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As I contemplate the current state of the world, and I see the decay and the degradation of the morality of men, I cannott help but be troubled in my Spirit about the effectiveness of God’s people.
I am not of the camp that believes things will get better as the world approaches its final chapters of human history, but at the same time, I cannot help wondering if the religion I identify with is really pure and undefiled (James 1:27). I cannot abstain from looking at the world and questioning if the sect of followers that my Savior birthed is still following His footsteps, or have we become lost along the way? I cannot help but ponder when I read my instruction manual, the Bible, and observe the dichotomy between ideal Christianity and realized Christianity if these are the disciples of the Creator or if I should look for another church. It is hard for me to admit, but I’m not certain that Jesus Christ would be Christian today.
There is much substantiation for my premise, so let us take a journey through my country, America, today. I do not want to hide the fact that I am a Black male, a first generation African-American of Nigerian decent. I was born and raised in the Adventist Church which I dearly love and believe to be the denomination that follows the Bible the closest out of all other denominations. I have bought into the ideological and theological beliefs of my church and my religion, but I refuse to subscribe to the practical applications of Christ’s teachings that are eminent in our culture today. I wish Christ Himself would descend from the heavenly clouds of glory and set His church straight to correct us from where we have erred. I believe many of us are Christians, but most of us are not followers of Christ.
The main characteristic that I believe Christians lack is Jesus’ noble characteristic of compassion. But it is not difficult when examined to understand why this has become a lost relic in our church. Matthew 9:35-38 illustrates well the plight of our sacred religion:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”
Certain churches and particular denominations do the first part of this Scripture well. Adventism has made it a sovereign duty to go to many towns and villages to indoctrinate people of the good news of Christ’s second coming, but we have unequivocally failed in healing every disease and sickness. I am not inferring that Christians today possess the physiological capability to heal like our Master did over 2,000 years ago, but I am purporting that we have a history of ignoring the sicknesses and the disease of the people of our towns and villages.
Quite often I am asked if I want to take part in some mission trip overseas where the ground is ripe to spread the gospel and help those in need. There are numerous projects presented, whether it is helping to build schools or churches, or even erecting health clinics and providing avenues for proper water sanitation. There are a plethora of mission groups and mission trips to choose from, which is definitely a blessing for many. But if I may be transparent, these mission trips irk my soul. I am not stating that there isn’t a need for them or that I am not happy about all of the reports of how God is blessing our missionaries—not at all. This work is much needed. I just cannot help but look around me and notice all of the ignored but ripe fields of harvest that are staring us in the face right here in the U.S.
The commission given by the resurrected Jesus to His disciples to spread the gospel in Acts 1:8 purports:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We must not fail to note that this commission specifically instructs the disciples to start in Jerusalem—AT HOME! In direct contrast, it is our tendency to go to other countries to provide relief and aid while we ignore the pain and suffering that is happening right outside our front doors. With the numerous causes that we as Adventists can champion here in this country, why is it that we are drawn abroad to serve? Is it that we are too afraid to come face to face with our own dirty laundry?
There are many families in poverty in America who live in low-income neighborhoods. Many of them are suffering here, within the borders of this great nation, reaching out for help and for hope, and we simply walk by them like the Jews in the Good Samaritan parable. As God watches us from above, would He be proud of us? Would He brag to the heavenly host about how faithful we are?
Poor families, especially minority and African-American families, are daily suppressed by oppressive legislation and restraining systems that we have failed to address. It seems almost daily there are headlines about an unarmed black individual being gunned down by law enforcement who take black and minority lives at higher rates than any other race. We hear about the epidemic of mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline that marginalizes our youth of color. We hear about predatory lending, redlining, gentrification, and demonization of immigrants from certain “s**thole nations.” America has a sickness that subjugates a certain demographic of people as “less than” others. All of this happens as the church stands by, at many times stagnant. We no longer deem it necessary to “be our brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9) or to take care of the “fatherless and the widow and the poor among us” (Psalm 82:3).
Instead of taking up the mantle here in “Jerusalem,” many of us would rather start at the ends of the Earth. As a universal church, American Adventists find great joy and pride in helping the “underdeveloped” nations of the world. We bask in the ability to be saviors to those in second- and third-world countries. But as Christ looks on as we spread the Three Angels’ Message from foreign nation to foreign nation, sounding the alarm, would He choose to join us in our conquest? Or would He look to the highways and the byways of the “ghettos,” the “trailer parks,” and the “hoods,” and fill His banquet hall with His people? I am certain that Jesus would not subscribe to our edition of Adventism. So why do we?
Babawale Adepoju is the Senior Pastor of Prince Emmanuel All Nations SDA Church in Bowie, MD and is also serving as the Executive Treasurer of Adventists for Social Justice.
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