53. Loosening the Ties That Bind
God’s words say, “For the sake of your fate, you should seek the approval of God. This is to say, since you acknowledge that you are a member of the house of God, you ought then to bring peace of mind to God and satisfy Him in all things. You must, in other words, be principled in your actions and conform to the truth in them. If this is beyond you, then you shall be detested and rejected by God and spurned by every man. Once you have fallen into such a predicament, you cannot then be counted among the house of God, which is precisely what it is meant by not being approved of by God” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Three Admonitions). From God’s words we see what He requires of us: to be principled in our actions and adhere to the truth so we may gain His approval and satisfy Him in all things. I failed to do this before, largely because I was ruled by my emotions, always living by and acting on my feelings. Though it never looked like I was doing any evil, my actions went against the principles of the truth and this hindered the church’s work. But after God judged and chastised me with His words, I began to understand the nature and consequences of acting this way. I could then approach things with the right motives instead of relying on emotion, and I could put God’s words into practice.
Last November when my duty was as a church leader, there was a poll on how well the group leader of every gathering place was doing. From the responses, I saw that the group leader Sister Li was always careless in her duty and that if any of her faults were pointed out, she would not only refuse to accept the truth, but argued. When others had difficulties, she wouldn’t help them by fellowshiping on the truth, but instead would lecture them in a condescending way and constrain them. … After reading all this, I knew that based on the principles, she had to be replaced. But we had the same hometown and had worked together in our duties before. We had always been close and she had looked after me a lot. If I dismissed her, would she think I was heartless? A couple of years before she’d been removed from her post as church leader, and she had barely been able to drag herself out of negativity. If another position were taken from her, wouldn’t that be an even greater blow? Would she be able to handle it? I figured I needed to fellowship with her right away so she could see how precarious her situation was. I thought if she could turn things around in time, then she might keep her post. So, I reached out to Sister Li in fellowship about her issues but discovered she didn’t have any real self-awareness. I gave it everything I had in that fellowship with her, and afterward she became willing to change, to reflect, and I finally breathed a sigh of relief. I thought if I could say a few kind words about her to co-workers, maybe she could keep doing that duty.
Later on while discussing work, a few co-workers said Sister Li never accepted the truth and they all agreed to replace her. Hearing this sent me into turmoil. I thought, “Sister Li has some issues, but she is ready to change, so can’t you give her another chance?” Just then Sister Zhou said, “Sister Li has been in this state for a while now. She fellowships well, but she doesn’t practice what she says. There’s just absolutely no change. She’s not well-suited for this post.” I rushed to chime in, “Sister Li has a hard time accepting the truth, but she’s really proactive and responsible in her duty. Just recently some brothers and sisters had been passive in their duties and she got them motivated.” Sister Bai responded immediately, “Sister Li looks like she’s always rushing around, being really proactive, but in fact she’s doing it all for show, and she can’t resolve real issues.” What they’d said was all true, and I could say nothing in response. Another church leader, Sister Zhang, then said, “It’s true that Sister Li is not well-suited to being a group leader, but we don’t have a suitable candidate to replace her just now. Let’s keep her in place until we can find a good replacement.” This was exactly what I wanted, so I rushed to add, “I agree. Let’s replace her when someone else comes along.” To my surprise, less than a week later, Sister Zhou brought the issue up again after we’d finished discussing church work. She said that Brother Chen was a good choice, and a few other co-workers agreed. My heart leapt into my throat. If Brother Chen were selected as a group leader, Sister Li would be dismissed. So I said some things about Brother Chen’s corruptions and deficiencies, and said he wasn’t fit for the job. Everyone then started to falter and I felt a little uneasy, but still didn’t seek the truth.
My leader later asked me to give her a rundown on the group leaders, and when I got to Sister Li, I didn’t accurately reflect the brothers’ and sisters’ assessment of her. I felt vaguely troubled after she left. I wondered why I’d been speaking on Sister Li’s behalf, always worrying about her. Wasn’t I showing her favoritism? What kind of motive was controlling me? I then read these words of God: “What, primarily, is emotionality? It is a corrupt disposition. If we use a few words to describe the practical aspects of emotionality, they are favoritism and being biased toward protecting certain people, maintaining relationships of the flesh, and not being just; these are what emotionality is. Thus, casting off one’s emotionality does not simply mean no longer thinking about someone. Ordinarily, you might not think about them at all, but then as soon as someone criticizes your family members, your hometown, or anyone with whom you have a relationship, you blow up and are dead set to go to bat for them. You feel absolutely compelled to turn around what has been said about them; you cannot allow them to be subjected to an unredressed wrong. You feel a need to do your utmost to uphold their reputation, make everything wrong seem right, and not allow others to tell the truth about them or expose them. This is injustice, and it is called being emotional” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. What Is Truth Reality?). “If people lack reverence for God, and if God has no place in their hearts, then they can never act on principle no matter what duties they are fulfilling or what problems they are dealing with. People living within their intentions and selfish desires are incapable of entering truth reality. For this reason, whenever they encounter a problem, they do not cast a critical eye over their intentions and cannot recognize where their intentions are erroneous. Instead, they use all kinds of justifications to manufacture lies and excuses for themselves. They do quite a good job of protecting their own interests, reputation, and interpersonal relationships, but they have not, in fact, established any relationship with God” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Attitude Man Should Have Toward God).
God’s words show how in the face of problems, we can’t act fairly according to the principles of the truth, and we don’t distinguish between right and wrong, favoring and protecting those we’re connected to, or who benefit us. This is acting on emotion. When we are ruled by emotion, whether in our duty or dealing with a problem, we just think about our fleshly feelings and personal interests without practicing the truth or doing our duty well at all. That’s the state I was in. I didn’t want to dismiss Sister Li because I was acting on my emotions. I was protecting our relationship and was afraid she’d be upset with me. So when co-workers wanted to adhere to the principles and replace her, I did everything I could to protect her so she could keep her position. When I gave the leader my assessment of her, I downplayed it, covered up for her out of favoritism, and used a smokescreen. Looking back, I saw that my motives and intentions were all ruled by emotion. I was living in the corrupt disposition of cunning and deceit, willing to compromise the interests of God’s house to protect a relationship, ready to offend God before offending a person. I was totally lacking reverence for God; I was so selfish and despicable! I felt so guilty about all this, so I immediately went to the leader to tell her the truth. Afterward, I prayed and reached out to God: “Why am I always driven by emotion, unable to practice the truth? What is the root of this problem?”
One day in my devotionals, I read these words from God: “Born into such a filthy land, man has been severely blighted by society, he has been influenced by feudal ethics, and he has been taught at ‘institutes of higher learning.’ The backward thinking, corrupt morality, mean view on life, despicable philosophy for living, utterly worthless existence, and depraved lifestyle and customs—all of these things have severely intruded upon man’s heart, and severely undermined and attacked his conscience. As a result, man is ever more distant from God, and ever more opposed to Him. Man’s disposition becomes more vicious by the day, and there is not a single person who will willingly give up anything for God, not a single person who will willingly obey God, nor, moreover, a single person who will willingly seek the appearance of God. Instead, under the domain of Satan, man does nothing but pursue pleasure, giving himself over to the corruption of the flesh in the land of mud. Even when they hear the truth, those who live in darkness give no thought to putting it into practice, nor are they inclined to seek out God even if they have beheld His appearance. How could a mankind so depraved have any chance of salvation? How could a mankind so decadent live in the light?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God). I then realized that acting on emotion mostly comes from being misled and corrupted by Satan. Through school education and social influences, the devil Satan steeps people in all sorts of worldly philosophies and laws of survival like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Blood is thicker than water,” and “Man is not inanimate; how can he be free from emotions?” I’ve lived by these philosophies, seeing protecting those close to me as something positive, and seeing sympathy and pity as being loving. As for Sister Li being replaced, I kept thinking we were from the same place and that she always looked after me, so when she was facing being dismissed I thought I should help her and speak for her. I thought that was the right thing to do. I knew she didn’t really carry a burden for her duty as group leader but often lectured others and controlled them. Not replacing her would have harmed the brothers and sisters and impacted the church’s work. But I went against the principles of the truth and disregarded the interests of God’s house, doing all I could to protect her and keep her in her post. I exploited my duty to preserve our relationship and used the church’s work to repay her kindness to me. I was exploiting my power and duty for my own personal gain. As a leader, I should have been thinking of the church’s work and brothers’ and sisters’ life entry, and acting by the principles of the truth in my duty. But I was placing sentiment above all, well aware of the truth, but not practicing it. Wasn’t that betraying the truth and principles, and taking church work lightly? I was biting the hand that feeds me! I then saw that those worldly philosophies are fallacies Satan uses to corrupt and deceive people. Speaking and acting that way is totally devoid of fairness and justice, and there are really no principles of the truth in it. That’s exactly the same life philosophy of the Chinese Communist Party officials: “When a man advances to a greater position, his family and relatives share in his status.” When someone becomes an official, their relatives far and wide benefit too, and can do practically anything with impunity. A CCP-controlled society is so dark, so evil, totally devoid of fairness or justice. As a church leader, not acting by principles but living by these satanic philosophies, how was I any different from a CCP official? Not wanting to dismiss Sister Li wasn’t out of true love or helpfulness, I was just afraid she’d say I was cold and unfeeling and she would no longer look at me the same way again. I wasn’t considering her life at all. Replacing someone in God’s house is done to encourage self-reflection, so they can repent and change in time. It’s one way that God saves and protects people. I’ve been dismissed from my duty, too, and when I’d learned my lesson from my failure, the church arranged for another suitable duty for me. It was only stumbling and falling that caused me to reflect and allowed me some true self-awareness. I also understood more of God’s will to save man and saw that His love contains both mercy and righteousness. There are principles to God’s love; He doesn’t indulge or spoil us. But my “love” for others was full of satanic worldly philosophies and was based in personal interests. It was narrow and selfish, odious and disgusting to God. Only then did I realize it’s harmful to others and ourselves when we rely on our feelings, and that was my biggest barrier to practicing the truth and doing my duty well. Without accepting the judgment and chastisement of God’s words, without true repentance, I’d have offended God’s disposition and been rejected, detested and eliminated by God.
I later read another passage of God’s words: “If you want to have a normal relationship with God, then your heart must turn to God. With this as a foundation, you will also have a normal relationship with other people. If you do not have a normal relationship with God, then no matter what you do to maintain your relationships with other people, no matter how hard you work or how much energy you exert, it will all just pertain to a human philosophy for living. You are maintaining your position among people through a human perspective and a human philosophy so that people will praise you, but you are not following the word of God to establish normal relationships with people. If you do not focus on your relationships with people but maintain a normal relationship with God, if you are willing to give your heart to God and learn to obey Him, then naturally your relationships with all people will become normal. This way, these relationships are not established in the flesh, but on the foundation of God’s love. There are almost no fleshly interactions, but in the spirit there is fellowship, mutual love, mutual comfort, and provision for one another. This is all done on the foundation of a heart that satisfies God. These relationships are not maintained by relying on a human philosophy for living, but are formed very naturally through carrying a burden for God. It does not require man-made effort. You need only practice according to God’s word principle” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. It Is Very Important to Establish a Normal Relationship With God).
After reading God’s words I understood that relationships with brothers and sisters are mainly based in God’s love. They’re not maintained by Satan’s worldly philosophies. Practicing the truth is the key. Especially when it comes to the work of God’s house, when we see someone doing their duty against the principles of the truth, we have to fellowship on the truth to help and support them. If they still don’t repent after a number of fellowships, then they need to be pruned and dealt with when necessary. Even with family and friends, we can’t rely on our emotions or abide by worldly philosophies. We have to do things by the principles of God’s words: fellowship when necessary and replace them if that doesn’t help. The church’s work and the interests of God’s house must always be upheld. Only this is in line with God’s will. I later discussed this with some co-workers and dismissed Sister Li based on principles of the truth. I also gave fellowship to dissect her performance in light of God’s words and promoted Brother Chen to group leader. Only then did I feel at ease in my heart. After a while I read some of God’s words to Sister Li and asked how she was doing. She said, “Thanks be to God! All He does is good. At first I felt negative and was suffering, but through reading God’s words and praying, I understood God was working this way to change me, and if I hadn’t been dismissed and had my problems pointed out, I wouldn’t have known myself, nor would I have changed and repented as I have now.” Hearing this, I felt how sweet it is to forsake the flesh and practice the truth. I also experienced that only practicing the truth and going by principle is in line with God’s will. That is the only dignified way.