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Modeling Faith
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The Church: A Laboratory of Compassion

How can a church effectively model the redemptive values that are spelled out in Scripture?

Presently there is a narrative out there that says Christians must put their national interests above the kingdom principles of Scripture, or that the biblical narrative must be reshaped to fit the goals of a specific political party. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus said the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets can be summed up in the maxim that we are to treat others as we would like to be treated. (Matthew 12:7).

God highly values relationships and the interactions that we have with each other. He wants them to be positive and endearing. And in case you’ve missed it, he is a big fan of showing compassion and mercy.

In contrast, our culture says we should judge and treat people as they deserve to be treated. We’re trained to give “an eye for a eye” and “a tooth for a tooth.” It’s easy to do because our fallen natures resonate with “kangaroo justice,” which means that even if we don’t know all the facts we’re ready to judge and punish the offenders. We’re eager to be the jury and the judge so we can quickly move on to the next thing.

But we are called to a higher place, to that of showing compassion for all—including the underserving. In fact, we are commanded to love our enemies! In order to do this we must be non-conformists! The world says we are to treat people a certain way, but Jesus says, “No, you are to do the opposite.” “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity” (Romans 12:2, J.B. Phillips New Testament).

The church should be a safety zone—a place that draws people together, as it excludes the cultural and political expectations that try to marginalize some. The church is the staging ground for Heaven, meaning that what God values most will be on full display among those who claim to reflect his character. In our divisive, angry culture, the church should stand out like a healthy thumb on a sore hand—meaning that it should be seen as this amazingly inclusive and compassionate community that makes the world look sick.

As we spend time with Jesus, questions about how we should relate to people (of all stripes, colors and backgrounds) will melt away because Scripture makes it pretty clear.

Principles to Live By

Love Your Enemies – “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45, NLT).

“Every unjust act toward a fellow being is a violation of the golden rule. Every wrong done to the children of God, is done to Christ Himself in the person of His saints… He who truly fears God, would rather toil day and night, and eat the bread of poverty, than to indulge the passion for gain that oppresses the widow and fatherless or turns the stranger from his right” (Ellen G. White, Christian Service, p. 144).

Tell the Truth – “Who may worship in your sanctuary, LordWho may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lordand keep their promises even when it hurts. Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever” (Psalm 15:1-5, NLT). There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family” (Proverbs 6:16-19, NLT).

Be Open to All – “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19, NLT).

Be Merciful – “O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NLT).

Empathize With Others – “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! (Romans 13: 14-16, NLT).

Do Good – “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Romans 12:21, NLT).

Share Your Wealth – “Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help” (Isaiah 58:7, NLT).

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Undoubtedly, other specific principles should be added to this list. Help us add the missing values. Send your suggestions to: css@adventistfaith.com.

Questions for Reflection

Of all places, a church should reflect what Heaven values most. The attitudes and values of its members should be an echo of what matters most to God.

1). Does my church value people (from all walks of life) above the cultural mandates and politics of today?

2). Does my church stick out like a “sore thumb” in a good kind of way? Explain.

3). Is this statement true or false? I would happily invite any person (regardless of their ethnicity or race) to my church for Sabbath services?

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About Rich DuBose

Rich DuBose

is director of Church Support Services for the Pacific Union Conference

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