Don’t Let Affection Cloud Your Mind

January 17, 2022

By Xin Jing, China

Back in June of 2015, I went to a church to serve as gospel deacon. A woman named Li Jie was on the watering team, and we needed to work together pretty frequently. We were about the same age, and we led similar lives and had similar personalities. We also shared the experience of being repressed by our husbands—we had a lot in common. We got along great. Plus I was new to that church, so I didn’t know the other members and had a lot of challenges in my duty. She fellowshiped with me and helped me out really enthusiastically, and I was always there for her when she ran into problems in her life. As time went on, we started sharing our innermost thoughts and feelings. We felt a real rapport and got along great.

Later on I was elected as church leader and we weren’t in contact as much. A few months or so went by and I heard quite a few brothers and sisters mentioning issues with Li Jie. They said she was really arrogant, and when others had problems, she not only lacked patience with them, but would scold and belittle them. Everyone felt constrained by her. Someone in charge pointed this out to her, but she refused to accept it and was rude about it. She was being incredibly disruptive in the meeting. She wouldn’t accept others’ fellowship, but just laid the blame on other people. Everyone said she lacked the Spirit’s work, her fellowship was muddled and confusing, and sometimes she brought other people down. She hadn’t been doing well watering newcomers for a couple months. When I heard all this, I knew in my heart that she wasn’t a good fit for watering duty anymore. A few coworkers suggested replacing her, saying the church’s work would be delayed. I was really uncomfortable with that idea—I didn’t want to fire her. Li Jie was the first contact I had when I was new to the church and she helped me so much. We had a great relationship, so if I agreed to her dismissal, I was afraid of what she’d think, if she’d say I was heartless. And she really cared about fame, so wouldn’t she be miserable if she were fired? I couldn’t bear to fire her when I thought about it that way. I made the excuse that Li Jie hadn’t been doing well recently, but it wasn’t entirely her fault. The newcomers she watered were stuck in religious notions and slow to learn, so it was normal she wasn’t doing great. Also, she could put her nose to the grindstone and work really long hours. If we dismissed her, it would take some time to find a good replacement, so she was better than nothing. Some coworkers hesitated when they heard this from me. Everyone grudgingly agreed to keep her in that duty for the time being and look for a replacement. I breathed a sigh of relief, but I was also thinking that even though she hadn’t been fired for now, it would have to be done when a good replacement was found. Maybe if I helped her out, her performance could improve and then she could keep her duty. So that night I went straight to Li Jie’s house after my evening gathering and talked to her about the reasons why her performance was lacking and the problems in her duty. She had no self-awareness and just made excuses. I was pretty upset to see her acting that way. I provided her with a lot more fellowship after that to help her improve in her duty, but her performance never improved. It stirred up a lot of anxiety for me. Over the next little while, a leader wrote me a few letters checking in with me about changing Li Jie’s duty. I just fobbed her off by saying that I hadn’t found a good replacement. Li Jie kept refusing to take advice, and she had a contact with a sister with safety concerns without approval when the police could have been watching. I had no choice but to remove her from her duty.

The church later put me in charge of gospel work, and I thought of Li Jie sitting at home, miserable without a duty to do. She’d been so motivated in gospel work, so it seemed like a great chance to have her start doing a duty again. I raised that idea in a coworkers’ meeting, saying she had experience and strengths in that kind of work, that she knew she’d been wrong and regretted it. I said we should give her a chance to join the gospel team. All the others agreed. Well, I was surprised when before long, I heard reports from brothers and sisters that she’d had problems with the gospel deacon before, so in gatherings she kept talking about how the deacon oppressed her before, and she kept bringing it up. Lots of brothers and sisters became biased against the deacon and ostracized her. She would go head-to-head with the deacon in work meetings and a few other sisters took her side. The gospel deacon couldn’t get any work done, and it seriously impeded the church’s work. I was shocked to hear that. I knew the deacon had formally apologized to Li Jie, and I’d fellowshiped with her. I told her to know herself, not penetrate into things, but learn a lesson. But I didn’t expect she’d keep holding onto things, and refuse to let go. Her behavior was already really disruptive within the church, and if that went on, she’d have to leave the gospel team. I worried about her more and more. I went to fellowship with her a number of times. She said the right things to my face, but kept acting the same in gatherings. Some other deacons had fellowshiped with her and helped her, but she had no self-awareness and wouldn’t change.

The leader learned about all this before long. She was being disruptive in the church, wouldn’t repent after repeated fellowship, and was having a terrible impact. Applying the principles, she had to be fired, and then removed from the church if she still didn’t repent. My heart dropped when I heard this. I thought about how she’d given everything up and suffered so much. Wouldn’t it be a real shame if she were kicked out? She’d helped me so much when I served as gospel deacon and I was the person she was closest to in that church. I felt like it would be utterly heartless of me if I didn’t speak on her behalf. How could I ever face her again if she really were kicked out? I was sure she’d resent me and be really hurt. When I thought about it that way, I told those coworkers that Li Jie did have some problems, but she’d been serving in the church all the time and did well in gospel work, so maybe that was being too harsh. I suggested giving her another chance and more help, and maybe she’d change. A coworker responded very sternly, saying, “Sister Xin, you’re not following the principles of the truth, but you’re caught up in emotion. Li Jie did okay in gospel work before and is a hard worker. But she won’t accept the truth—she hates the truth and plays a negative role here. She’s seriously disrupted the work of God’s house. We can’t coddle her because of our affections. Give this some thought.” When she said this, I realized I really hadn’t been following the principles with Li Jie, but I still couldn’t bear it, and I wanted to have the leader give her another chance.

On my way home from the gathering, I felt like the world was spinning, and I was afraid to open my eyes. I couldn’t even walk. I sat right by the side of the road, and realized it was probably God disciplining me. I said a silent prayer. Just then, some of God’s words came clearly to my mind. God says, “When people offend God, it might not be because of one event or one thing they said, but rather because of an attitude they hold and a state they are in. This is a very frightening thing” (“God Himself, the Unique VII” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). These words from God put some fear in my heart. I saw I must have been offending God’s disposition. I started to reflect and realized that since that leader told me I should dismiss Li Jie and let her reflect upon herself, I hadn’t been seeking the truth or considering the interests of God’s house. I was just stubbornly sticking up for her. God didn’t have any place in my heart, and I’d already offended Him. I quickly said a prayer to God, admitting I was wrong and hoping to reflect on myself. After praying, I dragged myself back home unsteadily. I read another passage of God’s words when I got there. God says, “Some people have an extremely sentimental nature; every day, in all that they say, and all of the ways they behave toward others, they are living by their emotions. They feel affection for this person and that person, and every day they feel obliged to pay back favors and return good feelings; in everything they do, they live in the realm of emotion. … You could say that emotions are this person’s fatal flaw. Everything they do is ruled by their emotions, they are incapable of practicing the truth, or acting according to principle, and are frequently liable to rebel against God. Emotions are their greatest weakness, their fatal flaw, and are entirely able to bring them to ruin. People who are overly emotional are incapable of putting the truth into practice or obeying God. They are preoccupied by the flesh, foolish and muddle-headed, it being their nature to place great stock in feelings. They live by their emotions” (“How to Know Man’s Nature” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). I was so moved when I read this and I couldn’t stop my tears. I saw I really was too governed by my feelings for others, that it was my weak point, my Achilles’ heel. Li Jie was so ready and willing to help me that I felt a real affinity for her, and over time, she became like a kindred spirit. I spoke from a place of emotion whenever something involved her, always fretting over her feelings and taking her side. I couldn’t fairly apply the principles. I did know that she wasn’t doing well in her duty, that it was disruptive, the bad outweighed the good, and she should be dismissed immediately. But because of our strong ties, I was worried about her losing her duty or being kicked out of the church, so I went by my emotions, finding all sorts of excuses to convince the others to keep her. I even wanted to help her improve her performance so she could keep her position. If it hadn’t been for our bond, I wouldn’t have spoken up so much for her. I would have treated any other brother or sister according to the principles. At that point I saw that I’d been entirely governed by my affections in my duty, favoring and coddling her at every turn with no regard for the principles. I wasn’t remotely considering the work or interests of God’s house, but speaking and acting based entirely on my own feelings—it was so selfish!

I read a little more of God’s words that opened my eyes more to this problem. Almighty God says, “What issues relate to emotions? Number one is how you evaluate your own family, how you react to the things they do. ‘The things they do’ includes when they are meddlesome and intrusive, when they are judgmental about people behind their backs, when they do the things of the nonbelievers, and so on. Could you be impartial toward your family? If you were asked to evaluate them in writing, would you do so fairly and objectively, putting your own emotions aside? And are you sentimental toward those you get on with or who previously helped you? Would you be precise, impartial, and objective about their actions and behavior? Would you immediately report or expose them when you discovered them meddling and intruding? What’s more, are you sentimental toward those who are close to you, or who share similar interests? Would your evaluation, definition, and response to their actions and behavior be impartial and objective? And how would you react if principle dictated that the church take measures against someone connected to you, or who you have an emotional connection with, and these measures were at odds with your own notions? Would you obey? Would you secretly continue to liaise with them, would you still be inveigled by them, would you even be prompted by them to make excuses for them, to rationalize and defend them? Would you fall on your sword for and come to the aid of those who have been kind to you, oblivious to the principles of the truth and heedless of the interests of God’s house? This all involves various issues to do with emotions, does it not? Some people say, ‘These emotions You talk of—don’t they only involve relatives and family members? Doesn’t this only cover parents, brothers and sisters, and other family members?’ No; it covers a lot of different people. Forget family members, there are some who aren’t even capable of being impartial about their good friends and buddies. Everything that comes out of their mouth is biased. For example, when someone is negligent, and inclined to wickedness, they describe them as liking to have fun, happy-go-lucky, a late bloomer. And is there emotion in these words? When the negligent person has no connection to them, their words are less light-hearted: ‘They’re obviously an antichrist, they are wicked, evil, everything they do is meddlesome and intrusive.’ Asked for proof, they reply, ‘As of yet there is no proof—but you can tell straight away that they’re a bad egg. God’s words say that this is their nature.’ They make no bones about defining them. This is living by their emotions, is it not? And what are those who live by their emotions? Are such people impartial? Are they upstanding? (No.) People who live by the predilections and interests of the flesh live by their emotions” (“Identifying False Leaders (2)” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “I do not give people the opportunity to release their emotions, for I am without emotions, and have grown to detest the emotions of people to an extreme degree. It is because of the emotions between people that I have been cast to one side, and thus I have become an ‘other’ in their eyes; it is because of the emotions between people that I have been forgotten; it is because of the emotions of man that he seizes the opportunity to pick up his ‘conscience’; it is because of the emotions of man that he is always weary of My chastisement; it is because of the emotions of man that he calls Me unfair and unjust, and says that I am heedless of man’s feelings in My handling of things. Do I also have kin upon earth? Who has ever, like Me, worked day and night, without thought for food or sleep, for the sake of My entire management plan? How could man be comparable to God? How could man be compatible with God?” (“Chapter 28” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Reading this gave me more clarity on what it means to be governed by affections, and I saw that God hates this in people. It leads us to violate the principles of the truth, do evil, and resist God. God elevated me to be a leader, but in handling other people, I wouldn’t practice the truth or treat them fairly, according to principles. I shielded Li Jie because of our rapport, refusing to dismiss her or kick her out when that was called for. I was using the work of God’s house to do favors, sacrificing the church’s interests. This harmed the life entry of brothers and sisters and did nothing but disrupt the work of God’s house. I was biting the hand that feeds me—I was being a traitor. Wasn’t that humiliating and resisting God? I was filled with regret for my actions when I saw all that, and rushed to pray and repent to God. In a later gathering, I opened up about how I’d been ruled by emotion when handling the whole situation. Based on Li Jie’s behavior, I removed her from her duty so she could reflect.

Six months or so went by, and she not only didn’t gain any real understanding of her evil behavior, but was insisting she’d been wronged, that the leader hadn’t been fair. She told others that the leader looked down upon her and held a grudge against her. The leader fellowshiped on the truth with her and dissected her behavior, but she was having none of it, and was full of excuses. Li Jie even gave her the silent treatment, directly turning her back on her in silent protest. She was complaining and spreading negativity among others, talking about how much she’d suffered without any blessings in return while the undeserving were blessed. Some of the brothers and sisters in contact with her ended up taking her side and defending her. A lot of people said that she had poor humanity, she had been really picky about the food at her host’s home, and complained behind her host sister’s back that she wasn’t buying food for her. She was stingy with her money and complained about being poor, which fooled brothers and sisters into helping her out of love, giving her money or other things. And she was entitled in accepting that, as if they somehow owed all that help to her. She was a parasite in God’s house. All this made me think of a passage of God’s words in “A Warning to Those Who Do Not Practice the Truth.” God says, “Those who give vent to their poisonous, malicious talk within the church, who spread rumors, foment disharmony, and form cliques among the brothers and sisters—they should have been expelled from the church. Yet because now is a different era of God’s work, these people are restricted, for they face certain elimination. All who have been corrupted by Satan have corrupt dispositions. Some have nothing more than corrupt dispositions, while others are different: Not only do they have corrupt satanic dispositions, but their nature is also extremely malicious. Not only do their words and actions reveal their corrupt, satanic dispositions; these people are, moreover, the genuine devil Satan. Their behavior interrupts and disturbs God’s work, it impairs the brothers’ and sisters’ entry into life, and it damages the normal life of the church. Sooner or later, these wolves in sheep’s clothing must be cleared out; an unsparing attitude, an attitude of rejection, should be adopted toward these lackeys of Satan. Only this is standing on the side of God, and those who fail to do so are wallowing in the mire with Satan” (The Word Appears in the Flesh). This passage of God’s words gave me more discernment over Li Jie. She refused to accept truth, was disruptive and judgmental without playing a positive role, a rotten apple making a mess of our church life. When she was criticized and lost her duty, she never repented, but was discontent, complained about leaders, and kept disrupting church life. That kind of truth-hating, vindictive, aggressive, evil person could never be saved. She’d just disrupt the church’s work like a fox in a henhouse running amok, devouring the hens. Evil people must be removed so the work of God’s house can proceed and we can lead a proper life of the church. God is righteous and holy. He saves those with good humanity who love the truth, not evildoers. Evil people hate the truth by nature and won’t truly repent no matter how many chances they get. Those who love the truth can reveal corruption, be disruptive, and say some judgmental things, but after that fact they can reflect on themselves and accept God’s words’ judgment and chastisement, and repent and change. The church gave Li Jie plenty of chances, but she never repented. She just ramped up her attacks and disruption. She was evil in essence. She had to be kicked out based on the church’s principles. As a church leader, I knew I’d have to fellowship with others to expose her evildoing and sign my name on her excommunication documents. I still felt reluctant to do this. I was worried she’d be totally done in if she really were removed from the church. I prayed to God as soon as I had this thought and asked Him to guide me to overcome my emotion.

Then I read this in God’s words, passage 4 in “God and Man Will Enter Into Rest Together.” “Who is Satan, who are demons, and who are God’s enemies if not resisters who do not believe in God? Are they not those people who are disobedient to God? Are they not those who claim to have faith, yet who lack truth? Are they not those who merely seek to obtain blessings while being unable to bear witness for God? You still mingle with those demons today and bear conscience and love toward them, but in this case are you not extending good intentions toward Satan? Are you not associating with demons? If people these days are still unable to distinguish between good and evil, and continue to blindly be loving and merciful without any intention of seeking God’s will or being able in any way to harbor God’s intentions as their own, then their endings will be all the more wretched. Anyone who does not believe in the God in the flesh is an enemy of God. If you can bear conscience and love toward an enemy, do you not lack a sense of righteousness? If you are compatible with those which I detest and with which I disagree, and still bear love or personal feelings toward them, then are you not disobedient? Are you not intentionally resisting God? Does such a person possess truth? If people bear conscience toward enemies, love for demons, and mercy for Satan, then are they not intentionally disrupting God’s work?” (The Word Appears in the Flesh). I felt so guilty when I read this passage of God’s words. I was well aware she was a troublemaker, a wrench in the works who would never repent, an evildoer who hated the truth in essence, but I still babied her, always wanting to keep her within the church. I was enabling an evil person’s harm to the church’s work, standing on Satan’s side, going against God. Satan’s philosophies “Blood is thicker than water,” “Man is not inanimate; how can he be free from emotions?” were guiding me. I’d always valued connection with others, thinking that was the only way to be humane, to be a good person. I thought anything else was heartless and I’d be rejected by others. That was absolutely ludicrous of me. Those worldly philosophies appear to be right and they fit with human notions, but they go against the truth and the principles. If we are sentimental and loving toward everyone else, then it is a foolish way to love others, and it’s completely unprincipled. God asks us to be principled with others, to be loving with brothers and sisters and have a conscience with God, to reject evildoers, nonbelievers, demons, and Satan. Isn’t being sentimental with those kinds of people foolish and muddleheaded? That kind of love is lacking discernment and principles—it comes out of foolishness. It doesn’t just lead us astray, but following an evildoer can really harm the work of God’s house. I saw I was living by satanic philosophies, and it was so foolish, so undignified. I knew Li Jie wouldn’t accept the truth, that she was an evildoer disrupting the church, and she needed to be removed. But I was stuck in my feelings, held back by my affections. I coddled her over and over. It was painful, exhausting, and limiting for me, but more importantly I wasn’t practicing truths I understood. I was fighting against God. I was enjoying God’s grace and salvation, but working against Him, protecting Satan and an evildoer. I really lacked conscience and reason. It finally became clear to me that being ruled by emotion is turning your back on God and the truth. Then I thought of how for years, God had been doing so much work in me and had paid such a price. I hadn’t given Him anything in return, but was even standing on Satan’s side against Him. I was filled with regret and guilt when I thought about it that way.

I read a passage of God’s words in my devotionals after that. God says, “By what principle do God’s words ask that people treat others? Love what God loves, and hate what God hates: This is the principle that should be adhered to. God loves those who pursue the truth and are able to follow His will. These are also the people that we should love. Those who are not able to follow God’s will, who hate God, and rebel against God—these people are despised by God, and we should despise them, too. This is what God asks of man. … During the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus said, ‘Who is My mother? And who are My brothers? … For whoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.’ This saying already existed back in the Age of Grace, and now God’s words are even more apt: ‘Love what God loves, and hate what God hates.’ These words cut straight to the point, yet people are often unable to appreciate their true meaning” (“Only by Recognizing Your Misguided Views Can You Know Yourself” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). That helped clarify this principle to practice, “Love what God loves, and hate what God hates.” Only those who have true faith, pursue the truth, and are devoted in their duty are real brothers and sisters, and they’re the ones deserving of our love. Those who refuse to accept the truth, but are always disruptive in the church, who hate the truth and hate God are all evil people, nonbelievers, demons, and Satan. They deserve our disgust and rejection. That’s the only way to treat people with principles and according to God’s will. In a gathering after that, I shared fellowship on what an evil person is and how to discern them, and I revealed Li Jie’s evil behaviors. I also fellowshiped on the principles for removing someone from the church, and once they’d all come to understand the truth, they began to expose Li Jie’s evildoing. She was ultimately kicked out.

I was really filled with gratitude toward God after all of that. If it hadn’t been for what God revealed and the judgment of His words, I’d have kept living by those satanic philosophies, just being blindly compassionate toward others, unable to tell good from evil, right from wrong, standing on Satan’s side against God without realizing it. God’s words showed me the danger and consequences of being ruled by affection, and helped me escape the bonds of affection, so I can treat people according to principles of the truth. I’m so grateful for God’s love and salvation.

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