong has written: "We should PRAY for such former members. Jesus said to pray even for our enemies. I do pray for all such. I pray God will BLESS THEM — with whatever He in His supreme wisdom knows is BEST FOR THEM — even though that may be severe PUNISHMENT!
Punishment in love "God punishes every son whom He loves. God's punishment is NEVER REVENGE or desire to hurt and enjoy their suffering. It is always CORRECTIVE! It is for the purpose of HELPING them — of BLESSING them! God still does it in LOVE for the one punished!"
We all need to share this same love that God Himself expresses toward all those He calls.
Perhaps some of us aren't as conscious of this responsibility as we should be, especially as it relates to those disfellowshipped. Jesus Christ would like to reclaim them (Luke 15:10). Mr. Armstrong prays for them. We all should express God's love toward them, as Paul said of the repentant sinner in Corinth (II Corinthians 2:8). We do this through prayer.
We are now in the homestretch of the final lap of this near 2,000-year Christian race, lunging forward toward the finish line. It's time for all of us, in whatever situation we find ourselves, to stop playing games and make our calling and election sure (II Peter 1:10).
Hostile ex-members, think about the choice you are making and ask God for the humility to admit that you are wrong.
Disfellowshipped but repentant brethren, take heart that your disfellowshipment is an act of God's merciful government to help you; strive with all your being to overcome and make your life what God wants it to be.
Faithful members, follow where Jesus Christ leads and stay away from the quicksand. Pray fervently for every aspect of God's work, for Mr. Armstrong, the ministry and all your brethren, including those disfellowshipped, who can still repent and be saved if they wake up.
Everybody, "pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17). The end of the age is at hand!