I know I’ve been writing a lot about Ellen White over the past few months. While reading The Desire of Ages again, I found much content of value for those engaged in humanitarian work or social action. Today I began reading The Acts of the Apostles as part of my morning devotions, and in the first chapter about the church, I again found material I wanted to post. This blog is more than just a place to quote White, but I do think it is helpful for us to remember that compassionate action for peace and justice is at the heart of our faith movement; it is not merely peripheral or secondary.
Show and Tell. On Fridays in early elementary school, we had Show and Tell, where we’d bring an object of importance to us and explain its significance. Speaking was insufficient. The audience needed to see the thing we were talking about. Ellen says the same thing about God. We can’t just talk about God to a listening (or not listening) world; we need to show God’s goodness, to put God’s love on display.
From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places,” the final and full display of the love of God. Ephesians 3:10. (Acts of the Apostles, p. 9)
I recently wrote to some friends that I believe we have sanitized church, and now that it’s no longer a revolution, we look elsewhere for making a difference and finding meaning and experiencing either pleasure or adrenaline. We’ve been tricked into thinking church (a political term the early Christians adopted/adapted for the gathering of the new community being formed as an alternative to the empire) is only about saving our souls for the next life instead of embodying God’s crazy, wild, egalitarian love in order to show the world what God’s heart and God’s kingdom are really like, something that can only be done in a community–a community with all ages, colors of skin, levels of education and levels of income (with much equalizing happening when rich live in connection with those less well-off) [not an exhaustive list]. I believe that the more fully we embody this description, the more fully we “display the love of God.”
Help and Bless. Helping and blessing are a significant aspect of our showing and telling. White writes, “God’s church is the court of Holy life, filled with varied gifts and endowed with the Holy Spirit. The members are to find their happiness in the happiness of those whom they help and bless” (p. 12). We help and bless because we are part of the kingdom of God, and that is what citizens of that kingdom do. Comparing God’s kingdom with the kingdom’s of this world, White describes:
“Whereunto,” asked Christ, “shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?” Mark 4:30. He could not employ the kingdoms of the world as a similitude. In society He found nothing with which to compare it. Earthly kingdoms rule by the ascendancy of physical power; but from Christ’s kingdom every carnal weapon, every instrument of coercion, is banished. This kingdom is to uplift and ennoble humanity. (p. 12)
White goes on to describe how God wants to use the church “to bring blessing to the world,” stressing the practical nature of the “spiritual life.”
Wonderful is the work which the Lord designs to accomplish through His church, that His name may be glorified. (p. 13)
From the beginning God has wrought through His people to bring blessing to the world. To the ancient Egyptian nation God made Joseph a fountain of life. Through the integrity of Joseph the life of that whole people was preserved. Through Daniel God saved the life of all the wise men of Babylon. And these deliverances are as object lessons; they illustrate the spiritual blessings offered to the world through connection with the God whom Joseph and Daniel worshiped. Everyone in whose heart Christ abides, everyone who will show forth His love to the world, is a worker together with God for the blessing of humanity. As he receives from the Saviour grace to impart to others, from his whole being flows forth the tide of spiritual life. (p. 13)
- How do you understand the mission of the church? How is it to accomplish this mission? In what ways do the quotes above speak to the mission and methods of the church?
- In what do I put more time (reading, watching, contemplating, acting, etc.)–the kingdom or power structures of this world or the kingdom of God?
- Joseph and Daniel are given as examples of those used by God to bless the world. They focused on God’s kingdom while serving people who were citizens of a very earthly empire. Clearly we can bless the world through church outreach/service, but we can also receive training in church about how to be a blessing in our work outside of the church. How well has your local congregation trained you to minister–or seek the shalom of the city–through your vocation? (See Kingdom Calling, Sherman)