This new quarter’s lesson is titled “The Role of the Church in the Community”. This may well prove to be a great study for us, as we each struggle to make sense of our role in our respective communities. Not just individual roles, but our collective role as a church. As individuals, we seek to do this personally… to so live in our very lives the character of God. To be that “savor of life” to all in our sphere of influence. But one of the main reasons to congregate as Christians is to be that influence in ways beyond what we can do individually. I look forward to fruitful lessons this quarter.
This week’s lesson is titled “The ‘Restoration of All Things’”. A great place to start… to look at the “fall” and God’s plan to restore us, especially in light of the “Great Controversy”. Here on this speck of a planet in the vast universe of God, is the evidence of God, His love, and how He handles rebellion and seeks to reconcile His family. How He seeks to restore in each of us the original image in which we were created. Everything recorded in His Word is the evidence of His activity in our behalf… done for us, to aid in our restoration.
We must remember this. We can sometimes be tempted to think that some of God’s actions are for Himself. As if, for example, the Sanctuary service is for Himself, to enable Himself to forgive us… to provide a way so that God can forgive. But the Sanctuary service was not established for Him. It was established for us. To teach us.
In the same vein, we can sometimes think of the “cross” this way, too. That Christ’s death was to change the Father. That He provided Christ on the cross in order to change Himself. But God-in-Christ came as one of us… lived, died and rose again for us… to change us. God needed no changing. He needed no Mediator, He needed no “atonement”. Christ came to bring us back to “at-one-ment” with the Father (the true meaning of the word).
Likewise with the “Law”. We sometimes interpret the “Law” as some hard standard by which mankind will be judged. That the “Law”, unlike mankind, stands eternal… hard and fast… and man must conform to it or die. We forget why the “Law” was given. The “Law” was given “for” mankind, not mankind “for” the “Law”. That we, you and I, are created to be eternal, too. And that this “Law” is but showing us the principle of love… the principle upon which eternal life alone is possible. It is not a rigid “code-of-conduct” to which man must conform or be executed by our Father. It’s a description of the qualities of life itself. A violation of which is a violation of our own conscience and a violation which destroys us. The “Law” was given for us, to bless us, teach us and lead us back to at-one-ment with the Father. We are the reason the “Law” was given. It was given for us… not us for it.
In our self-centeredness we have so often looked at God through the myopic filter of our own self-centered understanding. We see the Bible as God’s terrifying ultimatums. Instead, it is a revelation of the enormity of love that is our Father; His varied attempts to warn us of the deadly nature of sin; and show us the beauty of love so that we will turn and repent. But we were so scared of Him that we misinterpreted His loving action in our behalf. And as a result we have been content with being proclaimed legally innocent (like O.J. Simpson in his first trial) and being superficially “covered” by Christ.
The reason this is important is for our sakes of course (for our healing). But it’s also important for any attempt on our part to reach our lost brothers and sisters. We want to represent the Father to them accurately and properly. We must not be like so many in Christ’s day to whom He said, “Don’t tell anyone”… because we (like them) would tell the wrong thing… the wrong thing about God and thereby mislead. As we strive to “one” our brothers and sisters to God, bringing them into “at-one-ment” with their Father, we must not misrepresent Him as a God to be feared… someone to be afraid-of. But someone to revere, respect, admire and to love deeply.
So this quarter we will look at the church’s role; each of us working together collaboratively in our own church and denomination to bring our fellow sinners back to “at-one-ment” with their Father… our Father. There has been serious estrangement. We all have wandered far from home and the Father has gone to infinite lengths to win us all back. He wants us restored. Let us so strive for this “at-one-ment”. We all need to be representatives of God and His saving love in this dark and rebellious world.
With brotherly love,