The Golden Rule
From a young age, both my mother and father instilled the importance of upholding the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Along with the verse John 3:16, they always reminded me and my siblings to seek what is true and remember God loves us, saying it was the core of our faith to believe in God and be a “good person”.
I dutifully followed my parents’ instructions. I went to church each Sunday. I attended Bible studies every week.
As I grew older, I began volunteering in the youth ministry and became quite close with many of the church leaders. I went on many retreats and even did some mission work outside of the country. I was happy and content with where my life of faith was headed. Yet unbeknownst to me, there was a lot of fighting among the leadership of my church. They had begun to bicker and disagree about certain teachings within the Bible. I recall accidentally walking in on a meeting and discovering some of the leaders gossiping about a member. I could not understand how someone, who leads the children of God, spreads rumors and judges the congregation. Therefore, after telling my parents, they were worried by the leader’s questionable behavior and decided to switch to another church.
A Family Seeking for a Home
For three years, we would church hop from Baptist to Pentecostal to Methodist to Lutheran and so on and so forth. When I asked my father, “why must we switch so often? The people here seem very nice and we are hearing the words of God.” He only grimaced into a forced smile and said that I was too young and would not understand.
While up until college I believed my faith to be held firmly within God, and I grew to be quite arrogant with what I little I had learned. I started getting into debates and arguments at school over Bible topics. I always thought I was “right” not because I knew the Bible, but simply because I had been to so many churches and had been so active in my life of faith.
Yet, when it came time for me to move 430 miles away from my family for college, I did not anticipate the impact it would have on my faith.
My Encounter with Science
As a science major, I began to encounter certain concepts that challenged my faith, such as creation versus evolution. Not only that, but many of my peers would often discuss topics like “why did God order the Israelites to kill the Canaanites even though one of the Ten Commandments is to not murder?” “If we have free will, why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?” These were things I had never even thought of before so when I tried answering, I was bothered and frustrated. The Golden Rule and John 3:16 could not help me answer such questions so I sat in silence helplessly.
Desperately, I would search online, read commentaries by C.S. Lewis and A.W. Tozer, participated in Christian forums, searching everywhere for something that would resolve the quarreling doubts in my head. Soon, my Sunday church participation came to a full on stop as when I asked them, their response consisted mainly of “You just need to believe God is in control” or “Why would you question God? His thoughts are higher than ours. You should repent.”
I was slowly discovering why my parents would church hop so much. It seemed that many church’s in the world today maintain the Golden Rule and belief in John 3:16 and becoming a “good person”, but when it came to preaching the word of God truthfully and faithfully….many failed.
At which point, I had reached the lowest part of my faith and I felt lost and without purpose. I could no longer “feel” God and felt like that signified He had abandoned me.
However, one day I received a message on Facebook: “Hi there! My friends and I are doing a testimony project for believers, would you like to participate?” I was certainly very skeptical because on my college campus many of the ministries slander each other and call one another “cult” and “heretic” and I did not want to be part of such a toxic environment. After thinking about the proposal for a day, I decided to meet this person over Skype to chat. As we did so and I shared my struggles, this missionary soon asked “Would you like to learn more about the Bible?” Initially, I wanted to refuse. I felt so burnt out. Yet, I thought of my parents and wanted to make them proud so I decided to give God one last chance. Little did I know, that it was God giving me a chance to know Him truly through His word not as the world sees Him.
What soon commenced after was a long year of learning the scriptures in depth.
Many times along the way I asked questions trying to find a loose thread or hole in their teachings but there were none. Often, they would mention the importance of distinguishing which I never put into practice until one day I was talking to my parents over the phone. We started talking about church and as they discussed with me about what they were learning, I realized it was only moral teachings and history, in essence “how to be a good person”. In that moment, I realized how much this Bible study had helped me to grow. Learning about parables, prophecy and fulfillment, and how to discern the era was all part of maturing in a life of faith.
Into a Life of Faith
As a few more months passed, I then entered Shincheonji. I was in absolute awe of everything and how closely they follow the word. They are well-organized and structured, teaching only what is found in the Bible. My brain could hardly comprehend that I was experiencing the fulfillment of the Bible today. However, my journey had only begun.
One night, I got a message from a close friend that linked me to a website post about several testimonies of those who had left Shincheonji. It was like getting hit with a bus. In an instant, I felt betrayed and confused and frustrated, similar to how I did several years ago. I kept what I had learned to myself and I could feel the tendrils of doubt slowly creep into all my thoughts. I was allowing man’s own experiences and opinions to taint the word of truth I had received.
One night it became too much, I had to know what was true. Yet, at that point, I felt like I could trust no one. I was reminded of when I was a child and seeing the church leaders bicker and slander. So, I prayed. I then started looking over my old Bible study and sermon notes questioning if all of it was a lie. Yet, as I was looking through my old notes, I decided I would put what I had learned into practice. Not trusting blindly anymore but using the Bible as a standard for what is true. Comparing the persecutors’ testimonies to the Bible. Comparing Shincheonji’s teachings to the Bible.
Distinguishing on My Own
Oddly enough, those who slander Shincheonji criticize the outwardly appearance of the congregation, of its leaders, and most of all its Chairman. However, Shincheonji did not fall to the level of spitting insults back. They did not spread lies or misinformation about those who hated them. Instead, they fought with the word of truth and exposed many churches’ corruption. While those who criticized yelled “cult”, Shincheonji stood firm every time and persevered and prevailed. I soon realized how similar this all was to the events of the First Coming. Wasn’t it Jesus who was slandered against? Didn’t the Pharisees and the Jews create and spread false testimonies about Jesus being a cult leader and being demon possessed? In every era, those who truly belong to God and have the word of truth are those who suffer and who are persecuted the most.
I was so blinded by my own emotions and the world that for a moment I had lost sight of what is true. I realized the churches who maliciously gossip about Shincheonji believe in a different type of God, they believe in a God that only values the Golden Rule and John 3:16, not a God that is true nor faithful. While I am saddened to see so many deluded by their own thoughts and feelings regarding Shincheonji rather than looking at what is true, I am able to reason with the Bible today that what Shincheonji teaches is biblically true. I’ve seen many of my brothers and sisters harshly persecuted as the disciples and apostles once were for carrying out a life of faith that was not considered according to the norm.
I stand firmly with my brothers and sisters in Shincheonji today knowing there is truth here. Even though I too have experienced defamation for being a member of Shincheonji, I continue to treat others as they want to be treated. Rather than be overcome with evil, I have chosen to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). What do you stand for?