Why Can’t I Stick to the Principles?
By Bai Jing, France
In August 2021 I started practicing as a church leader. In my interactions with Li Yan, who was in charge of the gospel work, I noticed she often made a big deal out of small problems people had, and told everyone about them. She couldn’t work well with others and she was always saying things that went against the facts. Once in a gathering, she said a church leader who had been transferred didn’t focus on gospel work and never asked her how her work was going. But in fact, that leader was always following up on her work. Also, she reported that the work was going really well so people thought what she was in charge of was proceeding normally. Actually, though, she didn’t get any real work done. In one gathering, she kept stressing the difficulties in her work, saying her team members were no good, but when I looked into the details, I found there was lots of work she hadn’t done, so she had no basis for saying that. I called her out for not doing practical work and shifting the blame. She didn’t say anything in response. I thought she’d do some self-reflection, but surprisingly, she sent my partner, Sister Liu, a message saying she wanted nothing to do with me anymore, that I blindly dealt with her when I saw a problem and didn’t understand her actual difficulties. She also said she couldn’t be like me, but had to treat the brothers and sisters with love and patience. When I read this, I was just stunned for a moment. There were so many problems in her duty. I was just pointing them out—it was nowhere near pruning and dealing with her. How could she say I blindly dealt with her? That’s not what happened. How could she be so slippery and cunning? I wanted to explain things to Sister Liu, but I got halfway through a message to her then hesitated. If I sent a message explaining or describing Li Yan’s issues, Sister Liu might think I lacked self-awareness in the face of problems, and didn’t treat people right. At that thought, I didn’t send the message. I heard afterward that Li Yan used opening up her heart to others as a pretext to say I blindly dealt with her without knowing the background, and it had gotten her down. Hearing about this was really upsetting for me. I didn’t know how I could check on her work in the future, and I felt like she was really hard to get along with. A couple days later, because of work needs, we wanted to transfer a few people from Li Yan’s team to go do watering work. Surprisingly, the moment I told her, she said, looking sour, “If you want to transfer them, just do it. I don’t care. Anyway, I’m sure my work results won’t turn out to be good.” Later she said to me openly that she had an issue with the sister in charge of watering work, and that’s why she didn’t want them transferred. She also said that no one could blame her if she wasn’t so nice if that sister caused more problems for her. Hearing the threat in her words, I felt like she wasn’t just hard to get along with, but had bad humanity, and I had to be careful when I followed up on her work, or else she’d find something against me.
Once, an upper leader assigned us to do clean-up work, to investigate and learn whether the church had evildoers or antichrists, and if any came to light, to remove them, to expel them from the church. Li Yan came to mind. Her humanity was no good and she refused to accept the truth. She held a grudge against anyone who mentioned problems to her, and would distort things, confound black and white, and spread her bias behind their backs. I thought I should look into her general behavior. But then I thought about how resistant Li Yan was to me looking into her work, and she said behind my back I’d blindly dealt with her. If I went to collect assessments of her this time, would the brothers and sisters think I was using that chance to take revenge on her? Would my partner think I loved status too much, and I’d look for chances to lash out at whoever pointed out my problems? Then everyone would be afraid of me and avoid me, and it would be a big problem if they tried to discern my issues and reported me as a false leader. I figured, forget it. I could take care of it after someone else discerned her problems, otherwise if I was the primary one speaking out about this, it could be misunderstood. So, I didn’t bring up the issue. Before long, Sister Liu mentioned that Li Yan’s humanity was no good and wanted to look into her behavior. I was both happy and a little guilty when she said that. I already knew that about Li Yan, and I should have investigated her behavior right away, but I didn’t say anything, afraid others would misunderstand me as lashing out at her. I wasn’t protecting the church’s work. But at least someone else had said something, so I didn’t need to worry about it anymore. After collecting assessments of Li Yan, we saw that most people who had written them didn’t know her very well and provided very little information. Just a few people noticed her problems. I knew the right thing to do under these circumstances was to seek out people who had interacted with her over the long term, but I was concerned others would say I was targeting her, using that to take personal revenge, so I didn’t want to say anything. Just then Sister Liu said we should keep an eye on how things go, and I didn’t say anything further.
Later I found out that other brothers and sisters had given Li Yan suggestions and she not only wouldn’t accept them, but made false countercharges against them. Once, a waterer gave Li Yan some feedback that some of the people the gospel workers preached to had bad humanity and didn’t fit the principles. Li Yan not only refused to accept that, but aired her biases and grievances in front of the brothers and sisters on the gospel team, saying they were all following the principles in their duty, but since the waterers hadn’t clearly fellowshiped on the truth with the people they’d worked so hard to convert, some new believers were misled by rumors and dropped out. In a gathering, Sister Liu and I fellowshiped on the essence of this problem, targeting Li Yan’s behavior. We fellowshiped with her several more times after that. I thought she’d self-reflect, but she just wouldn’t budge, and kept sharing these biases against the waterers. She said she was feeling depressed and didn’t know how she could do her job. Because of this discord she sowed, some brothers and sisters were grumbling to each other, and there wasn’t any harmonious cooperation. I knew Li Yan wasn’t suited to be a supervisor and she should be dismissed right away. I really regretted not having quickly investigated and dismissed her from the start. I knew she had bad humanity, but I gave her more chances to keep disrupting the church’s work. I felt awful. I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me to self-reflect and know myself.
In my seeking, I saw thatsay: “What disposition is it when people take no responsibility toward their duty, do it in a careless and perfunctory manner, act like yes-men, and do not defend the interests of the house of God? This is cunning, it is the disposition of Satan. The most striking item in man’s philosophies for living is cunning. People think that if they are not cunning, they will be liable to offend others and unable to protect themselves; they think they must be cunning enough not to hurt or offend anyone, thereby keeping themselves safe, protecting their livelihoods, and gaining a firm foothold among the masses. Unbelievers all live by Satan’s philosophy. They are all yes-men and do not offend anyone. You have come to the house of God, read the word of God, and listened to sermons of God’s house. So why are you always a yes-man? Yes-men only protect their own interests, and not the interests of the church. When they see someone do evil and harm the church’s interests, they ignore it. They like to be yes-men, and do not offend anyone. This is irresponsible, and that kind of person is too cunning and untrustworthy” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Knowing One’s Disposition Is the Foundation of Changing It). I understood from the revelation of God’s words that, afraid of offending Li Yan, in an effort to maintain my image and status, when I saw her disrupting the church’s work I didn’t stand up to defend it. Instead I was a people-pleaser, with one eye open and one eye closed. That was irresponsible, cunning behavior. Unbelievers live by satanic philosophies so they can protect their own interests. They carefully observe others when speaking and see which way the wind is blowing—they’re really crafty. In my duty, I had the same attitude as an unbeliever. I clearly saw that Li Yan’s humanity was no good and she had already become disruptive to church work. She should have been dismissed. But I didn’t want the others to think I was upbraiding her and taking revenge, so I avoided the issue by trying not to do anything that could arouse suspicion, and put off handling Li Yan. I wanted to wait until other brothers and sisters gained discernment over her. Wanting to protect my reputation and status, even knowing she was disrupting church work, I still preferred having the church’s interests harmed and not following the principles, not exposing or handling her. I was really crafty, selfish, and despicable. At this thought I felt really regretful and guilty. I knew that I couldn’t keep on doing things with one eye open and one eye closed, but I had to handle the issue of Li Yan according to principle—I couldn’t keep protecting my own interests.
Sister Liu and I went to talk to Li Yan after that, exposing how she twisted things and arbitrarily spread her prejudices about others, sabotaging, hurting relationships between the brothers and sisters, and that she’d become a disturbance to church work. I was surprised that she wouldn’t accept it at all, but lashed back out at us, saying in a huff, “I shared issues with you, and you not only didn’t resolve them, but nitpicked at me. I can see you don’t do any practical work at all.” Seeing how overbearing she was being, with absolutely no self-awareness, we dissected the nature and consequences of her words and actions with relevant words of God, but she wouldn’t take any of it in—she kept arguing her case and quibbling.
Afterward, I read a passage of God’s words that helped me understand Li Yan’s essence. God’s words say, “All who would often disturb the work and life of the church, who interfere severely with the life entry of God’s chosen people, are unbelievers, and they are evil people. The church must clear them out. So long as someone often disturbs the work and life of the church, and does not accept it when pruned and dealt with, always offering their own warped justifications, then, whoever they may be and however they may have behaved in the past, they must be cleared out of the church. The sole purpose of doing so is to keep the church’s work progressing normally, to protect the interests of God’s chosen people. Doing so is entirely in accord with the principles of the truth and entirely in accord with God’s will” (The Word, Vol. 5. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers). “With people of a vicious disposition, whatever mistake they have made or bad thing they have done, no one may reveal them, and no one may deal with or prune them. Should someone reveal and offend them, they will become enraged; they will have their revenge, and never let the issue drop. They have no patience, tolerance, or acceptance at all for others. What principle is their behavior based on? ‘I’d rather offend all beneath heaven, than for one of them to offend me.’ They do not abide being offended by anyone. Is this the logic of the wicked? Such is the logic of the wicked. No one is allowed to offend them. For them, even the slightest brush is unacceptable, and they will hate anyone who brushes up against them. They’ll never leave that person alone, never let it go—this is how wicked people are” (The Word, Vol. 5. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers). I saw from God’s words that evil people have a vicious disposition and won’t accept the truth one bit. They develop hatred for anyone who exposes and points out their problems, then see them as an enemy, and may even lash back out and take revenge. I held Li Yan up against that. She never self-reflected or learned about herself in the face of issues, and she hated whoever gave her suggestions, seeing them as her enemy, twisting the truth, confounding black and white, spreading her prejudices and complaints about others over and over, provoking problems in brothers and sisters’ relationships. This led to them unable to work together in harmony and disrupted and hindered the gospel work. The others gave her pointers and helped her many times, but she wouldn’t accept it. She became hostile toward them and made false countercharges, all without a shred of regret. She hated the truth and was sick of it by nature. She had been shown to be an evil person, and if we let her stay on in the church, it would just bring more trouble to the church’s work. And so, Sister Liu and I fellowshiped our discernment of Li Yan’s behavior according to the principles and dismissed her after the brothers’ and sisters’ approval through a vote. We assigned her to isolate and self-reflect, and would kick her out if there were further disruptions.
Later on, some brothers and sisters said, one after another, that working with Li Yan was really constraining. She was always imperiously scolding people and lots of people were scared of her. When she came to look into their work, everyone prepared ahead of time, afraid she’d scold them if they didn’t explain something well. I felt really uneasy. Li Yan had committed so much evil, hurting the brothers and sisters so much. Though I was a church leader, I still didn’t handle it when I discovered an evildoer. Then didn’t I serve no practical purpose? I wasn’t getting real work done.
For a few days I kept reflecting on why I could properly handle other evil people and antichrists, but I avoided and wouldn’t handle the matter of Li Yan. I read some of God’s words. “No matter what they’re doing, the antichrists first consider their own interests, and they only act once they’ve thought it all out; they do not truly, sincerely, and absolutely obey the truth without compromise, but do so selectively and conditionally. What condition is this? It is that their status and reputation must be safeguarded, and must not suffer any loss. Only after this condition is satisfied will they decide and choose what to do. That is, antichrists give serious consideration to how to treat the principles of the truth, God’s commissions, and the work of God’s house, or how to deal with the things they face. They do not consider how to fulfill God’s will, how to keep from damaging the interests of God’s house, how to satisfy God, or how to benefit the brothers and sisters; these are not the things they consider. What do antichrists consider? Whether their own status and reputation will be affected, and whether their prestige will be lowered. If doing something according to the principles of the truth benefits the work of the church and the brothers and sisters, but would cause their own reputation to suffer and cause many people to realize their true stature and know what sort of nature and essence they have, then they will definitely not act in accordance with the principles of the truth. If doing practical work will cause more people to think highly of them, look up to them and admire them, or enable their words to carry authority and make more people submit to them, then they will choose to do it that way; otherwise, they will never choose to disregard their own interests out of consideration for the interests of God’s house or of the brothers and sisters. This is the nature and essence of antichrists. Isn’t it selfish and vile?” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part Three)). “If someone says they love the truth and that they pursue the truth, but in essence, the goal they pursue is to distinguish themselves, to show off, to make people think highly of them, to achieve their own interests, and the performing of their duty is not to obey or satisfy God, and instead is to achieve prestige and status, then their pursuit is illegitimate. That being the case, when it comes to the work of the church, are their actions an obstacle, or do they help move it forward? They are clearly an obstacle; they do not move it forward. Some people wave the banner of doing the work of the church yet pursue their own personal prestige and status, run their own operation, create their own little group, their own little kingdom—is this kind of person performing their duty? All the work they do essentially interrupts, disrupts, and impairs the work of the church. What is the consequence of their pursuit of status and prestige? First, this affects how God’s chosen people eat and drink God’s word and understand the truth, it hinders their life entry, it stops them from entering the right track of faith in God, and leads them onto the wrong path—which harms the chosen ones, and brings them to ruin. And what does it ultimately do to the work of the church? It is dismantlement, interruption and impairment. This is the consequence brought about by people’s pursuit of fame and status” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part One)). God’s words reveal that antichrists only consider their own name and status in their actions. If they can get something done that will improve their reputation, an antichrist will do just that. If doing things according to principle could damage their reputation or status, an antichrist will cast the principles aside and only think about what would protect their personal interests, what would benefit them. They’re really selfish and vile. I was acting just like an antichrist. I’d found out long before that Li Yan had bad humanity, that she didn’t pursue the truth. She despised anyone who gave her suggestions, finding fault with them, judging and attacking them. Not immediately dismissing her and taking care of things would hinder the church’s work. But because she was biased against me, I was afraid of investigating and learning about her under that circumstance, that the others would misunderstand me as punishing her, or even think I was a false leader. I felt my position would be threatened. And because of Li Yan’s disposition, I was worried that if I dismissed her, she’d judge me behind my back, or even condemn or report me. I felt handling her could only hurt me, not help me, and it could easily impact my reputation and position, so I adopted a wait-and-see attitude and didn’t take care of things. I really was crafty and selfish, without any humanity. When I’d discovered people who should be cleared out, expelled during clean-up work before, I was able to handle it according to principle. That’s because I didn’t know most of those people. Most importantly, they didn’t constitute a threat to my reputation and status. If I cleared them out of the church, the brothers and sisters would think that as a leader, I understood the truth and had discernment, that I could do practical work. But when handling Li Yan, seeing it directly involved my own position, I was like an ostrich with my head in the sand, trying to protect my own interests. I’d been able to stick to the principles before, which was predicated on it not involving my personal interests, not because I genuinely wanted to do the church’s work well. I realized from God’s words that working to protect your own name and status is in essence sabotaging and disrupting church work. It’s hindering the work’s normal progression. Wanting to protect my reputation and position, I didn’t quickly handle an evil person. The nature of that problem is really serious. It’s not just a little corruption showing itself, but it’s harboring an evildoer, indulging her disruption of the church’s work. That’s acting as Satan’s minion and is also doing evil. This part was especially poignant: “The way you should treat an evil person, so long as they have been found to have an evil essence, is to restrain them or clear them out when they are not doing some great evil, in order to minimize their damage. This is the wise choice. It would be reactive to wait until it festers into a disaster to handle it. That would prove that the leaders and workers are quite foolish, and have no principles to their actions” (The Word, Vol. 5. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers). Thinking over God’s words made me feel terrible, and really guilty. As a leader, my job was to protect God’s chosen people from evildoers’ oppression and disturbances, and to protect a proper life of the church so that the church’s work can proceed properly and in an orderly way. But when an evil person appeared in the church, I dragged my feet and did nothing. I wasn’t fulfilling a leader’s responsibilities, which meant people were constrained and disrupted by the evildoer, and their lives were harmed. Church work was also disrupted. What I’d done was so disgusting to God!
For a few days I kept mulling things over. I knew well that an evildoer was disrupting the church’s work and handling evildoers quickly is in line with the principles. So why was I always afraid the others would misunderstand and say I was lashing out at her? What really is lashing out at someone? I read this in God’s words: “It is a most common thing for antichrists to harass and torment others, and it is a concrete way they manifest. In order to maintain their status, antichrists are always demanding that others obey and heed them. If they find that someone does not heed them or is averse to them, they will take maneuvers to suppress and torment that person, to subdue them. Antichrists often suppress those whose opinions are different from their own. They often suppress people who pursue the truth and loyally perform their duties. They often suppress people of relative decency and uprightness who do not bow and scrape or toady up to them. They suppress those who do not get along with or give in to them. Antichrists do not treat others by the principles of the truth. They cannot treat people fairly. When they take a dislike to someone, when someone seems to them not to have given in at heart, they find chances and excuses, and even false pretenses, to attack and torment that person, going so far as to take up the banner of God’s house to suppress them. They do not relent until people have become submissive and dare not say no to them; they do not relent until people have acknowledged their status and authority, and greet them with a smile, expressing endorsement and obedience to them, not daring to get any ideas about them. In any situation, in any group, the word ‘fairness’ does not apply to an antichrist’s treatment of others, and the word ‘loving’ does not apply to their treatment of brothers and sisters who believe in God truly. They regard whoever constitutes a threat to their status as a thorn in their side, and they will find chances and pretexts to torment them. They meet disobedience with torment, and do not stop until the person is subdued. Their doing so is quite out of line with the principles of the truth, and at enmity with the truth. So, should they be dealt with and pruned? Not only that—nothing less than revealing, identifying, and characterizing them will do. An antichrist treats everyone according to their own preferences, their own intentions and ends. Under their authority, whoever has a sense of righteousness, whoever can speak justly, whoever dares to fight injustice, whoever upholds the principles of the truth, whoever is genuinely talented and learned, whoever can give testimony for God—all such people will meet with the antichrist’s jealousy, and they will be suppressed, excluded, and even trampled beneath the antichrist’s foot. Such is the hatred with which an antichrist treats good people, people who pursue the truth. It may be said that the basic majority of people whom an antichrist is jealous of and suppresses are positive, good people. Most of them are people whom God will save, whom God can make use of, whom God will make perfect. In employing such tactics of suppression and exclusion against those whom God will save and make use of and make perfect, are antichrists not opponents of God? Are they not resisters against God?” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Eleven). Pondering God’s words, I realized that lashing out at someone and following the principles are two distinct things. One aspect is that we have to look at someone’s motives in their actions, and another is we have to see if their treatment of others is based in God’s words. If they’re found to be an evil person or antichrist based on principles of the truth, clearing them out, expelling them from the church is keeping others from harm and following the principles. It’s not lashing out. But when antichrists and evildoers suppress and lash out at people, it comes entirely from their vicious motivations. They’re jealous of those who pursue the truth and have a sense of justice. They hate those who have discernment over them and dare to call them out. They eliminate dissenters to protect their own power and status. They leap upon others’ slightest issue and make a big deal out of it. They even twist the facts and slander others, leveling all sorts of accusations against them to get them kicked out. Their motives and intentions are entirely at odds with the truth and with God. They are condemned and damned by God. I was exposing and dismissing Li Yan based on my discernment of her as an evil person according to God’s words. It wasn’t because of a personal grudge, and I wasn’t lashing out at her. I didn’t understand what lashing out really was, and I was just looking at the surface. I felt that if someone had a grudge against me, if I handled an issue with them, that was lashing out. I didn’t look at whether they were an evildoer and what role they played in the church. As a result, I was immobilized by my mistaken perspective. How foolish! Understanding all this was really freeing for me.
After that, I intentionally practiced doing my duty according to the principles. If I saw an issue with a brother or sister, I’d seek them out and do my best to fellowship and help them. Especially when it came to clean-up work, if it was determined someone was a candidate for expulsion, whether they were biased against me or not, I’d handle it according to the principles of the truth. When I put that into practice I felt much more at peace. Now I’ve personally experienced that in a duty, we have to let go of our motives and calculations about name and status, uphold the principles and protect the church’s work to feel peace and joy.