Our Strength in Being a "Peculiar People"

Worship talk at Workshop for the Directors of S. D. A. Schools of Nursing, Berrien Springs, Mich­igan, June, 1943.

HARVEY A. MORRISON, Secretary of the General Conference Department of Education

Not many folks by nature like to be called peculiar, but nevertheless it is peculiarity that gives the great strength for power to the people of God. One of our workers overheard a conversation between a mother and her little girl concerning what she was to wear to school. She wanted to wear white shoes, and her mother said she must not wear white shoes, giving a reason. The little girl insisted that all the rest of the girls were wearing white shoes. Then the mother gave her another reason, but the child said, "All the other girls are wearing white shoes." The little girl never disputed her mother's reasons, but wanted her way merely because all the others were doing it.

This little story shows how we dislike being peculiar. But God has said He has chosen us to be "a peculiar people." Through my early youth I thought what a wonderfully fine thing it would be if all the world kept the seventh-day Sabbath. Some of you may be thinking, How many problems of Seventh-day Adventists would be solved if they did ! How wonderful if all were Seventh-day Adventists in the hospitals where you affiliate.

As years went on, I learned some of the great lessons of life and the benefit of the peculiarities God has for His people. I think all our youth need to gain this concept. - I hope you will be able to give it to them. It is peculiarity that makes this people.

To impress the thought a little further, over in Deuteronomy 14:2 we read : "Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto Himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." In Isaiah xi :ri we read : "It shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from F.gypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea."

This presents the idea that the Lord is setting forth His hand the second time to call His people out. With that idea in mind, the pe­culiarity or characteristics of God's people are a wonderful topic to consider. And as we read various texts in the Bible we find that keeping the commandments of God, doing the things that He tells us to do, and responding to His invitations are those ways by which we may become God's peculiar people. Now in order to illustrate this I would like to call your atten­tion to one man mentioned only a few times in the Bible, but almost always spoken of as being peculiar, and this is given as the reason why he received such a great blessing. I refer to Caleb, one of the faithful of the twelve chosen to go and spy out the land.

Caleb's Two Outstanding Characteristics

In Numbers 13:30 we read: "Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." This gives you the picture as to Caleb's relationship and the connection of the later statements concerning him. In Num­bers 14:6 we read: "Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes." And in verse 24: "My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath fol­lowed Me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it." Now He refers to two things. Caleb had another spirit and he followed the Lord wholly_ There are two other texts that refer to Caleb, and they have reference to the tribe he be­longed to, the land that was assigned him, and the blessing that came to him because he wholly followed the Lord. He had a different spirit, he was peculiar, and other than that, he wholly followed the Lord, and that brought him great blessing.

I have thought many times of the strength that comes to this people because they are dif­ferent. If we are not different, or if we break down those differences, we are breaking down the very thing that is making us strong. When I was a boy, we moved to a small town where we were not known. I presume the townfolk knew my father was a new Seventh-day Ad­ventist minister. I had to attend public school, since we had no church school there. The children accusingly called me an "Advent," and I was terribly perturbed, and went home and told my mother. After a little, when I became acquainted, the stigma was forgotten, but I continued to realize I was different.

I don't believe in being peculiar for the sake of peculiarity, of course, but I would like to call attention to an experience I came across that shows the tremendous emphasis of what be­ing peculiar means, and how much strength it has for us. I was once associated in business with a man who had been the secretary of a denominational college board. This college had just closed its doors. Because the institution had been running down, they had elected a president who was very "modern" in his edu­cational concepts. The board thought he would be liberal and this would have a great appeal to the young people; hence they would get a larger attendance for the institution. The new president went in and broke down many of the old requirements. This was many years ago, when smoking was not so prevalent as it is now. He installed smoking rooms, a dance hall, etc. But he found that instead of getting a following, the people turned against him. He was breaking down the old principles.

I stepped into a hotel one day where the sec­retary of the board was engaged in conversation with another man. This man turned to me and said, "That would not be so if it were a Sev­enth-day Adventist institution." They had been talking about the ill-fated institution. I agreed with him in what he meant when he said, "That would not be so if it were a Seventh-day Ad­ventist institution."

To get his reaction, I put this question to him: "What is there about Seventh-day Ad­ventists that makes them different, anyway?"

"It is that Sabbath of yours," he replied. You know, it made a great impression on me to think that others could see a peculiarity and to see how it makes us stronger. He said further, "Nobody goes into your church who is not converted, because each one has to pay a price."

This was to me one of the best of testimonies of the possibilities that are ours. It is the thing that protects our young people. It is the thing that protects us. It is the thing that makes us strong. It is the one thing that is making our truth known in a way that would be absolutely impossible if it were not for its peculiarities. When we give attention to the thing that makes us consistently a peculiar people, we may have the advantage of all the strength and power that it gives. If we have that peculiarity, I am sure we will be bringing to the world stronger men and women than we have been able to bring in the past. When we get that concept, it is going to solve many problems for our youth.

As you contact the youth and teach them, make known to them in your experiences and teachings the characteristics and peculiarities of this people, and how these mean strength and power and achievement for them.

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HARVEY A. MORRISON, Secretary of the General Conference Department of Education

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