Many years ago, during Communism in Romania, my wife, Daniela, and I wanted to start a small clothing factory. The single person who could approve it was the president over all businesses in that county. We scheduled an appointment with him and presented our desire. Although we had all of the proper documents and passed all of the needed inspections, he refused to approve us. When I inquired why, he answered, “I hate you Christians. I cannot agree with you. You all should be destroyed.”
For months, whatever we did was not sufficient, but eventually we were approved and started our business. When the revolution was over, there was no longer a Communist party. The man lost his position and went in desperate search of work. Most people hated the former Communist leaders, so few would open their doors, let alone hire him. One day, he came to our house.
As I opened the door, the man recognized me. He started to plead for a job, with no hope that he would get hired. The hurt and his hate were still fresh in our minds. Daniela and I looked at each other, then offered him a job on the spot. Our former antagonist was amazed. “Why would you help me when I hated you?” he asked incredulously.
“I cannot agree with your views,” I answered. “But I do not hate you. In fact, I care for you.”
You don’t have to agree
In Matthew 18, Peter tries to impress Jesus. “Should I forgive people seven times?” Jesus responds, “ ‘Seventy times seven’ ” (v. 22). That seems a little eccentric. Then Jesus tells of a servant who owed the king ten thousand talents. “Forgive me,” he says; “I’ll pay it back.” Right there, he missed it—the depth of his sin and the breadth of God’s grace. One talent was about 67 pounds of gold, about 16 years of wages.
One would need to live about two thousand lives to pay that amount of debt. On the other hand, the servant is consumed with anger and unable to forgive someone who owed him a hundred denarii—just three months’ salary. The bad news is you can never pay your debt. The good news is you don’t have to. Jesus paid it all.
Those who value Jesus’ blood have no problem forgiving, loving, and showing grace. Turning one’s back on this love and grace results in self-inflicted consequences. The third angel’s message states, “ ‘And they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name’ ” (Rev. 14:11, NKJV). How should we react when we encounter persons who think or act differently from us?
Mark Finley states, “If your understanding of the mark of the beast makes you angry. . . . [If it makes you] angry at the people who don’t preach it like you think they ought to, then you need to reexamine your heart. Your understanding of the mark of the beast should give you a passion for reaching lost people with the gospel of Christ. . . . If my understanding of prophecy doesn’t make me a more loving, kind, compassionate Christian—then I should reevaluate my understanding.”1
You do have to love
In a society where division and even hate have become more and more the norm, the third angel’s message is ultimately a message of love. Even children may be taught that the proof of God’s presence in one’s life is the love of God manifested toward those who don’t deserve it. Shama Stock states, “God’s message of warning is a loud message of love. He wants to come into your heart and change you into his image.”2
Jesus commands us to love one another to the same degree that He loves us (John 13:34). God is calling us to experience His love and reflect it to those around us—to the same degree that He has loved us. You cannot give what you don’t have.
- Mark A. Finley, “The Mark of the Beast: Has the Message Changed?” Adventist Review, June 1, 2018, https://www.adventistreview.org/1806-36.
- Shama Stock, “The Third Angel: A Loud Message of Love,” www.revelationforkids.com/the-third-angels-loud-warning.