Thursday, June 30 2022 - 11:34 AM

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Pacific Southwest

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Come Together

Do you gravitate to people just like you or to people different from you? In today’s climate, the extremes seem like the norm, although few people match the extreme imagined. Do you?

Pushing extremes puts people on the outs. Polarization places like-minded people in the same space, but it remains a very limited space. Visualize an object that depicts this. How about dumbbells? Their shape is made up of two weights connected by a middle bar.

You can easily imagine what this looks like in things like politics, responding to the pandemic, and personal preferences. If you find yourself at one extreme or the other, you remain in a smaller world than reality, or else your reality proves to be quite limited.

In contrast, developing a broader and deeper perspective enlarges your view, which enables you to address life in more significant ways and in relationships with a larger number of people. Lips illustrate this. Imagine someone’s lips opening and closing.

When you come together, rather than living at either extreme, you find yourself in a position to live a more robust life. You remain aware of the extremes but you immerse yourself into a healthy tension rather than isolating to either extreme. Moving from either extreme places you in a larger world more true to reality and in connection with more people.

Blended Boldness

Maturing Christians live in this blended boldness instead of extreme isolation. One example combines the two extremes of “already” and a “not yet” simultaneously. Time-wise, such people “already” live presently connected to Jesus, and still, they acknowledge a “not yet” in terms of the face-to-face relationship they expect with Jesus sometime in the future. Instead of “already” OR “not yet,” they live in a balance of “already” AND “not yet.”

Adventist Christians expect Jesus to return and create a new earth. Such an extreme could exhibit a careless attitude toward the current world—in terms of the environment as well as unjust social structures and present calamities. Yet, most Seventh-day Adventist churches maintain an active community services organization on a regular basis in addition to emergencies. Why? Instead of maintaining an extreme of living only in the now OR the opposite extreme of waiting for a re-creation, they live the combined realities of making this current world a better place while still expecting a new world when Christ chooses to create it. They live like “lips” rather than as “dumbbells.”

You see the same thing when it comes to physical health and wellness. Acknowledging that every human dies while embracing the promise of eternal life later, Christians remain committed to a healthy lifestyle now and medical care to seek healing and alleviate suffering. Why? Instead of either extreme, Christians embrace both and live in the middle. True, this balance sometimes involves tension from either extreme, but it intersects with reality more than blind extremism. And it benefits those seeking balance by improving the quality of life and not just its quantity.

Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Christians, as the name indicates, observe the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath. One extreme would label such people as Jews rather than Christians. The other extreme would peg SDAs as legalists who seek to earn salvation as a payment for their obedience to God’s commands, such as the 10 commandments that include, “Remember the Sabbath day (seventh-day) to keep it holy.” Both perspectives illustrate dumbbell extremes. In contrast, SDAs see the seventh-day Sabbath as a gift God gave all people since creation that was practiced by Jesus and His followers. Why would anyone turn down a date with God, especially when Jesus initiates it? Our human attempts at a yearly vacation, festive annual holiday, or an occasional family night pale in comparison to God’s perennial invitation each week. While the aim remains for divine encounter, the physical, emotional, and social benefits supplement God’s spiritual bidding.

Seventh-day Adventists operate a large, private school system. Why isolate students from the rest of the world and the public school system? Why limit students to smaller classes and facilities? Wouldn’t this limit their cognitive development in addition to possibly brainwashing them? That epitomizes the dumbbell perspective. The other extreme would be to limit one’s education to a pre-determined outcome. Moving from either extreme to the middle finds students in SDA schools educated to serve the world from a Godly perspective (Google “Valuegenesis”) which also results in high academic achievement without making it the first priority of Adventist education (Google “Cognitivegenesis”). Whether you’re an Adventist or not, your child will benefit more by being in an Adventist school than in most other schools.

While the media tends to report extremes more than life in the middle, the majority of people aren’t extremists—”dumbbells.” While Seventh-day Adventists might be found at different places on the “lips” between the extremes, the influence from Christ transforms them to come together rather than to tear apart. Do you see yourself at one end of the “dumbbells” or somewhere on the “lips”?

If you liked this, you may enjoy,  What’s An Adventist? | Who Needs Church?

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About Steve Case and Rich DuBose

Steve Case

writes from Northern California.

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