Often people will contact us looking for what we call “the silver bullet verse” to convince a JW (or other cultists) relative or friend that they have it wrong on doctrine, hoping to persuade them to leave the organization when they realize they have been deceived. We have to explain there is no one “silver bullet verse” to open the eyes of the blind. First, if one is to explain true Bible doctrine to a JW or other cultist, they will need a much more comprehensive knowledge of their doctrinal faith and the Bible itself than any “silver bullet” could provide. Even then, one’s lucid arguments may appear to bounce right off the forehead of the person one is trying to reach. It can be frustrating. If someone has accepted the belief that 1 + 1 = 3, you can count two marbles out right in front of them, but they will insist there are 3. We usually suggest that before getting into a doctrinal battle with a cultist, they should try to figure out what investment their friend or relative has in their particular belief system? In other words, what is it that is blinding their will?
In this context, blinding a person’s will happens when someone has wholly invested themselves into a particular belief system. They are utterly unwilling to emotionally accept that they have been deceived. No matter what valid proofs you offer that their position is untenable, the emotionally invested person will often blind themselves to the reality of the situation. They simply will the error to be true. We see this all the time in cult interaction. You can present airtight arguments to prove to a person that he has been deceived, and you may even see the internal distress this information is causing. Yet, he sets his face and will and simply refuses to “understand” what you are saying.
That doesn’t mean biblical knowledge and valid information are unnecessary in sharing true faith with people, and it is necessary. Paul writes in Romans 10:14-17:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Yet, it is good to understand what is stopping up their ears. Many cultists are miserably unhappy in their group. It is hard for people to imagine they are good enough to earn their salvation, which is what a cultist ultimately believes he must do. So what is the hold that the group has on them? They have what to them are very valid reasons not to understand what you are saying. In the case of cult involvement, it may revolve around a genuine fear of God, whom they have learned to completely identify with this group and this group only. What will God do to me if I begin to doubt “God’s true prophet” or “His organization?” Will I, and perhaps my children, die at Armageddon because I listened to some “worldly person” and turned my back on “God?” Remember the Branch Davidians? They preferred to die in that terrible Waco fire rather than “lose their eternal life.”
Of course, faith in God may not be the central investment they have in whatever group holds them. It could be the fact that most cults force their members to completely shun – throw away – even beloved family members if they should leave or even entertain doubts about the group. On top of that, these fellow group members may be the person’s entire social circle since most cults strongly discourage any relationships or entanglements outside of the group. They are indoctrinated to stay completely away from “worldly people.” Relationships with family, friends and their love are costly investments from which to walk away. Mama and Papa, brother and sister, will pull away from you – give you the cold shoulder – or no shoulder at all. Really. It provides the cult with a powerful hold over an individual. If the person is working with “a brother” or “sister,” they may lose their job and/or livelihood. Or perhaps the individual holds a position of power in the group and does not want to let that go. It helps to understand these reasons for not wanting to hear what you have to say.
And what is our Christian investment in reaching out to cult members, especially if they are not of our own family? What earthy gain is in it for us? Though most people may think of investments in terms of financial gain, Jesus distinguishes between financial treasure, which we cannot take with us when we pass from this life, and spiritual treasure, which we send ahead. He tells the disciples in Luke 12:33-34:
Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Your heart naturally follows your treasure, your investment. The Apostle Paul not only understood this but told the Roman believers:
I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:1-5)
Paul referred to himself as the “Apostle to the gentiles,” yet he still had a great deal of his heart invested in his own people, the Jews. Paul’s words are from a far distant past, so maybe we don’t fully grasp the deep heartfelt dimension of his words which tell us where his treasure was. He was heavily invested in the salvation of his people, and he would gladly have given his own life to buy their redemption.
That is perhaps why many apologists who themselves have been in a cult want to reach back and help “their own.” They have a love for those left behind. But it is not necessary to be a former cult member to care deeply about them. Not at all. God draws Christians in, giving them a supernatural love for these lost people. And all believers have lost people in their circle, whether cult members or just unbelievers in general. And we need that same supernatural love for them.
It is often difficult to see people in our lives as being truly lost and separated from God. Yes, we understand theologically that people without Christ are lost and separated from God, yet often we exclude the “good people” in our lives from that category or refuse to think much about it. It’s painful, so we may not want to see the people in our lives as lost and in trouble. We may be captives of our own “blindness” in that way. And if we do see it, what might it cost us to reach out to them? What might we have to invest? Our money? Our time? Our heart?
Years ago, Joy met some Jehovah’s Witnesses, and she came to care about them. They are the reason we are in this mission today. It strongly occurred to her that she needed to learn a little something of their belief system to reach them with the gospel. But, even a cursory education about the Watchtower Society made her realize that these women were caught up in a cult and that she was woefully unprepared to help them out of it. Suddenly, it became imperative to learn everything she could about the group. And, of course, she dragged me into her quest. We were not wealthy people, but there wasn’t a book or an audiotape we wouldn’t buy to learn about the Jehovah’s Witness organization’s doctrine, practices, and history – something we had no prior interest in at all. Time was another necessary investment, of course. You cannot read voluminous books or fervently pray for people without spending time. Above all, there is the heart investment, which is enormous. It’s incredible how much you can come to care about people you never cared much about before once they “come into focus.”
One of the most profound examples of profound change of heart is illustrated in the film Schindler’s List, based on a true story. For those who did not see it, it is a story about the Nazi Holocaust of WW2 and one man’s utter transformation in reaction to it. Oskar Schindler was an ordinary man trying to live his ordinary “looking-out-for-number-one” life in an extraordinarily evil time and place. Schindler did not want to save Jews. Schindler just wanted to get rich and improve his investment portfolio. But, as a mere by-product of his obsession with obtaining the good life, he at first incidentally saved Jews in Nazi Germany by putting them to work in his factory because he had only to pay them a pittance. He simply saw their extraordinarily dire circumstances as a means to personal financial gain and fully rewarded himself with women (other than his wife) and good times. But one day, when he was out horseback riding with one of his lady friends, he chanced upon a horrible scene of real human beings that were viciously swept up in a Nazi ghetto “cleansing” operation. People were cruelly beaten, some were arbitrarily shot, and all were taken away to certain death. Schindler spied an adorable little girl in a red coat, wandering around amidst the confusion. The red coat was striking because it was the only colorization in the black and white film. Not long after that, he saw her, still in her little red coat, among the dead being carted away. He was stricken with a terrible grief at seeing this. Suddenly, he saw the humanity of the people who the Nazis victimized. He had enjoyed casual friendships with the Nazis as a businessman and personally benefitted from these relationships – without giving a thought to the evil that was happening around him – but now he saw the stark truth. It was devastating. The rest of the movie details how Schindler was profoundly transformed when his eyes were opened to the truth. He came to realize that his workers were more than just “furniture” in his life; these were little girls and boys, old folks, men and women, disabled even – precious souls whose lives were being savagely destroyed by the evil menace of racial hatred.
Schindler eventually saved the lives of over 1,100 people, but he had to purchase them from the Nazis – without their knowing what he was up to – to accomplish this. What did he use to purchase them? He used the very fortune he had made in the factory – thereby losing the supposedly good life that went with it. Do you see the irony? He started out seeing people as nothing more than a means to acquire money and material things. Still, he ended up seeing that the true wealth was in the people – and realized that the money was merely a means to save people, who are infinitely more valuable than things. He had his accountant, Itzhak Stern, make a list, and he spent everything he had to buy his workers and provide them with a place of safety. Yet, at the end of the movie, as he contemplated the number of lives he had saved, his only thought and regret was that even more lives could have been saved if he had only been a little less selfish still. He looked at his expensive car and cried in anguish, “I could’ve gotten ten more people for that – ten more people – I didn’t do enough.” “No, no, you did so much,” was the reply from Isaac Stern, his Jewish business manager whose life had been one of those saved by Schindler.
That is the very transformation that can come to you and me as we let God shed His love abroad in our hearts. Do you want to hear someday that you have done so much? Do you have a list? Is it worth it to you to spend your money, talents, time, and prayers to bring “your people” to a place of safety? Please, Christian, we beg you not to waste your opportunity to take part in the only truly great venture this world has to offer. The choice is yours. Your salvation is not at stake if you live selfishly. But so much is. Work for the reward that will never perish.Ω
© 2022, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.