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Loving Others

Loving Others

 “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 and loving. Contrary to what many believe, being nice doesn’t come naturally. We are not born with the skills we need to successfully navigate life’s relationships. We must acquire and develop these skills. 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 reflect God’s grace, we need to remember that churches are hospitals. Churches are 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. Other times it flops. It all depends upon how we respond.

What Is Your Church Most Known For?

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 tragedies occur when the answers are only cerebral and fail to impact how we treat one another. Simply put, we must ask God to help us turn our theology into biography.

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.”

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, on the bulletin boards. They are 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 has done in my life.

Warmth and Compassion

Imagine what it might be like if your church were known primarily for its warmth and compassion! If the people in our communities thought of us as the nicest 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 love everyone (insiders and outsiders), and who were considerate and kind, even with those they don’t agree with, 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 love and 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.

At what point does an Adventist church cease to be Adventist? When its members quit observing the Sabbath? Or is it when they no longer exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT). If we fail to bear the character qualities that Jesus said will define his people, many will assume we are not Christian.

Adventism at It’s Best and Worst

Adventism as its worst is believing that we can never measure up to God’s standards. It is believing 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 that if we are at peace with ourselves and the world, then we’ve probably forgotten some terrible sin that needs to be confessed! Also it is misunderstanding righteousness by faith and the good news of grace!

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. It is finding that through Christ we can experience His love and peace with ourselves and the world.

“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).

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About Rich DuBose and Rich DuBose

Rich DuBose

is director of Church Support Services for the Pacific Union Conference

Rich DuBose

writes from Northern California

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