The Consequences of Self-Preservation

October 17, 2022

By Xiaowei, China

Sister Guan was transferred over to follow up on our church’s work in 2019. I’d met her two years earlier, and interacting with her this time, I found she was exactly the same. In gatherings she always shared doctrine, not any experiences or understanding of God’s words. When she saw others struggling in their work, she didn’t fellowship on the truth to resolve things, but just reprimanded and scolded them. It not only didn’t give the brothers and sisters a path of practice, but left them stifled. When some people couldn’t immediately change their negative states, Sister Guan delimited and scolded them, leaving the brothers and sisters constrained, and some lost the confidence to do a duty. She often made a show of how she’d given up her job and family, suffered and paid a price, and lots of newer church members who lacked discernment really looked up to her. During that time, the church’s work wasn’t going well and the brothers and sisters weren’t in good states. Later I found out that Sister Li, the gospel deacon, wasn’t shouldering a burden in her duty or doing any practical work at all. She didn’t change after lots of fellowship and criticism, and even got negative and resistant. It was holding up our gospel work and she needed to be replaced. I talked to Sister Guan about these issues. But she felt it was difficult to find a good candidate for the position and insisted on not replacing her. She even asked me loudly, “Since discovering Sister Li’s issues, how many times have you tried to help her out of love? Have you fulfilled your responsibilities? Don’t be so arrogant, but look at the potential people have!” Loving help is for people who can accept the truth. Someone who won’t accept any fellowship and change should be replaced right away. At first I stuck to my point of view, but Sister Guan refused to agree, which made me anxious and the two of us started arguing. A few other brothers and sisters there advised me not to try to come out on top, and I felt kind of constrained by that. No one had discernment over what she was saying, so if I kept insisting on dismissing Sister Li, they might say I was arrogant and stubborn, that I was disrupting the church’s work. At this thought, I didn’t say another word.

We needed to elect an upper leader after that and we were asked to suggest suitable candidates. Some of the brothers and sisters wanted to recommend Sister Guan. I was thinking that she tended to do things her own way without seeking the principles, and she just talked about doctrine, and couldn’t resolve others’ practical issues. She wasn’t a good candidate. I should share fellowship for others’ discernment. But Sister Guan and I had had conflict about changing the gospel deacon and the others thought I wanted to come out on top. If I said Sister Guan wasn’t a good candidate now, would they say I was using this chance to get back at her and hold her back? I figured, “Fine, the less trouble, the better. They can elect Sister Guan if they want to—it’s good enough if I don’t vote for her.” But when it came time to write the assessments, I felt concerned. Everyone else had pretty good things to say about Sister Guan, so if I wrote out my honest opinion, the leader would know I was perfectly aware she wasn’t a good candidate, but I wasn’t fellowshiping on the truth with the others, suggesting candidates who are in line with the principles. Would the leader say I wasn’t upholding the church’s work? Would she stop training me? I felt I was between a rock and a hard place. I decided to go with the flow. So in my assessment, I just wrote about Sister Guan’s positive aspects, and I disingenuously said she pursued the truth, had good humanity, was loving toward others, and when she saw corruption in us, she found relevant words of God to help us. After writing that assessment, I actually felt my spirit sink, and my conscience felt accused. When I read God’s words after that, I didn’t gain any enlightenment, and my duty felt draining, but I didn’t self-reflect. Also, I was clinging to my idea of luck. With so many candidates, she probably wouldn’t be elected. If she wasn’t elected, my false assessment shouldn’t come to light. I learned later on that Sister Guan really was elected as an upper leader. I was shocked, and felt pretty uneasy. Were people misled by all the positive reviews of her? But I still didn’t have the courage to tell the leader the truth, so I just comforted myself that if Sister Guan really wasn’t suited for leadership, God would have exposed her. That was what I thought, but I just kept on feeling uneasy.

A month or so later, a leader wrote a letter, asking us to write assessments of Sister Guan again. I realized it was pretty likely that problems had cropped up in her duty as an upper leader. I was afraid, and I also saw that leader quoted some of God’s words in her letter. God says, “Follow the way of God: What does the ‘way of God’ refer to? Fearing God and shunning evil. And what is fearing God and shunning evil? When you give your appraisal of someone, for example—this relates to fearing God and shunning evil. How do you appraise them? (We must be honest, just, and fair, and our words must not be based on emotion.) When you say exactly what you think, and exactly what you have seen, you are being honest. And above all, the practice of being honest means following the way of God. This is what God teaches people; this is the way of God. What is the way of God? Fearing God and shunning evil. Is being honest part of fearing God and shunning evil? And is it following the way of God? (Yes.) If you are not honest, then what you have seen and what you think is not the same as what comes out of your mouth. Someone asks you, ‘What is your opinion on that person? Do they take responsibility for church work?’ and you reply, ‘They’re pretty good, they take more responsibility than I do, their caliber is better than mine, and their humanity is good, too, they are mature and stable.’ But is this what you are thinking in your heart? What you are actually thinking is that although this person does have caliber, they are unreliable, and rather crafty, and very calculating. This is what you’re really thinking in your mind, but when the time comes to speak, it occurs to you that, ‘I can’t tell the truth, I mustn’t offend anyone,’ so you quickly say something else, you choose nice things to say about them, and nothing you say is what you really think, it is all lies and hypocrisy. Does this indicate that you follow the way of God? No. You have taken the path of Satan, the way of demons. What is the way of God? It is the truth, it is the basis of people’s behavior, it is the way of fearing God and shunning evil. Though you speak to another person, God is also listening, and watching your heart, He is scrutinizing your heart. People listen to what you say, but God scrutinizes your heart. Are people capable of scrutinizing the hearts of man? At best, people can see that you are not telling the truth. They can see what’s on the surface. Only God can see into the depths of your heart, only God can see what you are thinking, what you are planning, what little schemes you have within your heart, what treacherous ways, what devious thoughts. And seeing that you are not telling the truth, what is God’s opinion of you, what is His evaluation of you? That in this, you have not followed God’s way, because you did not tell the truth. If you were practicing according to God’s requirements, you should have told the truth: ‘They’re a person of caliber, but they’re unreliable.’ Whether or not this evaluation is objective or accurate, it would have come from the heart and been true; it is the viewpoint and position you should have expressed. But you did not—so were you following God’s way? (No.) If you did not tell the truth, would it be of use for you to stress that you are following God’s way and satisfying God? Would God pay heed to your shouting? Would God pay heed to how you shout, how hard you shout, or how great your will is? Would He pay heed to how many times you shout? He would not. God looks at whether you practice the truth, at what you choose and how you practice the truth when events befall you. If your choice is to maintain relationships, to maintain your own interests and image, and is entirely for self-preservation, God will see that this is your viewpoint and attitude when an event befalls you, and He will make an appraisal of you: He will say you are not someone who follows His way” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. What Is Most Important in Believing in God Is Putting the Truth Into Practice). Reading God’s words stirred up some feelings for me. I’d never treated assessment-writing as something very important or done any seeking on what truths I should practice in this matter. I really didn’t reflect on whether I had any incorrect motives or corruption showing when I wrote that assessment, if I was holding a heart of reverence for God, objectively evaluating her. At that point I realized that writing assessments has to do with whether someone fears God, if they uphold the church’s work. We were electing an upper leader, which involved the work of several churches and the brothers’ and sisters’ life entry. Writing an unfair assessment with untruthful words could mislead people, and electing an unsuitable person could disrupt the church’s work, harming the brothers’ and sisters’ life entry. I knew that Sister Guan wasn’t a good candidate for upper leadership, but to maintain my own face and status, afraid the others would say I was taking revenge on her, oppressing her, I didn’t say anything. I could have written an honest assessment and reported Sister Guan’s actual circumstances, but I was afraid the leader would say I had discernment but wasn’t sharing it with the others, that I wasn’t upholding the church’s work, and that would impact her image of me. So I resorted to crafty means, writing things in my assessment that contradicted the facts. I described Sister Guan as someone who pursues the truth and does real work. What I wrote wasn’t genuine at all. I was so slippery and cunning. God requires us to be honest, to speak in accordance with the facts and appropriately. But I lied about something as important as electing a leader. I didn’t have any reverence for God. I was living out a satanic, demonic nature. The devil started out that way, by lying. I was going against the facts, lying, and that was actually a demonic nature! I wasn’t considering the church’s work, but I wrote an assessment in violation of the facts, misleading the brothers and sisters, so they elected the wrong person. That was cheating God and offending His disposition. Realizing this was frightening for me.

I read this passage of God’s words later on: “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” (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). The revelations of God’s words were really poignant for me. I was the traitor who bites the hand that feeds them that God spoke of. I was eating and drinking God’s words, enjoying all His sustenance, but I wasn’t upholding the church’s work. Instead I was acting entirely for the sake of my own interests, not practicing truths that I knew very well, which ended up misleading others to elect a false leader. Wasn’t that harming the church’s work, and other brothers and sisters? The more I thought about it, the more I hated myself for being so cunning and vile. I just wanted to protect myself, not the church’s work. I wasn’t any kind of true believer. I felt dark and down in my spirit. I wasn’t enlightened by God’s words and I wasn’t accomplishing anything in my duty. God was hiding His face from me. If I kept on being an unrepentant traitor, I’d definitely be cast out by God. I really felt God’s righteous disposition that tolerates no human offense, and hated myself for not practicing the truth. I prayed to God, ready to repent and practice the truth, to make up for my transgression!

I read this passage of God’s words: “For all who fulfill their duty, however profound or shallow their understanding of the truth, the simplest way of practice by which to enter the reality of the truth is to think of the interests of God’s house in everything, and to let go of selfish desires, individual intentions, motives, pride, and status. Put the interests of God’s house first—this is the least one should do. If a person performing their duty cannot do even this much, then how can they be said to be performing their duty? This is not performing one’s duty. You should first consider the interests of God’s house, be considerate of God’s will, and consider the work of the church, and put these things first and foremost; only after that can you think about the stability of your status or how others see you. Do you not feel that it gets a little easier when you divide it into these steps and make some compromises? If you practice like this for a while, you will come to feel that satisfying God is not difficult. In addition, you should be able to fulfill your responsibilities, perform your obligations and duties, set aside your selfish desires, set aside your own intents and motives, have consideration for God’s will, and put first the interests of God’s house, the work of the church, and the duty you should perform. After experiencing this for a while, you will feel that this is a good way to conduct yourself. It is living straightforwardly and honestly, without being a base person or a good-for-nothing, and living justly and honorably rather than being despicable and mean. You will feel that this is how a person should live and act. Gradually, the desire within your heart to gratify your own interests will lessen” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Freedom and Liberation Can Be Gained Only by Casting Off One’s Corrupt Disposition). I found a path of practice from God’s words. We have to always put the work of the church first, and when our personal interests conflict with the church’s work, we have to forsake ourselves, let go of our own interests, and prioritize our duty and responsibilities. This time I was asked to rewrite the assessment, and I would repent to God. I couldn’t keep considering what others would think of me, or keep protecting myself. I had to write the truth and be honest.

I opened up to the brothers and sisters after that. I told them about the corruption I’d showed, and my self-reflection and what I’d learned. I also fellowshiped on the principles for electing leaders, that we have to choose people who pursue the truth, have good humanity, and can do practical work. Comparing that to Sister Guan, everyone gained discernment and felt ready to write new assessments. I also wrote an accurate assessment based on Sister Guan’s consistent behavior. Putting that into practice gave me a sense of peace.

I got a letter from the leader that day, saying Sister Guan had been dismissed. She also said that while Sister Guan was in that position, she’d been arrogant, autocratic, and uncooperative, which hindered lots of the church’s projects. She also used her position to oppress others, which caused them to become negative. These things the letter said were like one slap in the face after another for me. My face was burning, and my mind went totally blank. I just knew I’d really offended God, and that I had a part in a false leader’s evildoing. She’d behaved that way before, and I had discernment over it, but not only did I fail to report her, I allowed the other brothers and sisters to recommend her as an upper leader. I realized I didn’t feel any responsibility for the church’s work. I was covertly helping a false leader do evil and make things worse. I even looked for excuses for myself, for not practicing the truth. I felt that even if I didn’t report what I knew, God would reveal it. God does bring everything to light, but we should fulfill our own duties, revealing false leaders and upholding the church’s work. But I just passively waited in the wings, wanting God to act, to have Him reveal her. I didn’t fulfill my duty, my responsibility. That seriously harmed the church’s work and the brothers’ and sisters’ life entry. I felt worse and worse the more I thought about it. I knew my transgression was already beyond redress. In my pain, I came before God again in prayer and repentance. I also wanted to know why I protected my own interests as soon as I encountered an issue. What was the root of the problem?

I read this passage in my devotionals: “Until people have experienced God’s work and understood the truth, it is Satan’s nature that takes charge and dominates them from within. What, specifically, does that nature entail? For example, why are you selfish? Why do you protect your own position? Why do you have such strong emotions? Why do you enjoy those unrighteous things? Why do you like those evils? What is the basis for your fondness for such things? Where do these things come from? Why are you so happy to accept them? By now, you have all come to understand that the main reason behind all these things is that Satan’s poison is within man. So what is Satan’s poison? How can it be expressed? For example, if you ask, ‘How should people live? What should people live for?’ people will answer, ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.’ This single phrase expresses the very root of the problem. Satan’s philosophy and logic has become people’s lives. No matter what people pursue after, they do it for themselves—and so they live only for themselves. ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’—this is the life philosophy of man, and it also represents human nature. These words have already become the nature of corrupt mankind, the true portrait of corrupt mankind’s satanic nature, and this satanic nature has already become the basis for corrupt mankind’s existence; for several thousand years, corrupt mankind has lived by this venom of Satan, right up to the present day” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. How to Walk the Path of Peter). God’s words showed me that though I was a believer, I wasn’t treating the truth of God’s words as my standard for living. I was still living according to Satan’s concepts, like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Profit comes first,” and “Protect yourself, seek only to escape blame.” I was living based on these satanic poisons. I felt that people had to consider themselves in life, and learn to protect their own interests so they’re not harmed. That’s the only way to be smart, to not suffer harm. But through this lesson I saw that living by these satanic poisons may have temporarily protected my own interests, but it made me give up my baseline as a human being. I became selfish, cunning, and vile, and I even went against my conscience, being dishonest. I became someone without character or dignity, who wasn’t worthy of trust, and I ultimately harmed the brothers’ and sisters’ lives and seriously disrupted the church’s work, committing a transgression I could never make up for. I hated how deeply Satan had corrupted me, that I had no conscience and I wasn’t worthy of living before God. And this experience showed me that I didn’t understand God at all, that I didn’t believe that He scrutinizes all things. I was worried that if I fellowshiped with the others on my discernment of Sister Guan, they would think I was trying to take revenge, intentionally suppressing her. But in God’s house, the truth holds sway and God sees all. As long as my heart was in the right place and I was acting in line with principles, the others would support me when they understood the truth. Even if some of them misunderstood me at first, I would be doing my duty before God and my conscience would be clear. Understanding this left me much more at peace, and I resolved that in the future, I’d definitely uphold the principles.

After all that, I thought of Sister Li, the gospel deacon who never accepted the truth and didn’t have a burden for her duty. She should have been dismissed, based on the principles. I shared my thoughts with a few other deacons. The deacons said, “If we dismiss her now, there won’t be a suitable replacement in the church. Let’s help and support her for now.” I was thinking that I’d already helped and supported her a number of times, but she wasn’t receptive. If she kept serving as gospel deacon she’d just hold up the work even more. But it was true there weren’t any other good candidates in the church for gospel deacon. And if everyone else disagreed, but I insisted on it, wouldn’t they say I was too arrogant and stubborn? For a bit, I didn’t know what I should do, so I came before God in prayer and seeking. After my prayer I realized I’d started protecting my own interests again. I had to uphold the principles of the truth in my duty—I couldn’t blur right and wrong. Considering it based on the principles, Sister Li was a false worker. If we kept her in that position, the gospel work would be impacted. I couldn’t refuse to deal with that out of fear the others would say I was arrogant—I had to uphold the principles. So I fellowshiped on relevant truths with my partners, and they agreed on dismissing the gospel deacon. After that, the upper leader arranged for a sister from another church to take over our gospel work. She had a burden for her duty and understood the principles. Our gospel work gradually picked up. I also felt really calm and at peace, like it’s a wonderful way to live, and I could finally put some truth into practice.

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