To "Every Nation . . ." The Divine Command to a Universal Church

A world-embracing task confronts God's people today.

RUSSELL H. ARGENT

A world-embracing task confronts God's people today. And it is symbolized by an angel flying in the midst of heaven, pro­claiming the gospel of peace to every people under the sun. The times are difficult, perplex­ity faces the church in many lands, but she must carry her God-given message to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6) . No society or class is omitted from die gospel commission. It knows no difference of race, color, or nationality.

Each person who joins the Advent Move­ment brings his own talents and background to further the message. The majority of work­ers know but one nation, have developed under one educational system, for good or ill, have absorbed the ideas and psychology of the environment of their youth. At times it is easy to forget that the world may look different from New Delhi and Tokyo than from New York or London.

God calls for men and women who do not share the prejudices of the world; who are able to see the value of new ideas and new methods, from whatever source, if they are correct; who do not believe that the high-water mark of civilization is necessarily the main street of their own town.

Often throughout history the purposes of God have been marred by the fallibility and small-mindedness of men. A strange and viru­lent disease at times grips the world, inflaming - passions and turning men insane with jealousy and hatred. No nation or individual is immune. The oldest, the most civilized, is often the most affected. Imagination is distorted, perspective is altered, the irrational appears rational. The disease is known as nationalism.

Never has the need for world union seemed more important or been stressed so much as it is today. A vast, complex organization in New York is named The United Nations. World government, from a human viewpoint, is not only logical but imperative. Unite or perish is a sober fact of life in this twentieth century.

Yet, despite the crisis, despite the logic of union, despite the lip service to the idea, the fact of union seems farther away than ever. Even the nations of the West, reared in a com­mon heritage, sharing similar ideals, seem to find it impossible. even under the press of fear, to join in any close ties. Each nation prefers to face the world waving its own flag, quoting its own jingoistic slogans, and preaching its own brand of national propaganda.

Unfortunately, people as well as governments suffer from the disease. The symptoms are eas­ily detected. The favored nation—their own—is made the yardstick of perfection. Any na­tional characteristic that is different is deemed odd or ludicrous. Other cultures, other civiliza­tions, are summarily dismissed. All knowl­edge and wisdom must be strained through a national sieve or poured into a national mold. Every land is subject to the infection. The result is prejudice and mistrust.

Even churches at times have been impreg­nated with the virus of nationalism. The re­sult has proved the wisdom of the scripture: "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Prov. 29:18) . Falling back upon their own limited resources, growing insular and out of touch with the great heart of humanity, they have become narrow and bigoted, "a hole in a corner."

The early church had not even developed into a world movement before nationalistic prejudice threatened to intrude: "In those days, when the number of disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews" (Acts 6:1) .

The Greeks resented the Jews' keeping the highest offices of the church for themselves. The Jews disliked the influx of Gentiles, who might dominate the church. Instead of harmony and strength there was division and weakness. In wrangling and bitterness the world task was neglected. They failed, for a time, with their restricted outlook, to understand the blessings of diversity—to see that God would call to posi­tions of leadership men of varied talents, and colors, and languages, to proclaim His truth.

The Majesty of heaven veiled His glory and walked the streets of an Eastern village as a Jew­ish carpenter. Paul was a citizen of the Roman Empire and Luke was a Greek. National bar­riers crumbled and fell before the conquering power of Christian love. As Christianity swept westward God used men and women from many nations to fulfill His purposes. Wycliffe was British, Huss was Bohemian, Luther was Ger­man, Calvin was French, and Erasmus was Dutch. In the early Advent Movement the re­sources of many nations were plumbed. La­cunza was Spanish, Wolff was Jewish, Irving was British, Gaussen was Swiss, and Miller and Bates were American. Each brought his own national characteristics and background, which, laid upon the altar, became a mighty source of blessing for the world.

When Jesus mounted His last pulpit on Golgotha, He preached a sermon of boundless love which embraced the whole world. His arms were raised in blessing above all nations, for He had said: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32) .

The church of God must not bear the stamp of nationality but the impress of divinity. The cross of Christ transcends historical and geo­graphical boundaries. Jesus is the all-loving One. Because He died for humanity, is now alive, and soon to return, all true Christians are one around the world.

If ever the church were to lose the vision of a united international movement, it would stagnate and dwindle like a stream in the desert. The river of truth must flow unchecked and unimpeded, broad and full and free, gather­ing momentum from other reservoirs all along the way, until at length, as a mighty flood and "like a sea of glory, it spreads from pole to pole" to encompass the earth. This vision alone will keep the Advent Movement from becoming nationalistic. Yes, the church can sing from the heart:

We are not divided, All one body we,

One in hope and doctrine,

One in charity.

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RUSSELL H. ARGENT

May 1959

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