It’s not easy being a Christian let alone an Adventist today. In Victoria last year, an AFL football club chose a Christian to be its CEO—this lasted less than 24 hours as prominent people and media challenged the man because the church he participated in held a biblical view on marriage. The public have negative views about the Christian church in general (in Australia and New Zealand in particular). That’s because it has a poor record regarding child sexual abuse and is perceived to hate those who disagree with it on relationship issues.
How can Seventh-day Adventists be proactive in sharing our end-time message even though it’s not popular? Over the Christmas/New Year period I read the book of Jeremiah and he can help us.
Jeremiah came from a priestly family and was called as a youth to be a prophet. His ministry spanned the time before, during and after the Babylonian capture and exile of some Judeans and the destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of the land. He shared messages to the priests (his older relatives), officials and kings of Judah who all wanted and believed that Jerusalem would not fall and the people would be protected by God because His temple was in the city (Jeremiah 1:1-3; 7:1-4). How did Jeremiah go about his ministry in such a difficult environment?
1. Consistent Message: Jeremiah continually shared “the Word of the Lord”. His message was consistent: the Babylonians would come and destroy Jerusalem and take some captive because the people worshipped other gods and the leaders did not care for the poor and needy but looked after themselves. They were breaking the covenant they had agreed to and would suffer the consequences (Jeremiah 1,3). His message was seen to be unpatriotic. God had rescued Judah and Jerusalem in King Hezekiah’s time (only a couple of generations prior); He would do it again. When King Jehoiakim burnt Jeremiah’s written prophecy, Jeremiah had it rewritten (Jeremiah 36). That’s consistency. However Jeremiah always gave hope—after 70 years the captives in Babylon would come back to Judah and re-establish life there (Jeremiah 25,29,33).
2. Trusted God for Courage: God knew it would be tough for Jeremiah to share a message to his older relatives. From the outset, He gave him courage and made him tough-minded. God would be with him (Jeremiah 1:18,19). Even though he was mocked, and was put in a well and in prison (Jeremiah 20:1,2,7; 38:6,7; 33:1), Jeremiah’s message did not change.
3. Compassionate Identification: Jeremiah is often called the weeping prophet. He complains to God as he identifies with the pain and punishment they will endure and feels it himself (Jeremiah 15:15-18; Lamentations). He’s like a parent who says while disciplining their child, “This will hurt me more than it will hurt you.” In compassion, Jeremiah wrote to the group of exiles who Nebuchadnezzar took back to Babylon after his first victory over Jerusalem, to give them perspective and hope (Jeremiah 29). After the fall of Jerusalem, the few people left in Judah decided to go to Egypt as they thought it would be safer. Jeremiah had told them this was not God’s plan but he decided to go with the people (Jeremiah 42,43). He is their prophet; he must be with the people.
4. Creative Communication: Jeremiah with the call from God created several object lessons. At one stage he had to take a pair of new underpants and bury them out of the country and after some time go back, dig them up and present them to the people of Judah—they were “good for nothing” like Judah (Jeremiah 13:1-11). Although the land was about to have 70 years of desolation, Jeremiah was told to buy some land from a relative as real estate would have value in the future—a long-term investment (Jeremiah 32). He wore an animal yoke around Jerusalem to show what would happen to the people in the city (Jeremiah 28). Jeremiah’s consistent and creative messages were so well known that the captain of the guard even knew of Jeremiah and made sure he was not killed or mistreated during the fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 40:1-6).
All over the South Pacific there are Seventh-day Adventists who are standing up for God, living and sharing a message without trying to antagonise others. With sensitive courage we can be like Jeremiah.