Loving OthersBy Rich DuBose
|Photo by Pixabay|
"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." --Mark Twain
One of the biggest problems that confronts us as individuals, families, communities, and the world, is our innate ignorance of how to be kind. Contrary to what many believe, being nice doesn't come naturally. We are not born with the skills needed to successfully navigate life's relationships. They must be acquired and developed. If we don't choose to be loving and kind, it simply doesn’t happen.
Many believe that Christians have mastered how to love people. And when visitors come to your church they expect to find people there who have perfected the art of being nice! Surprise! While it's true that Christians are supposed to be reflectors of God's grace, we need to remember that churches are hospitals--filled with sick and broken people. And sometimes it's all we can do just to be there.
The church is God's laboratory where he administers grace to human beings under duress. Sometimes it goes well and there are positive results, and at other times it flops. It all depends upon how we respond.
What is your church fameous for?
Doctrinal Purity - Most Adventist churches pride themselves on the purity of their teachings and take great pains to stress this point. And who would argue against the importance of finding and following the truth? I once worked for a conference that built their public awareness campaign around the belief that we Adventists have the answers to life's toughest questions. That's reassuring to know, but sometimes the answers are only cerebral and fail to impact how we treat each other. Simply put, we must ask God to help us turn our theology into biography.
Blue Zones - Other churches wish to be viewed as "blue zones" where people can learn how to prolong their lives through lifestyle modifications. Why not? Some have reasoned, we have the truth about God, and God has shown us how to be healthy. I once heard of an Adventist church that was so health-minded that if you brought a dish to the potluck that contained some forbidden ingredient, you could be sure it would end up in the trash. Why? Because they put a great deal of emphasis on dietary "holiness." But what about their relationships with people? How much importance do they put on being gracious and kind? What is more important?
The Church of Ellen White - Some Adventist churches pride themselves in their knowledge of, and adherence to the writings of Ellen White. From the moment you walk in the door, you hear people quoting her writings and notice that Spirit of Prophecy quotes are in the bulletin, posted in the halls, generously sprinkled throughout the announcements, and the pastor's sermon. I'm a fan of Ellen White and have to say that it was her book, "Steps to Christ," that brought me to Christ when I was a teenager. But this is not what I want people to think of first when they hear my name, or think of the church that I attend. I want them to think about Jesus and the tremendous things he's doing in my life.
Imagine what it would be like if your church was known primarily for its warmth and compassion! If the people in our communities thought of Adventists as the kindest people in town, imagine what effect this could have. If word got out (and it were true) that Adventist churches were filled with people who were eager to love everyone (insiders and outsiders), and who were considerate and kind, even when they didn’t share your views, people would come to our churches in droves. Every Sabbath we'd have traffic jams in our parking lots.
Why do I say this? Because where else can people can go to find this kind of acceptance? Where else except local bars and clubs. I could be wrong, but when it comes to loving people, many bars and clubs appear to be doing a better job than some churches. Of course self medication and alcohol is not the answer, but sometimes there is more acceptance and authenticity there than at church.
At what point does an Adventist church cease to be Adventist? When its members quit observing the Sabbath? Or, when they no longer bear the fruit of the Spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT). We could at least assume they are no longer Christian, if they fail to bear the telling marks of those who follow Jesus.
Adventism as its worst is believing that we can never measure up to God's standards, and that, thanks to our fallen natures, life is much worse than we first imagined. It is believing that most people outside of the church are evil and to be avoided, and that if we are at peace with ourselves and the world, then we've probably forgotten some terrible sin that we have committed that needs to be confessed! It is not understanding righteousness by faith and the good news of grace and forgiveness!
Adventism at its best is discovering that God is not the tyrant we thought he was, and that life on this planet can be better than we first imagined. It is discovering (through God's Word and positive human relationships) a new sense of personal dignity and self worth that we didn't know existed, and finding that through Christ we can experience peace with ourselves and the world, even in the midst of conflict.
"Don’t cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who marks you to be present on that day when salvation from sin will be complete. Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ" (Ephesians 4:30-32, Living Bible).