Human Strudel

Human Strudel

It has been said of former President Bill Clinton that one of his marked qualities as a leader is the ability to give full and undivided attention to each conversation partner, and make each person feels like he is 100% interested in what they are saying.[1] It doesn’t matter whether the person is a high-ranking official or an elementary school kid, their words will fall on listening ears. Albert Einstein once said, “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”

I highly admire individuals who are “no respecters of persons,” individuals who are at ease in traversing many social strata, particularly the social divisions defined by economic status. They are boundary-crossers, cruising across each layer of society as if there were no dividers. They can treat human beings as human beings and look at each person in the eye with dignity and respect. These are such admirable qualities that I aspire to genuinely and thoroughly have one day.

Exhibit A of these fascinating people is Jesus and His life as recorded in the Gospel accounts. Born, raised, and lived in poverty, His manners were courteous and warm to everyone. The poor loved Him, the rich welcomed Him in their houses and loved His company. He was generous, yet not too proud to not receive what others bestowed upon Him. He blessed humanity by giving precious, unpurchasable gifts, as well as giving people opportunities to bless Him and give Him gifts.

This is Jesus Christ, in whom dwells all the fullness of God, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. But “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

I cannot express in words my high level of fascination with this man. He moved from the upper crust of society, through the human strudel,  to the bottom layer as one who was free. There was no human prejudice that constrained His behavior. His mind was far from self consciousness that often plagues us so in our social interactions, fixated on something altogether more unvain and transcendent, the salvation of the world, the rescuing of humanity from the bondage of sin, guilt, and shame.

The problem or tension between “us” and “them” exists in each of us in many different forms. We are prejudiced against each other, the rich against the poor, the poor against the rich. What would it take to break down these manufactured walls in our minds?

Love your neighbor as yourself. What a simple, yet radical concept. The one who loves most is the one most free from human prejudice.

“…if you are a Christian, you ought not to consider poverty a crime.” Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre.

It’s Personal

It’s Personal

As a canvasser a few years ago, I was often told that when people reject me at the door, don’t be discouraged, since they’re not rejecting me, they’re rejecting the One who sent me. While I understand where they’re coming from, I never fully agree with that counsel.

I know what they mean to say is that I shouldn’t take myself too seriously; it’s a good discipline against self and pride. But when it’s worded as, “Don’t take it personally,” I can’t help to disagree because, well, shouldn’t ministry be personal? When I know that people reject me not for me, it doesn’t mean I can just turn away skipping and happy as if it were not my problem, especially since I know that they rejecting Someone bigger and much more important than me. In fact, I should be grieved even more.

Am I not a friend of God? Can I ignore His sadness when someone rejects Him? Is this not the purpose of ministry, to be transformed into His character, to be nearer to the heart of God, and to be synchronized with His mind and heart?

There is a difference between being sad because my pride is hurt, and being sad because the One I love is hurt. Ministry is personal. There is no way around it. And it hurts.

That is why, when I hear error being preached, I cannot help being hurt. I cannot not take it personally. I will not pretend like it’s okay, look away like it never happened, or pretend that I’m not affected by it. If someone is talking about my God and spreading lies about Him, I will be offended. Period. This is true for anyone I love.

When you love the truth, you must hate error. It’s only natural, because the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.

I may be a struggling Christian and my devotional life may not be perfect like crystal, but I know that I have vowed to love the truth and to stand for God’s Word until I die, and I make no apology for being emotionally involved. Because this thing is personal. It just is.

But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority—not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain “Thus saith the Lord” in its support. The Great Controversy, p. 595.

The Bridge to Eternity

The Bridge to Eternity

Twenty six plus years of being a Sabbath keeper are not enough to exhaust the multifacetedness of this holy day. Perhaps nothing less than eternity will suffice. Sitting in my Sabbath School class last week like a good Adventist, and catching up on the week’s lesson in class like a Badventist, I was kicking myself for not studying it earlier. It was so good! The author of the lesson, Jo Ann Davidson, brought up important lessons on the Sabbath that I never thought before.

The Great Equalizer

In the 10 Commandments, it is written:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Exodus 20:8-11

On the Sabbath day, we are to rest along with those around us, namely family members, those who work for us, animals that work for us, or guests who are at our disposal. Davidson writes:

The entire family household, including any servants of either gender, the working class along with the “boss,” are to rest together. Sabbath is the great equalizer, the liberator of all inequalities in the social structure. Before God, all human beings are equal, and the Sabbath is a unique way of revealing this crucial truth, especially in a world so dominated by class structures that place various groups “over” or “beneath” others. Glimpses of our God, Sabbath School Quarterly Jan-Mar 2012, Lesson 7.

Mind-blowing! The Sabbath liberates all men and women, and animals too. When we say the Sabbath is a memorial of creation, it not only reminds us of the God who created the heavens and the earth, it is also a memorial of that perfect world that God made and one day will restore, a world where all men, women, and animals are free.

In that world, every son and daughter has full access to God as the Father, there is no master over you, and there is no master over any animal. No one is a stranger, and no one is at anyone else’s disposal, except at His who is the Source of all things. Every living thing rests, relies, and depends on the Creator alone.

In another place Davidson writes, “[Sabbath] is a day for healing and restoration,” and how true that is. By keeping the Sabbath day, humanity is restored to what it is meant to be. We get to experience glimpses of that original creation and be brought back to that perfect world.

Repairers of the Breach

Isaiah 58 then came to mind; that chapter whose promises in verses 13-14 are so dear to Sabbath keepers (i.e., those who call the Sabbath a delight are promised to ride upon the high places of the earth and receive the heritage of Jacob), but whose verses 1-12 don’t… sound… as… sweet.

The Pharisees gave Jesus a lot of heat for healing people on the Sabbath. They wanted Him to be pious like them in keeping the Sabbath, down to every nitpicky detail of what entails as work or rest. But that was not the point of the Sabbath.

Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Isaiah 58:5.

The Sabbath was not made to burden men, but to set men free.

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to lose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Isaiah 58:6-7

These things sound awfully similar to what Jesus would do on the Sabbath. No, they were exactly what He did. He went about doing good, freeing men from the bondage of sin and suffering. He healed and restored them on the Sabbath day. He brought them back to the condition akin to that at Creation – perfect, healthy, free, sinless/forgiven men and women.

And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day. And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones, and thou salt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. Isaiah 58:10-12.

These things sound awfully like Jesus. They were exactly what Jesus was on earth: His light rose in obscurity, He was guided continually, His soul was satisfied in drought, He was like a watered garden and a spring of water whose waters did not fail. People drew strength, love, and much more from Him and He never tired. He built the waste places and raised up foundations of many generations. He was the Repairer of the breach.

What breach? There was a breach to the perfect world that God created that yielded the world that we live in now with its oppression, sickness, and death. The breach is called sin.

As He healed people, He restored humanity and repaired that breach. He brought to earth something like that world with all things good and perfect. In fact, His death and His rest on the Sabbath day in the grave was the ultimate repair of the breach, giving sinners access to God and setting them on a path towards restoration.

These were why all the things Jesus did on the Sabbath did not break the commandment. They were all in fact in the spirit of the Sabbath – healing, liberating, restoring, recreating humanity.

These are also why it is perfectly within the perimeters of keeping the Sabbath to do good for humanity. In fact, the Sabbath is the very means to override that breach of sin.

In the spirit of the Sabbath, a spirit of restoration and healing, let the world draw out our compassion for humanity and let us act on it. Following Jesus’ example, we are too are repairers of the breach, and let us bring glimpses of eternity to this earth.

Ennobling Humanity

Ennobling Humanity

On Valentine’s Day this past week, for the first time ever, I officially became a microfinancier through Kiva.org. I suppose it was my way of spreading love around the world.

I’ve been meaning to experiment with microfinance for a while, and though my knowledge on the subject is still relatively limited, from what I know, I’m a big fan of the model. The idea is to provide microcredit to self-employed individuals with limited income so that they can start or expand their businesses (mostly household businesses) without being victims of high interests from banks, which probably will not loan to those with very low or no income.

At Kiva.org, you can provide loans for as low as $25. The website has listings of various individuals around the world who are seeking for loans, their pictures, plans, and the financial institutions that Kiva works with in their respective countries. You can see how much money they need and how far along they are in their fund raising. The business areas include agriculture, clothing businesses, groceries stores, funds for education, etc. Once you get your money back, you can then re-lend it to another project on the website.[1]

On Valentine’s Day, I chose four different projects in Jordan, Pakistan, Peru, and the Philippines that moved me. I specifically chose projects by women who are widowed, except for one who is raising funds for university.

What was surprising to me was how quickly these projects became fully funded, even though when I checked them out on Tuesday, some of them were still 10% funded. Within one to three days, I got several emails from Kiva notifying that the projects I chose have become fully funded. It was impressive how much a pool of people can generate a relatively small amount of money in such a short amount of time, with presumably quite an impact in someone’s life.

Why do I like microfinance? I like it because it empowers many people to do what they need and want to do. It helps people to help themselves.

As I’m stepping into the adult life, I’ve realized how important it is for an individual to have autonomy, aspirations, and experience rewards in one’s work life. More than earning a living, these things boost one’s morale and help achieve a better life. It is far more superior to being told what to do or being a mere recipient of someone else’s charity.

There is an impressive quote in the book Education regarding courtesy.

True courtesy is not learned by the mere practice of rules of etiquette. Propriety of deportment is at all times to be observed; wherever principle is not compromised, consideration of others will lead to compliance with accepted customs; but true courtesy requires no sacrifice of principle to conventionality. It ignores caste. It teaches self-respect, respect for the dignity of man as man, a regard for every member of the great human brotherhood. Ellen G. White, Education, p. 240, emphasis added.

Although donations will always remain an important option in the portfolio of charity work, sometimes simply giving money to someone or a group of people is not the best thing for the receiver. Some forms of donation are simply patronizing, which in turn demoralize and paralyze the recipients, because they affirm the people’s feeling of helplessness. Such forms of ‘charity work’ do not practice true courtesy, in that it does not see the recipient at eye-level in a “I’m rich, you’re poor” kind of way, instead of telling them that they too can achieve and one day give.

At the creation, labor was appointed as a blessing. It meant development, power, happiness. The changed condition of the earth through the curse of sin has brought a change in the conditions of labor; yet though now attended with anxiety, weariness, and pain, it is still a source of happiness and development. And it is a safeguard against temptation. Its discipline places a check on self-indulgence, and promotes industry, purity, and firmness. Thus it becomes a part of God’s great plan for our recovery from the Fall. The youth should be led to see the true dignity of labor. Ellen G. White, Education, p. 214, emphasis added.

I think it is the purpose of true education to ennoble humanity and restore the dignity that God gives to human beings. And one of the ways to do that is to help people to work.


[1] There are discussions on whether your loans will go directly to the individual you choose on Kiva.org. Since the individuals on the website probably already have loans from the microfinance institutions, your money may or may not go to the person you chose. Personally, this is not an issue for me, since you’re still helping people through the institutions even though you don’t know for sure that you helped Mr. A or Mrs. B specifically. The following articles contain useful information on Kiva.org:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/27/opinion/27kristof.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/09/business/global/09kiva.html

http://blogs.cgdev.org/open_book/2009/10/kiva-is-not-quite-what-it-seems.php

Human Compassion

Human Compassion

As a 21st century global citizen, a student at a secular university, and a worker in the circuit of campus ministry who lives in an urban(ish) culture, I live a very cerebral life. The bulk of my daily tasks is done in front of a computer and my brain is always doing this funny activity called thinking. Even my service activities in campus ministry are mostly cerebral.

While intellectualism has its rigor, if not balanced with other aspects of life, it can exhaust one to the very core, no matter if that intellectualism comes from academia, work, or ministry.

Since I first was introduced to campus ministry about 8.5 years ago, I’ve participated, undergone training, led, and taught others to give Bible studies, prayer meetings, visitations, and organize events. These components have made up the bulk of campus ministry activities that I’ve experienced thus far, and they have revived many out of spiritual slumber. But I have come to believe that this branch of ministry still lacks a very important component in its participants’ spiritual walk: service.

Yes, all of the aforementioned components are a form of service. But what I mean here is simply doing good for humanity and exercising compassion for the human family.

I think we already do some level of service in campus ministry through our investment in students, in friendships, and in mentor-mentee relationships. Yet the human family is much wider than just the campus community; it extends to the entire geographical span of our planet, as well as those in the past and future of this world. Perhaps, by reaching out to the greater sphere of humanity, our campuses will be more revived too.

It is not the abundance of your meetings that God accepts. It is not the numerous prayers, but the rightdoing, doing the right thing and at the right time. It is to be less self-caring and more benevolent. Our souls must expand. Then God will make them like a watered garden, whose waters fail not. (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church Vol. 2, p. 35,36)

There are certain aspects of our character that will never be developed unless we go out and serve others as God wants us to do. Our souls must break through the wall of self and feel a tender sympathy for humanity that is not mere sentimentalism. This is what our Divine example, Jesus Christ, did on earth. He went about doing good.

Wouldn’t it be something if all campus ministers have the perfect symmetry in character development, becoming holistic human beings and holistic Christians? What would it look like to have a generation of students who love God supremely and love others as themselves? After all, the two greatest commandments are not mutually exclusive. As it has been sung before, “To love another person is to see the face of God..”