Fearing Power No Longer
By Xiaohan, China
This February, Sister Wang, a church leader, brought Sister Song to my group’s gathering and introduced her as a newly selected church leader, who’d be working with her from then on. Sister Song came to see us a few times after that, but it was always to drop something off or notify us about something, never to join a meeting to better understand our work, and our difficulties in life entry. I figured she was probably really busy and didn’t have time to delve into our work, so we just needed to put more in our duty.
One day in early March, Sister Song wrote an essay about her experiences and asked me to offer suggestions to improve her essay. It was a little over 1,000 words, and it seemed kind of vague, lacking in any details. When I mentioned this to her, she said she’d been a believer since 2008 and had been serving as a leader the entire time until she fell ill a few years ago. She felt like all those years doing a duty nonstop had exhausted her, so she’d decided to get a job. She hadn’t been gathering or readingfor three years. I was shocked to hear this, so I asked her if it was hard for her to go all those years without living a life of the church, gathering, and reading God’s words. She said, “I don’t really feel anything.” She went on to say that three months ago at the supermarket she was working at, she’d run into other church members who asked her back. I was confused and my heart kind of fluttered. I was thinking, “After three years outside of the church, would she be able to handle a leadership position in the church after just three months back?” I remembered God’s words: “Leaders and workers must be able to fellowship God’s words, must be able to find a path to practice from God’s words, and must lead people in understanding God’s words, and in experiencing and entering God’s words in their daily lives. They must be able to incorporate God’s words into their daily lives, and when they come across a problem, they must be able to solve it using God’s words; so, too, must they be able to use God’s words to address the various difficulties they encounter whilst performing their duty” (“Identifying False Leaders (1)” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). She’d been out of the church for years and was spiritually numb, without any practical experience. How could she fellowship the truth to help brothers and sisters? Selecting her to serve as a leader went against the principles. At the time I thought maybe she was chosen because she had good caliber and understood truth quickly. I didn’t speak up.
Then a few days later I was meeting with Sisters Zhang and Zhou from our group, and they mentioned they thought Sister Song shouldn’t be a leader, and that some others had raised doubts, wondering based on what principle Sister Song had been promoted. Sister Song didn’t have any real understanding of God’s words to share in gatherings, and sometimes after reading a passage she’d just sum up what it had said. When brothers and sisters came to her with their problems, she had no idea what to say. Sisters Zhang and Zhou talked to our leader Sister Wang about this, but she just said Sister Song had always done really well as a leader before and had even been promoted to work in other regions. She’d given up her job to take on her duty this time, and this all pointed to her being a correct person, so she was directly promoted by a higher leader. I felt like Sister Wang was missing the mark, too. The two sisters and I sought the truth on this, and we found this passage of God’s words: “Those who can lead churches, supply people with life, and be apostles to the people must have actual experience; they must have a correct understanding of spiritual things and a correct appreciation and experience of the truth. Only such people are qualified to be workers or apostles who lead the churches. Otherwise, they can only follow as the least and cannot lead, much less be apostles who are able to supply people with life. This is because the function of apostles is not to rush about or to fight; it is to do the work of ministering life and leading others in transforming their dispositions. Those who perform this function are commissioned to shoulder a heavy responsibility, one that not just anyone can shoulder. This kind of work can only be undertaken by those with life being, that is, those who have experience of the truth. It cannot be undertaken by merely anyone who can renounce, who can rush about, or who is willing to expend themselves; people who have no experience of the truth, who have not been pruned or judged, are unable to do this type of work. People with no experience, who are people without reality, are unable to see reality clearly because they themselves are without this kind of being. So, this type of person is not only unable to do leadership work, but, if they remain without the truth for a long while, they will become an object of elimination” (“God’s Work and Man’s Work” in). This shows us that leaders must be able to guide God’s chosen people to understand the truth, enter into God’s words, fellowship on the truth to resolve people’s actual problems, and minister others’ lives. Leadership isn’t just about having a little enthusiasm and making some sacrifices. The principles for selecting leaders for God’s house also say that it should be done through elections by brothers and sisters, and only those who pursue the truth can lead others to read God’s words and understand the truth properly. Of course leaders can be directly promoted under special circumstances, but they still have to meet the basic criteria, and be approved by most of the people involved. Sister Song had been away, not participating in church life for three years, and she didn’t have any real understanding of God’s words to share. She couldn’t seek the truth to help others with their problems in life entry, so the leader promoting Sister Song was a clear violation of the principles.
We found another passage of God’s words, too. “What is the cause of the emergence of the category of people who are leaders and workers, and how did they emerge? On a grand scale, they are required for God’s work; on a smaller scale, they are required for the work of the church, they are required by God’s chosen people. … The difference between their duty and that of other people is a matter of a special characteristic of theirs. What special characteristic is that? What is principally highlighted is the function of leadership. For example, there is a team of people with a person leading them; if this person is referred to as a ‘leader’ or as a ‘worker,’ what is their function within the team? (The function of leadership.) What effect does this person’s leadership have on the people they lead and on the team as a whole? It affects the team’s direction and its path. This implies that if this person in a position of leadership walks the wrong path, then, at the very least, it will cause the people beneath them and the entire team to veer from the right path; beyond that, it might disrupt or destroy the entire team’s direction as they move forward, as well as their speed and pace. So when it comes to this group of people, the path they follow and the direction of the path they choose, the extent to which they understand the truth as well as their belief in God affect not only themselves, but all the brothers and sisters who are within the scope of their leadership. If a leader is a right person, one who is walking the right path and pursues and practices truth, then the people they lead will eat and drink properly and seek properly, and, at the same time, the leader’s personal progress will be constantly visible to others. So, what is the correct path that a leader should walk? It is being able to lead others to an understanding of the truth and an entry into the truth, and to lead others before God. What is an incorrect path? It is frequently to elevate oneself and to bear witness to oneself, pursuing status, fame, and profit, and never bearing witness to God. What effect does this have on the people beneath them? (It brings those people before them.) People will stray far from God and come under this leader’s control. If you lead people to come before you, then you are leading them to come before corrupt mankind, and you are leading them to come before Satan, not God. Only leading people to come before truth is leading them to come before God. Leaders and workers, no matter whether they walk the right path or the wrong one, have a direct influence on God’s chosen When they have yet to understand the truth, many of God’s chosen ones follow blindly. The leader could be someone good, and they would follow them; the leader could be someone bad, and they would also follow them—they don’t differentiate. Which path the faithful walk is directly related to the path that is walked by the leaders and workers, and can to varying degrees be influenced by those leaders and workers” (“They Try to Win People Over” in Exposing Antichrists). I could see that whether a leader pursues the truth and what path they’re on doesn’t just impact them, but it also impacts brothers’ and sisters’ life entry and the work of the church. If God’s chosen people have a good leader to water and support them, it’s easier for them to stay on the path of seeking truth and salvation. But with poor leadership who doesn’t have a pure understanding of God’s words or who doesn’t practice the truth, without any experiential knowledge of God’s words, who just has some brains, some gifts, and can only speak of doctrines, God’s chosen people won’t gain any sustenance and they’ll end up ruined. That leader going against the principles to promote Sister Song was a big deal that could impact brothers’ and sisters’ salvation. I knew I had to protect the church’s work and care for God’s will, and report this to a higher leader. Sister Song wasn’t fit to serve as a leader—she should be in suitable position. That would be better for her, the church’s work, and for everyone’s life entry.
The next morning I wrote to the leader Sister Wang, requesting a meeting. I said that Sister Song was a believer for almost ten years, so she did understand some aspects of the truth and seemed set on this path. So just leaving God behind to go back into the world for three years without a word wasn’t just momentary weakness, but a betrayal of God and a serious offense against God. God has dignity, and His love and mercy toward humans is principled. If Sister Song didn’t truly repent, she’d struggle to gain the Holy Spirit’s work. She hadn’t been reading God’s words for years and she cannot resolve brothers’ and sisters’ difficulties in their duties or life entry. I said promoting her to that position went against the principles. She said she wasn’t familiar with Sister Song’s background, so she’d look into it. After about 10 days, Sister Wang came and fellowshiped with me that Sister Song was enthusiastic in her duty, so she was a correct person and could take on that duty. She said we should treat her fairly. I said it was not that we couldn’t treat her fairly, but that weighing this by the principles, she shouldn’t be a leader, and promoting her that way was wrong. The sister I was partnered with also chimed in, saying Sister Song hadn’t read God’s words in years, and couldn’t resolve others’ actual problems. If we insisted on keeping her in that position, it would bring harm to others. But Sister Wang just kept insisting that she was a right person, and the higher leader had the authority to promote her. Then she asked me if I had anything else I wanted to talk about. I didn’t think what she’d said fit the principles of the truth, but I hesitated, seeing how adamant she was being. I was thinking that if the upper leader wanted Sister Song in that duty, if I kept voicing objections, Sister Wang might think I was being arrogant and overstepping my bounds, refusing to support them in their work and being unfair. She could make things hard for me and dismiss me from my duty, or even send me back home. On the run from the Communist Party because of my faith, where would I go if I were told to leave? I figured I was bound to make a mistake if I talked too much, that I could speak up if someone else raised an objection later on. So I said to Sister Wang that I would accept it and continue to think over what I didn’t understand. Over the next few days, I felt incredibly guilty whenever I thought about how I’d been disingenuous to protect myself. I prayed and prayed.
I saw this passage of God’s words in my seeking: “Most people wish to pursue and practice the truth, but much of the time they merely have a resolution and the desire to do so; the truth has not become their life. As a result, when they come across evil forces or encounter wicked and bad people committing evil deeds, or false leaders and antichrists doing things in a way that violates principles—thus causing the work of God’s house to suffer losses, and harming God’s chosen ones—they lose the courage to stand up and speak out. What does it mean when you have no courage? Does it mean that you are timid or inarticulate? Or is it that you do not understand thoroughly, and therefore do not have the confidence to speak up? It is none of these; it is that you are being controlled by several kinds of corrupt dispositions. One of these dispositions is cunning. You think of yourself first, thinking, ‘If I speak up, how will it benefit me? If I speak up and displease someone, how will we get along in the future?’ This is a cunning mentality, right? Is this not the result of a cunning disposition? Another is a selfish and mean disposition. You think, ‘What does a loss to the interests of God’s house have to do with me? Why should I care? It’s got nothing to do with me. Even if I see it and hear it happen, I don’t need to do anything. It’s not my responsibility—I’m not a leader.’ Such things are inside you, as if they had sprung from your unconscious mind, and as if they occupy permanent positions in your heart—they are the corrupt, satanic dispositions of man. These corrupt dispositions control your thoughts and bind your hands and feet, and they control your mouth. When you want to say something in your heart, the words reach your lips but you do not say them, or, if you do speak, your words are roundabout, leaving you with room to maneuver—you do not speak at all clearly. Others feel nothing after hearing you, and what you have said has not resolved the problem. You think to yourself: ‘Well, I spoke up. My conscience is at ease. I’ve fulfilled my responsibility.’ In truth, you know in your heart that you have not said all you should, that what you have said has had no effect, and that the detriment to the work of God’s house remains. You have not fulfilled your responsibility, yet you say overtly that you have fulfilled your responsibility, or that what was happening was unclear to you. Are you not then completely under the control of your corrupt, satanic dispositions?” (“Only Those Who Practice the Truth Are God-Fearing” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). I realized from what God revealed that failing to practice the truth or protect the church’s interests comes entirely from a cunning, selfish, and base nature. “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “He who talks a lot errs a lot,” “The less trouble, the better,” and “The county official cannot order people around like the local one can,” “The nail that sticks up the most gets hammered down,” were satanic philosophies that had become my mottos. I only thought of my own interests in everything. I knew without a doubt that Sister Wang was wrong about Sister Song’s promotion, that it did violate the principles. But I was afraid I’d be suppressed if I insisted on my views, that I’d have no way out. So I made concessions and went against my heart, saying I’d accept it and work on understanding it better. It looked like I was doing my duty obediently and practicing the truth, but when I needed to stand up for God’s house, I stuck my head in the sand, cowardly, cunning, and selfish. God is holy and righteous, so how could someone like me, with an evil satanic disposition, be saved by God? There was another passage I read: “What is the standard by which a person’s deeds are judged to be good or evil? It depends on whether or not you, in your thoughts, expressions, and actions, possess the testimony of putting the truth into practice and of living out the reality of the truth. If you do not have this reality or do not live this out, then you are without a doubt an evildoer. How does God see evildoers? Your thoughts and external acts do not bear testimony for God, nor do they put Satan to shame or defeat Satan; instead, they shame God, and are riddled with marks that cause God to be ashamed. You are not testifying for God, not expending yourself for God, nor are you fulfilling your responsibility and obligations toward God; instead, you are acting for your own sake. What is the implication of ‘for your own sake’? For Satan. Therefore, in the end, God will say, ‘Depart from Me, you that work iniquity.’ In God’s eyes, you have not done good deeds, but rather your behavior has turned evil. Instead of meeting with God’s approval, you will be condemned. What does one with such a belief in God seek to gain? Would such belief not come to naught in the end?” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words showed me that God doesn’t just look at our superficial sacrifices and efforts, but whether we’re trying to satisfy God in our duty, whether we have testimony of practicing the truth. If I just appeared to make a lot of sacrifices, but my motives and goals were for my own benefit, and I still lived by corrupt disposition and Satan’s rules for survival, then I wouldn’t be bearing witness to God in my duty, but I’d actually be giving Satan a chance to humiliate God. In God’s eyes, that’s doing evil, and it’s disgusting to Him. God doesn’t care about man’s superficial good behavior. What’s key is practicing the truth, upholding the principles, standing on God’s side and protecting the interests of God’s house.
I read another passage of God’s words later on that gave me a path of practice. “You should know whether there is true faith and true loyalty within you, whether you have a record of suffering for God, and whether you have wholly submitted to God. If you lack these, then there remains within you disobedience, deceit, greed, and complaint. As your heart is far from honest, you have never received positive recognition from God and never lived in the light. How one’s fate will work out in the end hinges upon whether they have an honest and blood-red heart, and whether they have a pure soul. If you are someone who is very dishonest, someone with a heart of malice, someone with an unclean soul, then you are sure to end up in the place where man is punished, as is written in the record of your fate. If you claim to be very honest, and yet never manage to act in accordance with the truth or to speak a word of truth, then are you still waiting for God to reward you? Do you still hope for God to regard you as the apple of His eye? Is such thinking not preposterous? You deceive God in all things; how could the house of God accommodate one such as you, whose hands are unclean?” (“Three Admonitions” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This helped me understand that whether I have a good destination and outcome is about my attitude toward the truth, whether I give my true heart to God, if I’m an honest person who speaks and acts honestly. God is faithful, and He hopes that we treat Him honestly, caring for His will, not considering our own gains and losses in things. I saw that God had guided me to see that Sister Song’s promotion went against the principles, but after talking with Sister Wang a couple times, I saw how much she insisted that it was in line with the principles, and that even the higher leader had approved it, so I just read the room. I thought, “‘The county official cannot order people around like the local one can,’ ‘Might makes right.’ If I keep insisting on my view of things, I could end up ostracized by Sister Wang and I could lose my duty.” I was just thinking of my own future. So when Sister Wang was done talking and asked if I had anything else to say, I immediately changed my tune and agreed with her for all the wrong reasons, saying I’d accept it and slowly work on understanding it. But that was entirely a false front, with the intent to deceive so that I could protect myself. It was really cunning and deceitful. Appropriate selection of leaders directly impacts brothers’ and sisters’ salvation and the proper advancement of the church’s work. Protecting my interests at the expense of God’s house was disgusting to God. I knew He would punish me if I didn’t repent. Seeing the consequences of not practicing truth, I set aside thoughts of my own outcome and decided to talk to upper leadership about it. I figured that even if I was dismissed, it would be something God allowed. There’d be a lesson for me and it would be God testing me, to see if I was going to protect my own interests, or the interests of God’s house. I remembered what was said in fellowship, that everyone’s understanding of the truth is limited, and even with some understanding, we should still confirm that with a few others who understand the truth and minimize our blunders.
So I fellowshiped more on this with a few sisters I worked with and that helped me understand that if a leader does something that violates principles, no matter their level, God’s chosen people can object them and share fellowship on the truth. If it still isn’t resolved, they can speak to an even higher leader and report it. That is God’s will. But I didn’t understand God’s righteousness, or know that God sees and rules over everything. I thought of God’s house like the outside world, thinking I had to pretend my superiors were right, that I’d be ostracized and treated like an enemy if I didn’t go along with them, that they’d lash out or kick me out and make things miserable for me. So I didn’t dare insist on my point, afraid of overstepping my bounds and being oppressed by the leader. I was lacking faith that the truth and righteousness rule in God’s house. I was lacking true faith in God. Whether I could do a duty, and what my outcome and fate are, are all in God’s hands, not any leader’s. No matter how high, any leader who violates principles, who disrupts the work of God’s house can be exposed and stopped by God’s chosen people. This is upholding the church’s work and caring for God’s will, not stepping out of line. If we did face oppression for exposing and reporting a leader, it would be God allowing that. It would show the true colors of the leaders and give us better discernment. Our fellowship was enlightening for me, and I didn’t feel scared anymore. Everyone agreed that the issues with Sister Song needed to be reported to upper leadership. So we wrote everything out exactly as we understood it, took an oath and signed it, and sent it off.
I felt really calm after our report was on its way. But a week went by without anyone coming to look into the matter. I started to feel uneasy. Had our letter been held back by a leader? Was I really going to lose my duty? I immediately said a prayer, asking God to keep me from being held back by thoughts of my future. A few days later, the sister handling our report letter came to tell us that she’d asked around, and our report was entirely accurate. Sister Song didn’t have real understanding of God’s words to share and couldn’t solve problems. She wasn’t fit for leadership and would be dismissed. The leader that had promoted her later acknowledged it went against the principles and was willing to accept our supervision, to reflect on herself and repent to God.
A few days later, Sister Wang came to gather with us and admitted that she’d been arrogant and stubborn in the matter of Sister Song, and went against principles. She wanted to repent. Seeing things turn out that way, I offered up heartfelt thanks and praise to God. I saw that truth and righteousness hold sway in the house of God. And absolutely all leaders have to follow the principles of the truth, and cannot go against them. This gave me some genuine understanding of God’s righteous disposition. I also could see that only being honest, carrying out God’s words and following the principles of the truth is after God’s heart. I’m grateful to God for setting up this invaluable experience for me.