A larger heart

Jeffrey O. Brown, PhD, is the associate editor of Ministry and an associate ministerial secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

Standing in line at a photo-printing shop in Manchester, England, I saw it: a beautiful poster advertising a family life seminar at a local synagogue.

“Sounds really appealing!” I commented to the rabbi having the poster printed.

“Oh, you wouldn’t be able to attend,” he said. “It’s only for Jews.”

I tried to establish common ground. “I am doing a doctorate in family life education. This would really interest me.”

He wasn’t buying it. “It’s only for Jews.”

Finally, I blurted out, “I am a Seventh-day Adventist minister. We honor the seventh-day Sabbath!”

He looked at me and said these words: “You cannot select which principles of the faith you will honor and which you won’t. It’s a complete package, not a smorgasbord.”

I did not agree with his application—I felt we should share. But I had to agree with his aspiration—that people of faith embrace the totality of the biblical message. James said, “You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others” (James 2:10, The Message). I realized the need to be faithful.

Contributing to the whole

It was perfectly clear to the disciples—the other was wrong. He was performing a religious act similar to theirs but in a different way. The disciples believed they had it right, so the only question to be answered, then, was how to silence other voices on the topic. The Master’s reaction? “Jesus wasn’t pleased. ‘Don’t stop him. No one can use my name to do something good and powerful, and in the next breath slam me. If he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally’ ” (Mark 9:39, The Message). Allies! Jesus said these were not competing voices; they were complementary voices. Each was contributing something to the whole. I realized the need to be charitable.

Samuele Bacchiocchi’s landmark publications on the Sabbath have been followed by other authoritative works.1 Indeed, there has been a growing interest in the topic among Christians of many persuasions.2 We must applaud new insights into making “ ‘the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable’ ” (Isa. 58:13, NKJV). But the Sabbath is more than a balm for stressed-out leaders. Too often, the healthful benefit of the commandment is emphasized at the expense of Jesus’ finished work of Creation and Redemption. The Lord has given us a memorial of His crucifixion. It’s called Communion (1 Cor. 11:26). He has given us a memorial of His resurrection. It’s called baptism (Rom. 6:4). And in the Sabbath, God has given us a memorial of His Creation (Exod. 20:11). It is not one day I select from the seven for my own purposes; it is “ ‘the Sabbath of the LORD your God’ ” (Exod. 20:10, NKJV; emphasis added). I cannot pick and choose.

Discovery of truth

In our joyful discovery of truth, then, first, let’s be faithful to the biblical text. When I bumped into Matthew 15:9, my teenage life took a different turn. “ ‘And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’ ” (NKJV). Let’s have the heart to choose divine commandments over human traditions.

Second, let’s be charitable to those whose faith walk may be close to ours but not identical. Professor Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, with her emphasis on grace, maintains, “It would be an irresponsible Christian who did not listen to her sisters and brothers in other parts of the church universal.”3 The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been blessed and shaped by sisters and brothers in other parts of the church universal.4 Let’s have the heart to learn from each other.

How can we see each other as allies? Scripture says, “ ‘The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart’ ” (١ Sam. 16:7, NIV). Ultimately, seeing the bigger picture has one requirement—a larger heart.

  1. Samuele Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday (Rome: The Pontifical Gregorian University Press, 1977); Samuele Bacchiocchi, Divine Rest for Human Restlessness (Rome: The Pontifical Gregorian University Press, 1980); Sigve K. Tonstad, The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2009).
  2. Cf. Robert Morris, Take the Day Off (New York, NY: FaithWords, 2019). See “Resources” on page 30 of this issue.
  3. Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Gender and Grace (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 12.
  4. George E. Vandeman, What I Like About . . . the Lutherans, the Baptists, the Methodists, the Charismatics, the Catholics, Our Jewish Friends, the Adventists . . . Rescuers of Neglected Truth (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1986).

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Jeffrey O. Brown, PhD, is the associate editor of Ministry and an associate ministerial secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

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