There is one criticism that annoys me above all others. It is a rhetorical device used by Adventists quite commonly to shut down points of view that do not represent their own and is reminiscent of the “cancel culture” sweeping Western societies at the moment.
It comes in various forms but they all have the same purpose and intention. They are all designed to win arguments and present/advance a specific form of belief and faith practice. They can be phrased positively or negatively.
“We need to stay true to the mission of the Church.”
While this statement in itself is true, the context it is used in is a manipulative one. It implies that whatever was talked about before is not in keeping with the true mission.
We all agree that the Church has an important mission. But what is that mission? All Christians would agree to being called to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18–20). But Adventists have always seen themselves as called to implement that mission in the context of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14.
What is that special end-time message?
Many focus on Sunday laws, fleeing from the cities, new world order and public evangelism—using these messages as bait. While these things are possibilities that cannot be discounted, we should examine again what the messages actually contain. Some of these things are not found explicitly in this passage.
Instead, the passage does provide rich soil for advocating ideas that those who use the text often deride.
Euangelion (Revelation 14:6): The glad tidings, the good news that is everlasting. What is that good news the angel proclaims? Jesus at His birth had angels proclaiming that He would bring peace to all men (Luke 2:10-14). Jesus preached about His mission in the synagogue—that He was anointed to proclaim good news to the poor; liberty to the captives; sight to the blind; liberty to those who are oppressed. Sounds like good news.
Racism: The passage goes on to suggest that the message is pronounced to all people groups, languages, tribes, types and places. This excludes racism. If we allow ourselves not to be empathetic to the struggles different people groups are having, we’ll never be able to come alongside them and proclaim anything that they’ll listen to.
Creation care (Revelation 14:7): We don’t have to be climate warriors but at the same time, God is given His rightful title as Creator of heaven and earth. I wonder if we can worship God while exploiting or destroying His creation. Dismissing those who care and seek to protect the earth is spitting in the face of the One who created it.
Rejecting Babylon (Revelation 14:8): Any system that oppresses people is Babylon. In John’s day it was Rome. Today it can be many things: capitalism, communism, consumerism, Christendom, politics. Remember our early church fathers didn’t want to start a church because if they formalised as a denomination they would be going back to Babylon. Those who are called to proclaim the fall of Babylon will find themselves alongside those who demonstrate against worker exploitation, human trafficking, oppression of religion and human rights.
We can stand with those who care about these things, even advocate with them, while still using the opportunity to proclaim the message of Revelation 14.
Instead we focus on the beast and its mark. We obsess over, theorise about and withdraw ourselves from the concerns of society so as not to be tainted. But we miss out on opportunities to proclaim and disciple because we have no common ground.
We also close ourselves off from compassion and empathy. We “win” arguments but lose hearts. We do not use “Christ’s method alone” when we reject His mission and His message in favour of our pet topics and the doctrines we arrogantly think that no further light will be revealed on. This is our danger. I’m talking to myself as well.
So next time you try to dismiss someone by saying “stick to the mission”, please just recognise that their God-given mission may not be the same as yours.