My Difficult Path to Harmonious Cooperation

September 28, 2022

By Xincheng, China

In July of 2020, I was elected as a church leader and was put in charge of the church’s work along with Sister Chen. When I first started in that duty, I lacked a clear grasp of many principles and would discuss with Sister Chen whenever I had a question. I would readily accept any advice she gave to me. After a while, I started getting some results in my duty and felt like I was competent enough in my work to operate independently. After that, when I was assigning work, I’d just handle it myself without discussing with Sister Chen. Even in some cases where we should’ve come to a decision together, I’d make the decision myself. Seeing that I wasn’t acting according to principle, Sister Chen would often remind me to stop making arbitrary decisions. Sometimes she’d even say this in front of the deacons. I felt like she had had it out for me—she had no regard for my dignity and was embarrassing me. So I felt a bit resistant to her. Often when we discussed work, she’d reject most of my ideas, and I’d get defiant, thinking: “We’re both in charge of the church’s work, so why should you get the last word instead of me? You’re always rejecting my ideas—doesn’t that make it seem like you’re better than me? Won’t the brothers and sisters think I’m a bad leader? How will I face everyone then?” I developed a bias against Sister Chen. After that, when we discussed work, as soon as my idea was rejected, I would just go silent. Even though sometimes I thought she was right, the thought of relenting to her made me uncomfortable. Over time, I became more and more biased towards Sister Chen. I didn’t want to talk to her, much less did I want to discuss work with her. I became a real constraint for her, and I felt very inhibited and repressed myself.

In January of 2021, due to health issues, our long-standing lack of cooperation, and feeling constrained by me, Sister Chen succumbed to a bout of negativity from which she never recovered and eventually quit. In October, the church was holding an election to fill a vacant leader spot. An upper leader brought up Sister Chen, asking about her situation. Co-worker Sister Wang said: “Her state has greatly improved recently and she’s bearing more of a burden in her duty.” This made me feel a bit worried: “I guess she thinks highly of Sister Chen! Hearing that, the leader will certainly think Sister Chen is suitable for the position. If she really is elected, then won’t that mean we’ll be working together again?” Thinking back on our time working together, I felt a bit horrified. I thought: “Before, when we had different opinions on how to proceed with work, most co-workers would side with Sister Chen—no one listened to me. Sister Chen is a very just person. If she noticed I wasn’t acting by principle, she’d chide me and often embarrassed me. It was really awful working with her. Ever since she quit, the co-workers have all followed my advice. If she comes back, will the co-workers only listen to her like before? If she’s always criticizing me, won’t the image I’ve cultivated among the brothers and sisters be ruined?” Realizing this, I really didn’t want to work with Sister Chen. I thought: “This won’t do, I’ve got to tell everyone about her corruption, otherwise it’ll be a real pain if she’s elected.” With that, I described all of her poor behaviors, including how she was concerned with status and didn’t bear a burden in her duty. Worrying that I wasn’t being specific enough, I also brought up some examples to prove my point. The leader saw that I wasn’t treating Sister Chen fairly, and so she fellowshiped with me on the principle of treating others fairly. But I just wasn’t having it. A few days later, the election had officially started and Sister Li asked me about Sister Chen’s situation. I thought to myself: “She’s not close with Sister Chen and doesn’t know her well, I’ve got to let her know Sister Chen isn’t suited to be a leader, that way she won’t vote for her.” So I told her all about Sister Chen’s bad behaviors including not bearing a burden in her duty. But just then, a sister pushed back, saying: “Sister Chen didn’t bear a burden then because she was in a bad state. Lately she’s turned things around and is bearing a burden in her duty. Also, she patiently fellowships with and helps us with issues we don’t understand in our duties.” When I heard this, I got anxious: “Why do you keep complimenting Sister Chen? Did you already vote for her? Will Sister Li vote for her too after she heard what you said? If she really is elected, then we’ll be working together again. Then, not only will I be unable to distinguish myself, I’ll have to be corrected by her all the time too. It’d be better if a new leader was selected. That way, since I’ve been a leader for a while and understand many principles, they’ll agree with my opinions most of the time and even if I do something wrong, they won’t realize and won’t directly criticize me, so my status will be unchallenged.” The more I thought about it, the more I felt I couldn’t let Sister Chen be elected. So I immediately said Sister Chen didn’t have much life experience and only shared doctrinal knowledge. When I said that, I saw Sister Li nod her head, and I felt a bit relieved, thinking Sister Li probably wouldn’t vote for Sister Chen then. Sister Chen and another sister tied for most votes. I became even more worried that Sister Chen would be elected and start working with me again.

A while later, the leader asked me: “Given Sister Chen’s caliber, she has what it takes to be a leader. If she really were elected, how would you feel?” The question got me worried that they might really elect Sister Chen, so I hurriedly said: “Sister Chen doesn’t have much life experience and she has a gravely corrupt disposition….” The leader could tell how resistant I was to Sister Chen and again exposed me, saying: “You only notice people’s weaknesses and never note their strengths, so you won’t be able to collaborate well with anyone. You’re being wildly arrogant….” Hearing “You won’t be able to collaborate well with anyone” hit me hard. I felt like the leader had uncovered all my intentions, and certainly wouldn’t think well of me. The brothers and sisters and the leaders both liked Sister Chen, so how would I continue doing my duty? I felt just awful and didn’t want to be a leader anymore. I thought: “If Sister Chen is so good, then just elect her already.” So I said to the leader: “I don’t have good humanity and can’t collaborate with anyone. I feel like I can’t do this duty anymore. I think you should select another leader to replace me.” The leader fellowshiped with me, saying: “I’m not saying you’re being wildly arrogant to delimit you, but to press you to seek the truth and resolve your corrupt disposition….” Hearing this, I realized I was venting my anger on my duty and acting in opposition to God. I felt a bit ashamed and uneasy. But whenever I thought about working with Sister Chen, I’d get all agitated. I didn’t want to deal with this situation, so I said I had other work as an excuse and left. I felt really gloomy—I realized I was rebelling against God and He had shielded His face from me. I was avoiding the situation God had arranged for me. If I didn’t turn things around, God would surely despise me and I’d lose the work of the Holy Spirit. I felt a bit frightened, and so I came before God in prayer: “God, there is a lesson to be learned from the situation You’ve arranged for me today. It’s wrong of me to avoid and resist it, but I’m not sure how to reflect on and understand myself. Please guide me to understand Your intentions and learn a lesson in the process.” After prayer, I felt a bit more peaceful.

The election result was announced the next day: Sister Chen had been elected as leader, but the news didn’t affect me that much. I reflected on myself: I was always criticizing Sister Chen’s corruption and inadequacies, but never mentioned her strengths and talents. Wasn’t I excluding her? So I looked up passages of God’s words concerning antichrists suppressing and excluding their dissenters. There was one passage in particular that really hit home. Almighty God says, “How do antichrists exclude and attack those who pursue the truth? They often use methods that others see as reasonable and proper, even using debates about the truth to gain leverage, in order to attack, condemn, and deceive other people. For example, if an antichrist thinks that their partners pursue the truth and can threaten their status, they will talk about lofty doctrines and spiritual theories to deceive people and make people think highly of them. That way they can belittle and suppress their partners and co-workers, and make people feel that, ‘Although the partners of our leader are people who pursue the truth, they are not our leader’s equal in terms of caliber and ability. Our leader’s sermons are lofty, and no one can compare.’ For an antichrist, hearing that kind of comment is extremely satisfying. They look at their partners and think, ‘Are you not someone who pursues the truth? Do you not have some realities of the truth? Why can you not explain it clearly? If you have the ability, come up on stage and speak. You are thoroughly humiliated now. You lack the ability, yet you dare contend with me?’ That is what the antichrist is thinking. What is the antichrist’s goal? They want to think of a way to suppress, belittle, and put themselves above other people. This is how an antichrist treats everyone who pursues the truth or works with them. … In addition to these evil deeds, antichrists do something even more despicable, which is that they always try to figure out how to gain leverage over those who pursue the truth. For example, if some people have fornicated or committed some other transgression, antichrists seize on these as leverage to attack them, look for opportunities to insult, expose, and slander them, label them to discourage their enthusiasm for performing their duties so that they feel negative. Antichrists also cause God’s chosen people to discriminate against them, shun them, and reject them, so that those who pursue the truth are isolated. In the end, when all those who pursue the truth feel negative and weak, no longer actively perform their duties, and are unwilling to attend gatherings, the goal of antichrists is achieved. Once those who pursue the truth no longer pose a threat to their status and power, and no one dares to report or expose them anymore, antichrists can feel at ease. … In summary, based on these manifestations of antichrists, we may determine that they are not performing the duty of leadership, because they are not leading people in eating and drinking God’s words and fellowshiping about the truth, and they do not provide them with life, allowing them to obtain the truth. Instead, they disrupt and disturb church life, dismantle and destroy the work of the church, and impede people on the path of pursuing the truth and obtaining salvation. They want to lead God’s chosen people astray and cause them to lose the chance to be granted salvation. This is the ultimate sinful goal that antichrists want to achieve by disrupting and disturbing the work of the house of God(The Word Appears in the Flesh, Vol. 3, Item Three: They Exclude and Attack Those Who Pursue the Truth). This passage of God’s words really hit me hard. God exposes how antichrists suppress and exclude others, finding fault in and disparaging those that seek the truth, to solidify their own status. Wasn’t that just how I was treating Sister Chen? During the election, when I saw how everyone thought favorably of Sister Chen, I thought of when we worked together, how the others all followed her advice and she got all the attention. She’d also often point out my faults, making me lose face. I worried that if she were elected, the brothers and sisters would only listen to and admire her, and no one would follow my advice. So I got panicked and actively denied her abilities and made a big deal of her previous instances of corruption. I said she didn’t have much life experience and didn’t seek the truth, trying to deceive everyone into developing biases against her so they wouldn’t vote for her. When the leader noticed my issue and criticized me for treating people unfairly, I saw I didn’t get what I wanted, and became unreasonable and wanted to abandon my duty. Everything I said was full of cunning and ulterior motives. It was all to protect my reputation and status. How was that any different than antichrists attacking those that seek the truth to solidify status? There was an urgent need for talent in the church’s work, and even though Sister Chen had shown signs of corruption and had deficiencies, she had a sense of justice and bore a burden in her duty. She sought the truth when faced with issues and was someone who pursued the truth, so she met the qualifications of a leader. But I worried that she’d threaten my status in the eyes of the others, so I tried to disparage and exclude her without the slightest consideration for the work of the church. I wasn’t at all thoughtful of God’s intentions, and wasn’t fulfilling my duty. I was interrupting and disrupting the church’s work; I was doing evil! Having realized this, I suddenly felt my actions were truly appalling. In the past, I always thought excluding and punishing people were the acts of an antichrist, but now I realized that I, too, had an antichrist disposition and was walking the path of an antichrist. If I didn’t repent, I would be exposed and cast out by God. Coming to this realization, I felt a bit horrified, but I also understood that God hoped that through being dealt with and exposed I would reflect and repent, and seek the truth to resolve my corrupt disposition. I should really cooperate with Sister Chen to do the church’s work well. After that, I opened up to my brothers and sisters about my corruption so they could have discernment towards my prior statements and treat Sister Chen properly. I stopped excluding and resisting Sister Chen when I saw her, and actively checked in on her, discussed work and collaborated with her. Gradually, we started to get along much better with each other, and I felt much more at ease. Especially when during one gathering I heard Sister Chen speak very practically about her recent experience, and thinking of how I kept blocking her from becoming a leader and almost did evil, I felt even more repentant and guilty.

Later on, I continued to seek the truth and reflect on the source of this issue. I came across this passage of God’s words. “The antichrists’ cherishment of their status and prestige goes beyond that of normal people, and is something within their disposition and essence; it is not a temporary interest, or the transient effect of their surroundings—it is something within their life, their bones, and so it is their essence. This is to say that in everything an antichrist does, their first consideration is their own status and prestige, nothing else. For an antichrist, status and prestige are their life, and their lifelong goal. In all they do, their first consideration is: ‘What will happen to my status? And to my prestige? Will doing this give me prestige? Will it elevate my status in people’s minds?’ That is the first thing they think about, which is ample proof that they have the disposition and essence of antichrists; they would not consider these problems otherwise. … Although antichrists also believe in God, they see the pursuit of status and prestige as equivalent to faith in God and give it equal weight. Which is to say, as they walk the path of faith in God, they also pursue their own status and prestige. It can be said that in the antichrists’ hearts, they believe that faith in God and the pursuit of the truth is the pursuit of status and prestige; the pursuit of status and prestige is also the pursuit of the truth, and to gain status and prestige is to gain the truth and life. If they feel that they have no prestige or status, that no one admires them, or venerates them, or follows them, then they are very frustrated, they believe there is no point in believing in God, no value to it, and they say to themselves, ‘Is such faith in God a failure? Is it hopeless?’ They often deliberate such things in their hearts, they deliberate how they can carve a place out for themselves in the house of God, how they can have a lofty reputation in the church, so that people listen when they talk, and support them when they act, and follow them wherever they go; so that they have a voice in the church, a reputation, so that they enjoy benefits, and have status—they often ponder such things. These are what such people pursue(The Word Appears in the Flesh, Vol. 3, Item Nine: They Do Their Duty Only to Distinguish Themselves and Feed Their Own Interests and Ambitions; They Never Consider the Interests of God’s House, and Even Sell Those Interests Out in Exchange for Personal Glory (Part Three)). God exposes how covetous antichrists are of reputation and status, and how everything they do serves their pursuit of power. They want everyone to obey them and to have a place in their hearts. In reality, they do all this to establish their own independent kingdom, they vie with God for believers and want people to worship them. I saw how my manifestations were just like those that God exposed: I was always trying to cultivate my image in the others’ eyes, seeking status, having the last word and being the center of everyone’s attention. When someone more talented than me came along, I saw them as a threat to my status, attacking and excluding them. That’s how I treated Sister Chen. Worrying that I wouldn’t be able to distinguish myself if she were chosen leader, I made a big deal of her past corruption to deceive the others into not voting for her. I even hoped that a new partner would be elected. That way, given that I had been a leader for much longer, no matter what I said or did, even if it didn’t accord with principle, my new partner wouldn’t notice and wouldn’t expose or chide me. I could be the top dog at the church, whatever I said would go and I could do whatever I wanted. My ambitions and desires were completely out of hand. I was setting up my own independent kingdom! To safeguard my own status, I even suppressed and excluded others. Was this any different from the CCP attacking and excluding their dissenters? To maintain their autocratic rule and make all worship and follow them, they use their authority to suppress and root out any that threaten their status and interests. I was treating Sister Chen just like the CCP treats their victims. I just couldn’t believe how awful I’d become in the name of status. As a church leader, I should work together with those that pursue the truth to complete the work of the church, and bring the brothers and sisters before God. But all I could think of was reputation and status—I had no room in my heart for God’s commission, and I wasn’t God-fearing. I had believed in God for years, yet I still suppressed people due to biases for the sake of my status, and rebelled against God. I had truly disappointed Him and brought on His loathing!

Later, I realized there was another reason I was suppressing and excluding Sister Chen: She kept exposing me and making me lose face. I found the following passage of God’s words regarding this state: “What should you do if you wish to shun the path of the antichrists? You should actively draw close to upstanding people who love the truth. You should draw close to people who can give you advice, and who can tell the truth and criticize you when they discover a problem, and especially people who can prune and deal with you when they discover a problem. This is a person who can be of the greatest benefit to you, and you should cherish them. If you reject this kind of good person and remove them from view, you will lose God’s protection, and misfortune will slowly draw near. If you draw close to good people and those who understand the truth, you will have peace and happiness, and steer clear of misfortune. If you draw close to people who are inferior, to the shameless and to flatterers, then you are in danger. You are not only liable to be fooled and cheated, but misfortune may befall you at any time. You must know who is of the greatest benefit to you. Someone who points out when you do something wrong, and when you exalt and testify about yourself and try to deceive others, is the kind of person that benefits you the most, and drawing close to them is the correct path. Can you do that? If someone says something that humiliates you, you hold a lifelong grudge against them and say, ‘Why did you expose me? I haven’t treated you badly; why do you always give me a hard time?’ You hold a grudge in your heart, which creates a divide, and you always feel, ‘As a leader, I have the position and status to forbid you from saying that.’ Of what is that an expression? It is an expression of not accepting the truth, but competing with others, and it is a bit unreasonable. Is this not a concern for status acting up? It shows an extremely corrupt disposition. People who are always overly concerned with status are people in whom an antichrist’s disposition is severe, and if they can, moreover, do evil, they will be revealed immediately. People who reject the truth and cannot accept the truth are in great danger. Always to be fighting for status and coveting the benefits of status is a sign of imminent danger. If someone’s heart is always governed by status, can they practice the truth and act according to principle? If someone cannot practice the truth, and always does things in order to acquire fame and status, and always acts by exploiting their power, is this not obviously an antichrist showing their true colors?(The Word Appears in the Flesh, Vol. 3, Item Four: They Exalt and Testify About Themselves). After reading this passage, I realized the brothers and sisters weren’t exposing and correcting me to make fun of, disparage or embarrass me, but to help me come to know myself. This was beneficial to my life and ensured I didn’t go down the wrong path. I thought of how last year when I was working with Sister Chen, she exposed me directly after noticing I was being wildly arrogant and acting arbitrarily. She was lovingly supporting me. Having someone like that by my side to supervise me was beneficial to my life entry. But, at the time, I didn’t take it as coming from God and misinterpreted Sister Chen’s good intentions. I just felt like she was making me lose face by directly exposing and correcting me, so I developed a bias towards her and excluded her. These were all manifestations of my antichrist disposition. God’s words had given me a path of practice. I should spend more time with honest, forthright people that pursue the truth, and when I did something wrong and went against principle, I should abandon status and reputation and listen to their thoughts. This would help ensure I didn’t do evil. I thought of how, even though I was a church leader, there were still many issues I didn’t grasp. Since we are controlled by our corrupt disposition, we will inevitably cause some disruption and interruption in our duties. So only by working harmoniously with others and helping and supporting each other can we do our duties and carry out church work well. Once I understood God’s will, I opened up to Sister Chen and apologized to her, telling her the whole story of how I’d attacked and suppressed her. Hearing that, Sister Chen didn’t think less of me or hate me like I’d imagined, but just fellowishiped on her own experience to help me. By opening up and fellowshiping we were able to put aside our biases.

One time later on, I neglected some general affairs because I was busy with other projects, and didn’t remember until two months later to have a gathering with those who handled general affairs. Sister Yang, who was in charge of general affairs, didn’t mince words in criticizing me: “You haven’t had a gathering with us for two months, you haven’t resolved issues we’ve had in our duties, and so our lives have all been negatively affected. God’s words say leaders and workers that assign work and then don’t manage it are false leaders.” Hearing the sister say this, I had mixed feelings: “I’ve asked about your state these two months, just not that often. And also, it’s because I’ve been busy with other work. You can’t call me a false leader just because of that! How do you expect me to keep checking in on your work when you say something like that? If you catch me doing something wrong again, and report me to upper level leaders as a false leader, won’t I lose my status? This won’t do, I can’t let you oversee work in the future.” But then, I thought of how I’d attacked and excluded Sister Chen in the previous month, and here I was again not wanting to let Sister Yang oversee work after voicing her opinion. Wasn’t I still attacking and excluding those with differing views? Just then, I recalled a passage of God’s words. “You must draw close to people who can tell you the truth. Having that kind of person by your side has so many benefits, especially those who, having found out that you have a problem, dare to criticize and expose you. Having that kind of good person by your side can keep you from going astray. If they discover that you have done something that violates the principles of the truth, they will criticize you as needed, and expose you as needed, regardless of your status. That is an upstanding person with a sense of justice. No matter how they expose and criticize you, it can all help you; all of it is supervision and exhortation of you. You must draw near to that kind of person. With that kind of person by your side to help you, you are much safer. That is the protection of God(The Word Appears in the Flesh, Vol. 3, Item Four: They Exalt and Testify About Themselves). Recalling God’s words, I gradually calmed down. Sister Yang had been a bit harsh, but she was telling it like it was. During that time, I really hadn’t understood her state and resolved her issues. And her life really was adversely affected. As a church leader, it was my responsibility to keep abreast of people’s states and resolve their issues—I couldn’t shirk that responsibility no matter how busy I was. But I didn’t show any concern for Sister Yang and when she gave me some suggestions, I wanted to vengefully attack her because I thought I’d lost face. I was truly toxic! When Sister Yang dealt with me, she was supervising my work and practicing the truth. If I attacked and sought revenge against her, I’d be going against the truth and doing evil! Realizing this, I came before God in prayer: “Dear God, I’ve realized I have an evil nature. In order to save face and guard my reputation, I wanted to attack and seek revenge against Sister Yang. This is punishing people. Oh God, I don’t want to act according to my corrupt disposition anymore. I’m ready to practice the truth and accept Sister Yang’s suggestions.” After prayer, I felt guilty for how I’d treated Sister Yang and wanted to apologize, but to my surprise, Sister Yang apologized to me first, saying she had been a little out of line and had spoken with a corrupt disposition. I also apologized to Sister Yang, I said: “You’re right. I really didn’t carry out practical work and I ought to reflect on this.” I felt that the brothers and sisters exposing and helping me was so that I could realize that I hadn't done practical work. This came from God and was God’s protection for me. Thanks be to Him!

Through this experience, I realized I had been deeply corrupted by Satan and was too covetous of reputation and status. To save face and keep my position, I even suppressed and excluded people. This was incredibly despicable and evil. I also realized that no matter what situation we face, we must focus on reflecting upon and knowing ourselves and seeking the truth to resolve our corrupt dispositions. Only then can we avoid doing evil and resisting God. Thanks be to God!

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