The study article begins with, “In many lands, it has been common to see happy Kingdom publishers on busy streets offering literature to passersby.” Of course, that means that in many other lands it is not.
‘You will by no means complete the circuit of the cities of Israel until the Son of man arrives.” (Matthew 10:23) It’s a good escape clause. Without it, the zealots of ‘preach! preach! preach!’ would be working others into a frenzy far more than they do now. Like the zealot years ago who told the congregation that, per the Watchtower, every baptized brother should pioneer. I was pretty sure there was no such Watchtower, or if there was it was an ancient one, so I queried him afterwards. He said there was and it was recent. So I looked it up when I got home. Sure enough, it was recent, but it was a quotation from an ancient issue! Sheesh.
“You will by no means complete the circuit of the cities of Israel until the Son of man arrives.” With this verse, the above guys are checked. With it, their more balanced counterparts [in my view] can say, ‘Chill already. Do the best you can. That thug country that goes bonkers every time a Christian knocks on a door? Don’t worry about it. Go somewhere else if you have to. God will make it all work.’
Is not Geo Jackson’s address to the latest Gilead class (152nd graduation) fitting? When you get back to your assignment, you may feel the urge to do everything at once! It will drive you crazy if you give in to it. Plug away at your assignment instead, he counseled, with the reassurance that God knows who’s where and can see that those in the hinterlands are accommodated in time—maybe bring a representative or two of their number into your proximity, if need be. In short, it’s the serenity prayer. Do what you can, acquiesce to what you cannot, and have the smarts to know the difference. In time, maybe circumstances will be that you can sail out to where those big fish keep tantalizingly breaking the waves.
What will happen to those in the circuit of cities not reached. Little is said—probably because little is known. It’s well to avoid strong statements when you don’t know. And since they discourage speculation as well, that might explain why they touch the verse sparingly.
Then too, to put it undiplomatically, we subject ourselves to a sort of ‘carrot and stick’ approach through theocratic counsel. It’s a turnoff for some. It assumes people require a carrot and stick approach. Do they? In case they do, is it the shepherd’s job to provide it? Few would deny the ‘universal truth’ that humans are inclined to take the ‘path of least resistance.’ ‘Exert yourselves vigorously to enter the narrow gate,’ says the Lord. It goes against our inclination. Most of us prefer to kick back with a beer and watch the game.
Ah, well. Life itself is carrot and stick, isn’t it? It’s just beefers wanting something to beef about who beef over it. Strive toward rewards, veer away from unpleasant downers. We do it everywhere else—why not in spiritual matters too? It’s a matter of headship style. It’s handled well enough, a good enough balance between expressing heartfelt appreciation for what the friends do in light of the pressures they face and encouraging them to keep up the fine fight and, whenever possible, keep on doing it ‘in fuller measure.’ At any rate, it’s probably best to adapt oneself to the way things are rather than fret they should be different since you don’t have the power to make them that way. Praise the Lord and pass the toolbox ‘ammunition.’
Even of the circuits that are completed before the Son of man arrives, a person can wonder: ‘completed to what degree?’ How much exposure is enough for people to take a stand upon? Perhaps most Witnesses have a makeshift informal list of workmates, acquaintances, family members and so forth, people thought to be ‘good at heart’ that Jehovah will go all soft in the knees for at the last moment—and if them, why not include those on the list of other publishers?—like He did with Jonah (prompting that one to pout in the 4th chapter of the Book of Jonah). But it’s never going to be written. Anyone writing anything is bound by the ‘baptism clause.’ “Baptism, which corresponds to [the Ark], is also now saving you . . .” (1 Peter 3:21)
So the hotheads are going to be able to charge till the cows come home that Witnesses look forward to the day when everyone but the tiniest handful of persons (themselves) will be brought to ruin. It is the Bible that says it. Many Witnesses punch the list with qualifications that may or may not pan out.
****** The bookstore