Agatha was a ten-year-old girl attending a Seventh-day Adventist elementary school when she went on an all-day class trip. In the heat of the day, the school bus pulled up to a convenience store so the students could buy refreshments. Agatha and a couple of friends bought Colas.
A well-meaning member of the faculty noticed the Cokes and said, "Agatha, I thought you knew better than to drink sugared, caffeinated drinks. You are going to have to live with the decision you've made today for the rest of your life!"
I believe Seventh-day Adventists have been given a great gift in "the health message" or in what's known as "health reform." Unfortunately, these clusters of words, and what they seek to communicate, have become offensive to some, a reaction due partly because of excessive attitudes among Adventists, such as those well-meaning souls represented by Agatha's plainspoken teacher.
The legacy of such an approach, however sincere, has nurtured some powerful negativity among us regarding this precious gift. In many situations an unhealthy reaction to these authoritarian approaches have helped to reduce the legitimate value people might otherwise possess when it comes to a levelheaded, healthful lifestyle.
In contrast, the original, visionary principles of wholeness given to Ellen G. White in the nineteenth century were beneficial and positive. I am forever impressed by a foundational physical insight articulated by Mrs. White: "Disease is an effort of nature to free the system from conditions that result from a violation of the laws of health. . . . Nature is to be assisted in her effort to expel impurities and to re-establish right conditions in the system. . . . Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in divine power these are the true remedies. Every person should have a knowledge of nature's remedial agencies and how to apply them."1
It took some time for the revolutionary wisdom of this profound yet simply stated concept to break into my consciousness. "Nature" is the foundational, enigmatic power that governs human wholeness. When nature's balance in the human body is disturbed in one way or another, nature is the energy that immediately steps forward to restore balance. In the same thought context, Mrs. White has said that "the power working through these [natural] agencies is the power of God."2
It is because of this basic outlook that thoughtful people (by no means only Seventh-day Adventists) are increasingly uneasy with the facile, quick-fix, and even thoughtless use of drugs and other less natural interventions. In many cultures, people are increasingly open to a more natural approach to wellness.
It is clearer than ever that the per fectly sensible thing for a humanity with fundamentally fragile health is to patiently co-operate with nature in its efforts to bring about restoration, balance and wholeness. As helpful as modern health care has become, it could be even more helpful if it operated creatively and responsibly from the bedrock of this philosophy of health.
While we ministers are not health practitioners, we can do a lot of good by positively exemplifying, intelligently teaching, and responsibly encouraging everyone's reasonable interaction with the God-given, natural elements of life.
I believe many of us have moved away from this role because of our own and other's reactions to the negative approach that has dominated and thus discouraged us when it comes to our traditional ways of communicating health-related issues.
This issue of Ministry is dedicated to encouraging us back to an enthusiastic, positive, celebrative reinstatement of our role as pastors of the whole person. The positive approach to health in this edition of Ministry is not gratuitous; it seeks to be consistent with the nature of our calling and the natural resources God has generously given.
So take a look at the invitation to participate in the celebrative sermon con test described on pages 24 and 25. In cooperation with Dr. Allan Handysides and the General Conference Health Ministries Department, Ministry looks forward to publishing some of these sermon entries in upcoming issues (not to mention offering financial reward as an extra incentive!).
1 Ellen G. White. The Ministry of Healing (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press® Pub. Assn., 1905), 127.
2 Ibid., 112, 113.