I grew up in a part of the South Pacific region of the world Adventist church at a time when the church’s theological understanding of the “remnant” of Bible prophecy (Revelation 12-14) was often understood to mean separation from all who were not Adventist. Whether this was the correct understanding and application of this biblical concept or not, is not the point. The fact is, at that time Seventh-day Adventists in Samoa often lived out this non-association with the community as a hallmark of their end-time identity. In some extreme cases, this misunderstanding of what Adventism is about led to the Church being barred from entering certain villages and districts in Samoa. Many Samoans perceived Seventh-day Adventists as being anti-community and anti-culture. Unfortunately this perception is not limited to only Samoa and the South Pacific.
Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
THE MANDATE TO ENGAGE COMMUNITY
The call and invitation to be God’s stewards in the world is quite the opposite of that perception. We are, in fact, mandated by God to be involved and to be engaged with all people—including with those who live “in the world.”
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:26, 28). As members of the human family, and created after the likeness of the Maker Himself, we are to extend His rule—His creativity, His mercy, and His care—to all people with whom we may come in contact. We are called to make a difference within the community and ultimately God’s spiritual kingdom, by leading and initiating activities (“be fruitful and increase in number,” v.28) and processes (“fill the earth and subdue it,” v.28). Stewardship is a spiritual responsibility and we have a duty to care for each other. This was God’s plan right from the beginning (Genesis 2, 4).
THE PURPOSE FOR COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
When Abraham was called to leave his home and people to go to a foreign place known only to God, it was a call to be involved with other communities. Abraham was to have an outward focus in life, and no longer live for himself. He was to become a steward of God’s grace by being a “blessing” to others. "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:2,3).
When God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and to proclaim a message of His wrath and ultimate destruction, it was a command to become involved in the lives of people. By God’s grace, this engagement would bring about a better outcome. The larger purpose of God for the Ninevites then, and for the people of the world today, was their salvation. “And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?" (Jonah 4:11). Jesus expressed this concern for all people of the world in this manner, “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14). Stewardship is about giving people everywhere an opportunity to know about Jesus so that all might be saved. You and I are the link He uses to connect them with Jesus and His Kingdom.
"I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing."
IN THE WORLD BUT NOT OF THIS WORLD
Just prior to His death on the cross, Jesus made it very plain in His prayer what His desire for His disciples was, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:14-16). It is not a decision to lead a life of isolation from people and the world when we make the commitment to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. Rather it is a pledge to move forward in faith together with Jesus. This partnership with Him can make a difference in the lives of people wherever we may live as stewards of His Kingdom.