When they hauled James Copp in for sentencing, he got to make a speech, which he enjoys doing. Copp, you’ll remember was the fellow lurking in the woods outside Dr. Bernard Shlepian’s Buffalo home, who fatally shot the man through his kitchen window, in full view of wife and children. He’d shot at other doctors, too, but Shlepian was the first one killed. Dr. Schlepian worked at an abortion clinic.
Copp compared himself to the apostle Paul.
I have fought a fine fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. --- 2 Tim 4:7
These words, Copp supposed, applied to himself as much as to Paul.
There is a similarity. The apostle Paul, like Copp, had taken life, and also like Copp, he had been motivated by religion.
There is also a difference.
Paul’s killing stopped when he became a Christian, whereas Copp’s began when he assumed his version. Paul’s violence was directed against the newly formed Christian congregation, and it was fully sanctioned by that days’ religious authorities. He hated the new faith and he meant to stamp it out. So he spearheaded a group of thugs, hauling Christians off to jail, and, at least in Stephen’s case, presiding over a vigilante death.
The 2006 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses recalls the history of our people in Romania, Eastern Europe. And it awards Paul’s "fine fight" words to someone who merits them. Martin Magyarosi for 45 years spearheaded the Bible education work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country, which was continually afflicted by oppressive regimes. Hence, the work was always underground. Its weapons were words only, declaring the Bible’s good news to any who would listen. Martin endured lifelong assaults by first Nazis, then Communists, and always religious opponents. "Many and great have been his sufferings for the sake of the truth," said a report at his death in 1951, "especially since his arrest in January 1950. Now these sufferings have come to an end."
Like Stephen, Martin was persecution's target, not its perpetrator. He never lurked outside anyone’s window with a rifle, looking to take life.
The way it works with judging is that the congregation has no authority whatsoever over those outside. It’s authority is only over it’s own members… to ensure, to a reasonable degree, that such members adhere to Bible standards. This is how it is with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Thus they are no threat to anyone, even those with whom they disagree. But with religions ever ready to thrust, and even enforce, their convictions on others, its no wonder that many people view them as a threat to society. Copp typifies that dangerous version.
Acts 7:58-8:4; 2 Cor 10:3-5; 2 Tim 2:24; Matt 24:14