Always relate to others with love

I am deeply troubled when I witness the “potluck wars” that take place in some churches.

Fred Hardinge, DrPH, RD, is an associate director of the General Conference Health Ministries department, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

A vegan food truck owner, Delinda Jensen, who scolded victims of the Las Vegas shooting massacre as “meat eaters,” said she has received death threats for her comments. She wrote on Facebook, “How many animals will live because of the deaths of the 58 victims?”1 Jensen made the post a day after the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States history that also injured more than five hundred concertgoers.

These sad comments from this misguided lady remind me of the importance of attitudes we exhibit toward those with whom we may disagree. Unfortunately, we sometimes hear similar, but perhaps less extreme, ideas expressed within the church.

I am deeply troubled when I witness the “potluck wars” that take place in some churches. Why is it that some lacto-ovo vegetarians look down upon those who eat flesh foods, and some vegans look down upon lacto-ovo vegetarians? The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not make one particular dietary pattern a test of fellowship. We are a global church and have many believers in parts of the world where fortification of foods is either nonexistent or financially impossible for the majority of members. Small amounts of milk, eggs, and clean flesh foods may be the only guarantee of a healthful diet. (Please don’t hurl rotten tomatoes at me before reading on!)

What diet does the church recommend? “Because our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, we are to care for them intelligently. Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures.”2 Even though we may recommend a vegetarian diet, we do not enforce it. Each member remains free to humbly follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in choosing their eating pattern while remaining in regular standing with the church.

No matter which dietary pattern you follow, remember that your attitude toward those who may differ with you should be rooted in the Spirit of Christ. “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Rom. 12:21).3

I have found the following counsel to be most helpful in my ministry to others of differing habits and beliefs:

Remember that you cannot read hearts. You do not know the motives which prompted the actions that to you look wrong. There are many who have not received a right education; their characters are warped, they are hard and gnarled, and seem to be crooked in every way. But the grace of Christ can transform them. Never cast them aside, never drive them to discouragement or despair by saying, “You have disappointed me, and I will not try to help you.” A few words spoken hastily under provocation—just what we think they deserve—may cut the cords of influence that should have bound their hearts to ours.

The consistent life, the patient forbearance, the spirit unruffled under provocation, is always the most conclusive argument and the most solemn appeal. If you have had opportunities and advantages that have not fallen to the lot of others, consider this, and be ever a wise, careful, gentle teacher.4

“In working for the victims of evil habits, instead of pointing them to the despair and ruin toward which they are hastening, turn their eyes away to Jesus. Fix them upon the glories of the heavenly. This will do more for the saving of body and soul than will all the terrors of the grave when kept before the helpless and apparently hopeless.”5

So, “fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8). We will make friends by being kind and loving, not by being critical and rude.

1  Delinda Jensen, quoted in Bill O’Boyle, “Death Threats Follow Local Vegan’s Facebook Post About Vegas Shootings,” Times Leader, Oct. 5, 2017, -follow-vegans-facebook-post-about-vegas -shootings.

2  “Living: Christian Behavior,” /living/christian-behavior/.

3  Scripture in this article is quoted from the New Living Translation.

4   Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn. 1942), 494.

5. Ibid., 62, 63.

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Fred Hardinge, DrPH, RD, is an associate director of the General Conference Health Ministries department, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

May 2018

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