My Latest Encounter with My Wonderful Jehovah’s Witnesses

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I saw them talking to my neighbor as I drove by, and knew they’d be coming for me next.

No, not the mafia.

And not the IRS.

Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Sure enough, an hour in to staining my deck, their sedan pulled in my driveway.

“Looking sharp,” I said to the twenty-something man stepping out of the driver’s seat.

“I hope it works,” he said with a genuine smile.

Michael introduced his mother and himself as coming from New Jersey to support the local church in my area. After the stock “Have you ever met missionaries like us before?” and “We’re not trying to convert anybody, we’re just giving away a free Bible study guide,” I had to hold him up as I do to every one of these wonderful people.

“Michael,” I said, “let me just level with you.”

“OK, great,” he replied. “I’d rather someone be honest than just take our stuff and throw it in the trash.”

“Here’s the deal,” I said. “First off, I’m inspired by your dedication. I have nothing but the highest respect for your willingness to drive all the way up here at your own expense for something you so deeply believe in. It’s incredible, really, and I wish more people would follow your lead.

“But for this conversation to continue, it’s going to have to be at my office, because today is my day off, and I guard my family time very carefully. See, this whole pursuit of faith is not only my life, it’s also part of my vocation. I’m a Christian Pastor down at New Life.”

His eyes suddenly grew a little wider.

“Don’t worry, bro,” I continued, “I’m not hear to slam you. But whatever conversation we’re going to have will eventually come around to one major issue that we’re not going to agree on, and that’s the divinity of Jesus.”

Michael jumped in here. “But sir, we believe in Christ’s sacrifice, and that he was a prophet, and—”

“But you don’t believe he was God, do you?”

Michael smiled. “No, we don’t.”

“See, Michael, to me, that’s the whole point. While it might be nobel for someone to lay their life down for me—certainly an act that deserves my upmost respect—if they’re just a man, then it’s an inferior sacrifice. But if God Himself surrenders his life for me, it deserves my entire allegiance.”

“Then may I ask a question?” said the mom.

“By all means,” I replied.

“Who raised Jesus from the dead then?”

“He did,” I replied. “Which I guess proves my point: Jesus’ ability to ‘raise himself up’ is evidence of his divine omnipotence.”

(For a great, fast study on this, read here. If you’re a new Christian, this core doctrine should be a part of you).

“That makes sense,” said Michael. “I can see that.”

“Michael,” I started to plead with him, “unlike what you said earlier, I am trying to convert people, and you are so close to really getting this whole thing.”

“And I’d say the same to you,” he replied.

“Except you’re asking me to come down from a superior perspective of Jesus as God!”

“I’d like to think of it as a lateral move,” he said.

“Michael, it’s the Creator making atonement with His own life for His creation. Denying that is not a lateral move.”

The mom had a hard time making eye contact with me, which made me so sad, as she seemed like a really kind woman. But Michael was looking at me, engaged. And I could feel the Holy Spirit moving.

“Well—” he fumbled a little bit, and then the mask came back up— “if you want more information about what we believe, it’s all on our website.”

He reached out to shake my hand.

Then he added what was probably the most crushing blow yet.

“You know, getting a preacher or a pastor on the other side of the door is one if the worst things for us,” Michael said. “They are so unkind. Angry. Belligerent. Thank you for speaking with us, and being kind. You’re just so polite, it’s really refreshing.”

“Michael,” I replied, shaking his hand, “I’m so sorry that’s what you encountered. That is not Jesus, and that is not Christian. Bro, if I can have grace for the drunk on the street but I can’t for you, how much of a hypocrite am I?”

“That’s so true,” he said. “Thank you, really.”

I thanked them for their time, complimented his mom on her floral blouse, and told them (with not an ounce of the irony being lost on me) that they know where to find me if they’re ever up this way again.

The challenge with any situation like this is never to see it as a competition. That kind of thinking got me in trouble long ago, and I behaved just like those preachers Michael described. Remember, Jesus already won it all; He has the tightest non-compete clause in the universe! He doesn’t need you or me to defend Him. The challenge—and the best evidence of His existence and divinity—is to love unconditionally. And that’s where so many of us miss it.

Michael may not accept the theology of Christ’s divinity yet, but he did drive away knowing that this crazy bald white guy was kind to him. That I loved him when he was on my property. And that matters more to my Christian witness than any point of doctrine, because Jesus is perfect doctrine, and without love, I’m nothing like Jesus.

ch:

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  • AnneMarie

    Thank you for sharing that, CH. I might just print it and have it handy for that next knock on my door. (to use as a guide, not to hand anyone)
    I struggle when they come to my door. My dearest friend, Donna (in CA whom you met) was a JW for 13 years and went door-to-door. I met her when she was secretly seeking the Truth (reading the Bible on your own is forbidden). When she got saved and disassociated herself from the JW’s (all of her friends and much of her family), the rejection and hurt and the awful things she was called was horrific. They shut her out completely and acted as if she were dead. This marked me and plays in the background when I open the door. I once offered to exchange literature. “I’ll read that if you read this” but they refused (it was A Letter Written to a JW with Love).
    Anyway, I am glad you posted that story and love how you handled it. Most of us just don’t know what to say…

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @AnneMarie: Thanks for the wonderful addition to this post. Love this comment. And even more, I love that Donna! I remember her fondly. I had no idea of her past (shows you just how powerful the Godhood of Jesus is in changing a life!). Glad my story could be a little help in knowing one (of many ways) that these sorts of circumstances can be handled in a truthful but loving way. Honestly, these people are some of the most devout and committed people I’ve ever met, so in terms of being disciples in it’s most fundamental form, they’re amazing—the not so minor fact, however, is the deception that they’ve been conned into. Which is tragic. I’d love to see that “A Letter Written to a JW with Love,” though—as you mentioned—they probably wouldn’t take it.

  • sarah Novak

    Absolutely brilliant. I truly believe that someday I will get to talk to Michael and he will tell me that some crazy bald white guy planted a seed that forever changed him and we will worship before the throne together. It amazes me how frequently we miss the mark and forget to simply love. Chaenged to love more fully today.

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @Sarah: Oh, hey now! I just love that thought! What a glorious, prophetic statement to make. Standing in agreement with you for that.

      And yes, simply to love—what a great commission we have. It is the bravest and most dangerous of all.

  • reenie

    Amen ! It is the same with all things love your neighbor as yourself , Often the hardest commandment, but it is second only to love God- So if God put it second he must really want us to love on his creations and find HIM in them ( even if it is only the mark of bearing his image,) we must love , Bearing his image is what we ( all humans ) have in common, The theology is different and that is important but that is (if you are a Christian ) WHO is in you – and if he is in you LOVE should always be what is found pouring out of you ( now ya know we are human and that makes us fall and fail but he is faithful – the righteous man gets up 7 times – oh how I love Grace !!!) the Beatles really did have something right LOVE is all you need .It opens doors that judgement never will – My bet is there were some great seeds sown into that young man ~ So I say it again Amen !

  • JJ Castillo

    Awesome story!

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @JJ: Thanks so much for the encouragement.

  • http://christiandfahey.wordpress.com/ Christian Fahey

    This was good, Christopher. No–REALLY good. You showed the love of God and the Christian perspective of who Jesus is not just theologically but existentially. To see Christ incarnated in another man, a minister no less, had a big impact on them, I’m sure. They saw the love and truth of God in the same encounter. Good job, bro. This is leadership. :-)

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @Christian: aside from having always wanted to have the word “existentially” directly associated with me—now a dream come true—I really do appreciate your encouragement. I guess I learned this lesson the hard way in the past, and just decided I never wanted to repeat the “lack of love in the name of being right” approach ever again. Love you.

  • Anthony

    Well worth the small amount of time it took to read this! I have seen then around my way, what an example you have set.

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @Anthony: Thanks, bro. I really appreciate your kind words, and time to read. You rock.

  • http://www.enterthedoorwithin.blogspot.com Wayne Thomas Batson

    Christopher, how do you manage to do that? I mean that’s the conversation I would have thought of an hour AFTER the JWs left my house. In the middle of the discussion, I’d have been like, “Well…uhm, you guys got it all wrong. Now let me get to my gardening.” Crap. Well played, sir. And while we’re at it, what about just showing that kind of kindness to our actual neighbors? And other Christians as well? There might be something to this love thing.

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @Wayne: Well said, bro. (And thank you for your immensely kind words; I so appreciate your encouragement). I think our need to love ‘all’ of our fellow man is so underplayed that we hardly know what the real thing looks like. One thing I was meditating on today with a friend was the very real Biblical concept of God “being love,” so much so, that it’s one of his defining characteristics in nature—in other words, he’s so loving that he IS love. Often we think of him turning this ‘off’ in order to be full of wrath or anger or any other characteristics which the Bible clearly states he can operate it. The problem is that he never actually turns off being love—that’s impossible. Rather, he IS always love, and is able to address issues (sometimes incredibly severe) while never abdicating his nature of love itself. (See Tozer in a lot of that).

  • Philip

    ‘Bro, if I can have grace for the drunk on the street but I can’t for you, how much of a hypocrite am I?”’

    Very true.

    Excellent post.

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @Phillip: Thank you, brother. Yet, of all men I know personally today, I feel you have the strongest witness of this type of lifestyle. So admire your heart.

  • SG Gates

    Hey Chris,
    My Mom is a devote Catholic. All my life whenever JW came to the door she listened to what they had to say, would take their literature and give them a donation. When dad would ask why? she always said she admired their conviction and that they were trying to make the world better in their own way. I think you portrayed that spirit well in your conversation. God Bless! Lunch soon? haha

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      You have a great mom, SG. That’s just awesome, and I believe something Jesus would do. It baffles those with religious spirits, but when we ‘put our money where our mouth is,’ it goes beyond mere belief and into the realm of deep personal conviction.

      Yes, LUNCH!

  • M Kilpatrick

    Great story! We have had the young Mormon men come to the house. We may believe differently but it does not mean that I cannot be kind(I do have great respect for their commitment) we have had them over for dinner and game night and taken them out to dinner, bought them something to drink when we saw them walking the streets etc. its because we believe differently, that the love of Christ should show forth from us. I won’t argue with them and we agree not to discuss their views in front of the kids etc. but their young men away from home for 2 years! With little contact allowed with family or free time etc.. Makes the momma in me just want to love on em, give em a good meal etc…

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @M: I just love your response here. This is excellent, and—yes—we all need a little ‘mother’ in us. After all, that’s part if the Father’s nature too! Good stuff.

  • Cathy

    Christopher – We love to love on JW and Mormons. We usually have Mormon visitors here who are young men, often homeschooled. As a family of boys who home schooled, we often have instant connection. Hot chocolate and a warm fire on a cold day, friendly conversation, owning a book of mormon… Sharing joy. Can’t be beat!!

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @Cathy: I just love it. Yes, yes, yes: this is precisely how it should be done. You should have written this post! Much better than mine. Christ incarnate!

  • http://www.shanedeal.com Shane Deal

    While I personally have not knowingly encountered those in the cults, my Mom was once a part of one called ‘The Way’, before God took her out of it. This was before I was born, I think even before she met my Dad. I think we might have had some come to the door years and years ago, but it’s been quite some time.

    As for me personally, what I do encounter more often are occultist, in one form or another. Two dear close family members who are into witchcraft, and an uncle who believes himself to be ‘a messiah’ (at least judging by his bookshelf, there is some seriously disturbing literature on it.) and so forth. That’s to say nothing about the large amount of those who seem to be a part of the new age ideas I encounter on the internet, not quite so much in person, outside the said uncle.

    For one of the family members, I admit, there was a season where I really had to sort it out how I ought to respond, I am glad, however, that any anger or frustration gave way to compassion. I really think that God enabled me with a supernatural patience, compassion, and love towards them. If that makes sense. I do think if not, I would be more inclined to be almost angry, or resentful, things more along those lines. As for the other family member, I do not interact with her as much, I suppose it’s a little easier to forget.

    So, I think I get what you mean, I’ve yet to see any noticeable changes in any of those mentioned, but I do think it’s important to love while I can. It is definitely still something that I’m still being worked through. I don’t know how it will all end.

    I think your last two paragraphs in particular hit home with me. Thank you for posting about this! As heartbreaking as it is, it is also encouraging to read.

    -Shane

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @Shane: Thanks for the additions here once again. Good stuff. Sometimes quiet love takes years to produce fruit. But as Elizabeth Elliot was famous for saying, “Our job is to be obedient. It’s God’s job to produce results.”

  • Andy M

    Awesome story, dude. :D

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @Andy: thanks, bro!

  • http://jwitness.wordpress.com/ Jay

    Interesting thought “Jesus’ ability to ‘raise himself up’ is evidence of his divine omnipotence.”

    One might want to think this through, is this logical ?
    More importantly, is this Scriptural ?

    I put up a link to this page on my site for others to peruse and contemplate.

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @Jay: Thanks for chiming in here. Obviously you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, and my story couldn’t be more central to your experience. As I discussed above, yes, the concept of Christ raising Himself from the dead is Biblical. As previously stated above, here’s a great, simple article on it to help you: http://carm.org/jesus-raise-himself

  • Abby

    Why did you not meantion that the father and holy spirityn raised jesus also?

    • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

      @Abby: Thanks for the insightful comment. Neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit were intentionally left out in my reply, and should be assumed—on the basis that the very definition of God in the Christian world-view represents the full trinity—to be included in the raising of Christ. My emphasis here was merely to distinguish in their point of contention that Jesus did not have a part in raising himself, which he most certainly did, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as you astutely pointed out.

      For anyone else reading, I’d recommend a good reading of AW Tozer’s “Knowledge of the Holy,” and specifically his chapter on The Holy Trinity. See excerpt below:

      The resurrection of Christ is likewise attributed variously to the Father (Acts 2:32), to
      the Son (John 10:17-18), and to the Holy Spirit (Rom. 1:4). The salvation of the
      individual man is shown by the apostle Peter to be the work of all three Persons of the
      Godhead (1 Pet. 1:2), and the indwelling of the Christian man’s soul is said to be by the
      Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-23).

  • punkynco

    Vary nice article. It was a breath mint to my mouth. i grew up amongst Jehovah’s people. To have the perspective that you do, is positive. There is a spiritual battle, and there is one more thing we can agree on, Jehovah does not care about what we believe but that we believe. He will let us know when the time comes. There is a spiritual battle going on, and if we work together and encourage one another positively, good will prevail!:)

    • Christopher Hopper

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m honored you’d read, and inspired by your encouragement, especially given your background.

      Yes, there is most definitely a spiritual battle going on. And I’m excited to see the light of King Jesus drawing more people every day.

      To paraphrase the great CS Lewis, there are so many people in other religions who, while not yet Christians, are being drawn to elements of their religion that are uniquely Christian, and abandoning other elements that are not. If we can help them when we encounter them, like my precious JWs, then we’ll make it easier for them to make the leap when it’s time.