Affections Mustn’t Come Before Principles
By Lin Xi, USA
About six months ago, Ruthy and I were carrying out our duties in a group. Ruthy was cultured, had good caliber, and was pretty skillful. She was highly valued within the group. But as for me, no matter how you looked at it, I was always coming up short. I’d often fail in my duty and be exposed, but Ruthy never disdained or looked down on me, and she’d always console and encourage me. Whenever she had something on her mind, she’d come and chat with me, which really moved me and made me see her as a close friend. Though I knew her disposition was somewhat arrogant and that she didn’t take suggestions well, because of my feelings toward her, I never raised these issues with her. I even thought that everyone had a corrupt disposition and this wasn’t something that could be resolved overnight. For a while, I ran into one problem after another in my duty, and in my negativity, just as I wanted to give up, Ruthy actively partnered with me and patiently helped me with my technical issues. I saw some results in my duty and was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. In helping me get through this crisis, I felt like Ruthy had real compassion for me, and I felt truly grateful to her. A little later, she became a leader. I felt genuinely happy for her and often encouraged her.
One evening, just as I was getting ready for bed, Ruthy suddenly sent me a message saying that she had been dismissed and that she was absolutely heartbroken. In talking with her, I found out that she’d been reported by some of the brothers and sisters. The leader had read out the details of the report to her, which she found really hard to take and to be an exaggeration of the facts. For instance, they had said she had a great craving for reputation and status, and though she admitted she valued these things, she denied that it amounted to a great craving. The report also said she didn’t cooperate harmoniously or do practical work, and that when things didn’t go her way, she’d get all moody and disrupt church work. She admitted that she had some problems in her duty, but not as serious as these. As she talked about her grievances, she broke down in tears. She also said that this report had only made her out to be a bad person, was biased against those who had reported her and the leader who had handled the matter, and thought the leader was only listening to one side of the story. She also said that though she had issues in her duty, nobody had fellowshiped on these things with her to help, and that her being dismissed all of a sudden was totally unfair. The more she spoke, the more wronged she felt. Seeing her so miserable, I felt kind of upset, and as I consoled her, I thought to myself: “Are the claims of the report really that exaggerated? Was she really wrongfully dismissed?” Ruthy then suddenly said something that made me feel very uneasy. She said, “As I see it, this report is just like a denunciation from the cultural revolution. They just want to heap a whole bunch of accusations onto me to take me down and smear me.” My heart jolted. I felt this was a really odd thing for her to say. Being reported and dismissed were serious issues, yet she wasn’t reflecting on herself, seeking the truth, or learning any lesson whatsoever. She even compared the report and dismissal to the CCP’s denunciations. She felt that they were trying to punish her. The nature of this was so serious! I quickly reminded her not to say these kinds of things, and that she should reflect on herself.
I later heard from those she was partnered with that as a leader, she didn’t do practical work or cooperate amicably, and that she rarely attended to the work she was supposed to be responsible for. When her leader followed up on her work and found issues, he fellowshiped with her and also dealt with her, and yet she was resistant and unaccepting, always making excuses, shifting the blame, and saying that these were others’ issues, and even abandoning her responsibilities altogether. With this information I became certain that the contents of the report were true. I then thought about how Ruthy said it was like the report had come straight out of a cultural revolution struggle session, and I knew how serious this had become. She was clearly not doing real work and she was unaccepting when the leader dealt with her. She really was a false leader who deserved dismissal. But she didn’t reflect on herself, and compared the legitimate report to one of the CCP’s denunciations. This was not only rejecting the truth, but also distorting facts and misrepresenting reality! This was resisting and causing an uproar, and it was blasphemy against positive things. This was offending God’s disposition! The more I thought, the more afraid I became. I felt that her disposition was vicious, and that if she went on resisting without reflecting or repenting, she’d be cast out in accordance with the church’s principles on clearing people out. I was considering whether I should report her current state and what she had said to me to the leader. But then I thought, “If the leader finds out about her state and looks at it alongside her behavior as a leader, then decides that she is an evildoer who doesn’t accept the truth at all, will she be cleared out of the church?” Thinking these things made me feel very uncomfortable. This really wasn’t the kind of outcome I wanted to see. I also thought about all the moments we had shared, about how good she had been to me, and that I should try to help and console her more. If she knew that I’d reported everything she’d said to me in confidence to the leader, she’d be so hurt. She’d said these things to me so openly because she trusted me, and it would be truly heartless of me if I reported her to the leader. I kept turning the matter over in my head, unable to say anything. I kept thinking that doing this would be betraying my friend, and that it would even be unconscionable. And so, I didn’t raise her issue with anybody else. Whenever I had the time, I sent her a message to check in on her or some of God’s words. I hoped that she’d be able to modify her incorrect state and perform her duty well as soon as possible. Though I was protecting our relationship, I felt ill at ease. I knew that her problems were pretty serious, yet I was saying nothing. Was I not shielding her? I felt all tangled up inside. By saying nothing, I felt accused by my conscience, but if I did speak out, I felt I’d be letting Ruthy down. This whole matter was really getting to me and I didn’t know what to do. So I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me and enable me to understand His will on this matter and find a path of practice.
One day, I read some of God’s word. “You must learn to discern what is good behavior, and what it is to practice the truth and change your disposition. Changing your disposition involves practicing the truth, listening to God’s words, obeying Him, and living by His words. So what should a person do in order to practice and live according to God’s words? Say, for example, there are two people who are very good friends. They’ve helped each other in the past, they’ve gotten through difficult times together, and they would lay down their lives to save one another. Is that practicing the truth? That is brotherhood, that is valuing others more than yourself, that is good behavior, but it is not practicing the truth. Practicing the truth is about acting in accordance with God’s words and demands; it is to obey and satisfy God. Good behavior is all about fulfilling relationships of the flesh and preserving emotional ties. Therefore, brotherhood, protecting relationships, helping, tolerating and satisfying one another, these are all private, personal matters and have nothing to do with practicing the truth. So how does God demand people treat others? (God demands that we treat each other with principles. If another person does something wrong, something that is not in line with the principles of truth, then we cannot listen to them, even if it is our own mother or father. We must cling to the principles of the truth and protect the interests of the house of God.) (God demands that brothers and sisters help one another. If we see that another person has a problem, we must point it out, fellowship on it, and seek the principles of the truth together to resolve it. Only by doing this are we truly helping them.) He wants people’s behavior toward each other to be built on the foundation of the principles of the truth, no matter what their relationship is. Anything outside of these principles does not count as practicing the truth. For example, a person does something that harms the church’s work that everyone calls out and objects to. His friend says, ‘You don’t have to expose him just because he made a mistake! I’m his friend; before all else, I must be understanding toward him; I must be tolerant toward him and help him. I can’t call him out like you have. I must console him, not hurt him, and I would tell him the mistake isn’t a big deal. Any of you calls him out and gives him a hard time again, and you’ll have me to deal with. None of you is closer to him than me. We are good friends. Friends look out for each other, and I’ll stick up for him if I have to.’ Is this practicing the truth? (No, this is a philosophy for living.) The person’s mentality is based on another theoretical foundation, too: He believes that ‘My friend helped me out during the hardest, most painful time in my life. Everyone else had abandoned me, only he took care of me and helped me. Now he’s in trouble, and it is my turn to help him—I feel that this is what it means to have a conscience and have humanity. How can you call yourself human if you believe in God but don’t even have this small amount of conscience? Doesn’t that make empty words of your faith in God and practicing of the truth?’ These words sound as though they are right. Most people can’t tell them for what they really are—not even the person who said them, who thinks that his actions spring from the truth. But are his actions right? Actually, they are not. Look closer, and every word he says is born of ethics, morality, and conscience. According to the measurement of human ethics, this person is conscientious and earnest. Sticking up for his friend like this makes him a good person. But does anyone know what disposition and essence is concealed behind this ‘good person’? He is not a true believer in God. First of all, when something happens, he does not view the situation according to God’s words. He does not search for the truth in God’s words, but instead chooses to view the matter according to the morality and ethics and life maxims of unbelievers. He takes Satan’s heresies and fallacies as the truth, and pushes God’s words to the side. By doing this, he is scoffing at the truth and ignoring what is said in God’s words. This shows that he does not love the truth. He replaces the truth with satanic life maxims and the notions, ethics, and morality of man, and he acts according to satanic philosophies. He even says with confidence that this is practicing the truth and satisfying God’s will, that this is the righteous way to act. Is he not just using this guise of righteousness to violate the truth?” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Good Behavior Does Not Mean One’s Disposition Has Changed). God’s word revealed my state exactly. I reflected on my thoughts from the past few days. Though I knew Ruthy didn’t accept the truth and that she was covertly spreading negativity and lies, I was shielding her and not reporting her. This was all because I’d been influenced by satanic ideas like “sacrificing yourself for your friends” and thought that it was ethical to prioritize affections and benevolence in one’s conduct. As an unbeliever, I’d seen all those characters on TV and in stories who were absolutely devoted to their friends and I admired them deeply. I felt that this was integrity and the way to be a truly good person. They were my role models. I told myself that I would be a person who valued loyalty and comradeship, that if others were kind to me, then I had to repay them in double, that I absolutely couldn’t do anything to let them down, or I’d be unconscionable and despised. After becoming a believer, these types of thoughts remained with me. If somebody was good to me or showed any particular care for me, I would keep this in mind and no matter what difficulties or problems they encountered, I would always help them and never do anything to jeopardize our friendship. Because I was bound by these so-called “morals,” even though I knew Ruthy had problems and that I should uphold principles by reporting her, I just couldn’t take the step of practicing the truth. I kept thinking that if I spoke up about what she had told me in confidence, this would really be letting her down. These satanic philosophies controlled me, made me unable to tell right from wrong, and left me completely unprincipled. The more I reflected, the more I saw how truly foolish and confused I had been. Though I believed in God and read His word, I still relied on satanic philosophies when things happened to me. I finally saw that I was truly pitiful and that I had none of the realities of the truth!
I went on to read God’s word. “How can there be goodness in those who do not love the truth? How can there be righteousness in those who only love the flesh? Are not righteousness and goodness both spoken of only in reference to the truth? Are they not reserved for those who wholeheartedly love God? Those who do not love the truth and who are but putrid corpses—do not all these people harbor evil? Those unable to live out the truth—are they not all enemies of the truth? And what about you?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only the Perfected Can Live a Meaningful Life). “You may be exceptionally amiable and devoted toward your relatives, friends, wife (or husband), sons and daughters, and parents, and never take advantage of others, but if you are incapable of compatibility with Christ, if you are unable to interact in harmony with Him, then even if you expend your all in relief to your neighbors or take meticulous care of your father, mother, and members of your household, I would say that you are still wicked, and moreover one full of cunning tricks” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Those Who Are Incompatible With Christ Are Surely Opponents of God). By reading God’s word I understood that true righteousness and goodness is not being loyal to any one person. No matter how amicable or loyal you may be toward a friend or family member, or how much you are called good by others or praised by society, you cannot be called righteous or good. True righteousness and goodness are dictated by the truth, and they are things that align with the truth. When things befall you, the ability to practice the truth, act in accordance with God’s word, set emotions aside in upholding principles, and protect the church’s work demonstrates righteousness and a love for the truth, and will earn God’s approval. I thought of how in the Bible, in a critical moment, Lot was able to exchange his two daughters for the safety of the two messengers, and how this conduct was deemed righteous by God. I thought of how, upon receiving God’s commission, Noah spent over 100 years building the ark, and how in that time he experienced much suffering, slander, and judgment, yet was still able to heed God’s word and complete God’s commission. This was righteousness. I understood that by doing God’s will, one can practice in absolute accordance with His word, and no matter the suffering or even if one’s life must be given up, they can still complete God’s commission and protect the work of God’s house. Only this can be called righteousness and goodness. I’d always protected my relationships with and affections for others. I knew that Ruthy was covertly spreading negativity and lies, and yet I didn’t report her. I prioritized my affections for her and shielding her even at the expense of the church’s work. I put my feelings first and violated the truth. In what way was this righteous or good? Essentially, I was resisting God and was condemned by Him. At this thought, I realized the seriousness of my problem and my heart was gripped by fear. I couldn’t keep acting based on emotion. I had to stick to the truth and principles by reporting Ruthy. So, I made a factual writeup of Ruthy’s problems and sent it on to the leader.
Before long, the leader said to me, “Ruthy’s problems are pretty serious. Since her dismissal she hasn’t done any reflection, remains disobedient and indignant, keeps spreading notions and negativity, and hasn’t gotten her act together. Her problems will have to be exposed again. If she doesn’t realize the seriousness of these problems, she could continue to spread negativity and really disturb church life!” The leader also asked me to participate in this. I felt nervous all of a sudden and began to feel conflicted again: “If this fellowship to expose Ruthy’s problems is going to be in front of many people, what will she think of me? Will she hate me? Will she be hurt? Will she think I’m not somebody she can talk to and ignore me?” I didn’t dare imagine the scene of her exposure and just wanted to run. The leader saw my hesitancy and said, “If you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t have to attend. Think it over.” I said nothing. After that, I felt really uneasy and wondered, “Why am I so afraid of facing Ruthy? Why don’t I have the courage to expose her? I’m still living by my emotions and wanting to protect my relationships.” Realizing this, I felt very guilty and prayed to God, “Oh God, please help me. Give me the courage to break free of Satan’s dark influence. I wish to practice the truth.”
After my prayer, I read some of God’s word relating to my state. “Once the truth has become life in you, when you observe someone who is blasphemous toward God, unfearful of God, and careless and perfunctory while performing their duty, or who interrupts and interferes with church work, you will respond according to the principles of the truth, and will be able to identify and expose them as necessary. If the truth has not become your life, and you still live within your satanic disposition, then when you discover wicked people and devils who cause interruptions and disturbances to the work of the church, you will turn a blind eye and a deaf ear; you will brush them aside, without reproach from your conscience. You will even think that anyone causing disturbances to the work of the church has nothing to do with you. No matter how much the work of the church and the interests of the house of God suffer, you don’t care, intervene, or feel guilty—which makes you someone who has no conscience or sense, a nonbeliever, a service-doer. You eat what is God’s, drink what is God’s, and enjoy all that comes from God, yet feel that any harm to the interests of the house of God is not related to you—which makes you a traitor who bites the hand that feeds you. If you do not protect the interests of the house of God, are you even human? This is a demon that has insinuated itself into the church. You feign belief in God, pretend to be a chosen one, and you want to freeload in God’s house. You are not living the life of a human being, and are clearly one of the nonbelievers. If you are someone who truly believes in God, then even if you have yet to gain the truth and life, at the very least you will speak and act from the side of God; at the very least, you will not stand idly by when you see the interests of the house of God being compromised. When you have the urge to turn a blind eye, you will feel guilty, and ill at ease, and will say to yourself, ‘I can’t sit here and do nothing, I must stand up and say something, I must take responsibility, I must reveal this evil behavior, I must stop it, so that the interests of the house of God are not harmed, and the church life is not disturbed.’ If the truth has become your life, then not only will you have this courage and resolve, and will you be capable of understanding the matter completely, but you will also fulfill the responsibility you should bear for God’s work and for the interests of His house, and your duty will thereby be fulfilled” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only Those Who Truly Submit to God Have Hearts of Fear for Him). “In the church, stand firm in your testimony to Me, uphold the truth; right is right and wrong is wrong. Do not confuse black and white. You shall be at war with Satan and must completely vanquish it so that it never rises again. You must give everything you have to protect My testimony. This shall be the goal of your actions—do not forget this” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 41). Having read God’s word, I was deeply moved and filled with shame. I thought over my recent behavior. I was the kind of person God exposed: traitorous, not protecting the church’s work, and forsaking the truth. I knew that Ruthy hadn’t really reflected or repented after her dismissal, and that she even hated those who had reported her. I knew she was spreading notions, and was negative and resistant. She’d already exposed a nature of being sick of and hating the truth; in essence, she was an evildoer. If a person who heeded God’s will and had any sense of righteousness saw this kind of behavior, they would have stood up to protect the church’s work and stop Satan’s deeds. They would not have allowed the church’s life or work to be disturbed. But even with my firsthand knowledge, I hesitated, wavering, not daring to expose Ruthy, fearing that the affections we shared would be damaged. At this key moment, I didn’t consider the church’s work or seek the principles of the truth. I kept heeding satanic philosophies, prioritizing love and affections alongside the devil, standing on its side in shielding an evildoer. The essence of this conduct of mine was evil. In the face of the truth, all my actions were truly reprehensible. The more I pondered God’s word, the clearer I saw my problem. I also thought of how God chose me to come to His house, and how He had continually guided and sustained me. He’d given me a chance to pursue the truth and be saved, but at the key moment, I didn’t heed His will and chose to protect Satan. I was double-crossing God and betraying Him. I was truly disappointing God! I could no longer prioritize my feelings or protect my relationships. It doesn’t matter if you offend people; the violation of the truth and offending God show a complete lack of humanity! I remembered God’s word says: “Your relationships with people 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 the principles of the word of God” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. It Is Very Important to Establish a Normal Relationship With God). God’s word made me understand that interpersonal relationships should not be conducted with secular philosophies. Rather, people should live by God’s word. Mutually fellowshiping on matters of life entry, helping and supporting one another, being able to fellowship, help, supervise, and warn others when they violate principles or walk the wrong path, and being able to expose and stop those who disturb church work—people should interact based on these principles. In the face of Ruthy’s problems I had prioritized my feelings and loyalty for her. This was irrational and not in line with the truth. These were the actions of a nonbeliever. I no longer felt conflicted and I had the courage to practice the truth.
I went on to read a couple passages of God’s word which exposed the harms of ideas from traditional culture like “sacrificing oneself for friends,” and my heart felt much brighter. Almighty God says, “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” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God). “Satan has fabricated and invented many folk stories or stories that appear in history books, leaving people with deep impressions of traditional cultural or superstitious figures. For example, in China there are the ‘Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea,’ ‘Journey to the West,’ the Jade Emperor, ‘Nezha Conquering the Dragon King,’ and ‘The Investiture of the Gods.’ Have these not become deeply rooted in the minds of man? Even if some of you do not know all the details, you still know the general stories, and it is this general content that sticks in your heart and your mind, so that you cannot forget them. These are various ideas or legends that Satan prepared for man long ago, and which have been disseminated at different times. These things directly harm and erode people’s souls and put people under one spell after another. That is to say that once you have accepted such traditional culture, stories, or superstitious things, once they are established in your mind, and once they are stuck in your heart, then it is like you are spellbound—you become enmeshed and influenced by these cultural trappings, these ideas and traditional stories. They influence your life, your outlook on life, and your judgment of things. Even more so they influence your pursuit for the true path of life: This is indeed a wicked spell. Try as you might, you cannot shake them off; you chop at them but you cannot chop them down; you beat at them but you cannot beat them away. Furthermore, after people are unknowingly put under this kind of spell, they unknowingly begin to worship Satan, fostering the image of Satan in their hearts. In other words, they establish Satan as their idol, an object for them to worship and look up to, even going so far as to regard it as God. Unknowingly, these things are in people’s hearts, controlling their words and deeds. Moreover, you first regard these stories and legends to be false, but then you unknowingly acknowledge their existence, making of them real figures and turning them into real, existing objects. In your unawareness, you subconsciously receive these ideas and the existence of these things. You also subconsciously receive devils, Satan, and idols into your own home and into your own heart—this is indeed a spell” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique VI). By reading God’s word I understood that the words passed down by so called ancient saints and sages and the ideas conveyed in the classic stories that have influenced one generation after another all come from Satan. Satan has used these words and ideas to control mankind. These ideas are already deeply rooted in the heart of man and their influence is profound. Just like the idea that people should sacrifice themselves for their friends; outwardly, this is honored as valuing loyalty, as if risking one’s life for a friend is something noble. Once people come to accept this kind of idea, they have to help their friends, whether they do something right or wrong, even to the point of laying their life on the line to help them. This is unprincipled and doesn’t distinguish right from wrong. Even if their friend does something wrong, they have to protect them, even to the point of risking their life, and this is viewed as righteous and loyal. In reality, this is irrational and is relying on passions to conduct oneself. I no longer think of valuing loyalty as something lofty. Rather, I feel that people with this kind of mentality are pitiful and pathetic. Their lives have no worth and their deaths have no meaning. I thought about how I had been so deeply harmed by this. To protect my interpersonal affections, I knowingly didn’t practice the truth. I even thought I was being loyal, and that I had good humanity. How truly foolish I was. These ideas esteemed by Satan are poisons. They made me unsure of right and wrong, unable to tell the difference between positive and negative things. They narrowed and warped my mind. They stopped me from having normal interpersonal relations. I remembered God’s word said, “The root cause of corrupt dispositions arising in man is Satan’s deception, corruption, and poison. Man has been bound and controlled by Satan, and he suffers the egregious harm that Satan has inflicted upon his thinking, morality, insight, and sense. It is precisely because the fundamental things of man have been corrupted by Satan, and are utterly unlike how God originally created them, that man opposes God and cannot accept the truth” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God). Before, I’d only admitted in theory that I’d been so deeply corrupted by Satan that I had lost all humanity, but I didn’t really understand where man’s deep corruption manifested itself. I now understand this a little better. The poisons of Satan and the ideas of traditional culture have all already become the nature of man. They have trampled and distorted man’s thoughts and man has lost his normal humanity and thoughts. All his thoughts resist God and are in violation of the truth. Without the truths expressed by Almighty God in His work of salvation that take these secular philosophies, satanic poisons, and the essence of traditional culture, and dissect them one by one, how would I have come to understand these things? I would only have been further corrupted and harmed by Satan. I felt all the more that God’s word alone is the truth, and that only God’s word can change and save people. God’s word is so precious. Traditional culture and these satanic philosophies corrupt and harm people. Only by seeking the truth in God’s word, and by viewing things and acting in accordance with God’s word can a person’s reason and humanity become ever more normal.
A few days later, the leader invited Ruthy over. I spoke about all the problems I had seen in her without reservation. I felt calm as I exposed her. I knew that doing this aligned with the truth and principles, and no matter what she thought of me after, or if she never wanted to see me again, because I was practicing the truth, I felt at peace and would never regret my actions.
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