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.