“Our success will be in proportion to their belief in our belief in, and appreciation of, them.”1
If our primary objective is to make other Adventist believers, we will spend all of our energy making people conform to our theological opinions. However, if we believe that every human we encounter is worthy of receiving the love of God, those we come in contact with will feel understood and appreciated.
This is why the love of God is where I start and end every theological conversation. It is the most important belief and there are all sorts of implications from this. I will name five.
1. God believes in us, regardless of what we think of Him.
God gave up everything before we did anything (Rom. 5:8). To God, we are worth it. God’s love remains constant, even if we do not change or love Him back.
2. As disciples, God wants us to treat other people the way He treats us.
That means we should believe in others. We shouldn't just look at people as they currently are; we should seek to see them as God sees them.
The way the world knows we are Christ’s disciples is by the authenticity of our love, and love believes all things and hopes all things (1 Cor. 13).
It’s possible that acts of love can be taken for granted. There may be a fear that those who are too loving may be exploited. Yet, perfect love drives out those fears. Belief that is grounded in love is transformative. It's the choice to believe in love, regardless of how others respond. It is our modus operandi as followers of Christ.
3. The Great Commission was a great conspiracy.
Jesus gave the mission to people who did not believe. Read Mark 16:9–18. It's repeated four times that they — the disciples of Jesus — did not believe.
Jesus gives the Great Commission to the very people who do not believe. He believed in the people who didn't believe, and He told them to go and make disciples. Belief begets belief. The faith of Jesus created faith in the disciples — they acted on His faith, followed in His footsteps and then they transformed the world.
4. The most famous text in the Bible is about belief.
“For God so loved the world ... that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The belief that matters most is the belief that God is good. The belief that He wants the best for us and loves us as we are. When we believe God believes in us, we can tap into His faith and it is His faith in us that is transformative.
Brennan Manning, pastor and author, encapsulates this idea as highlighted and reshared by blogger Theresa Haskins, when he said, “On judgment day I believe the Lord Jesus Christ will ask us one question and one question only: Did you believe that I love you?”2
5. In the Adventist Church, only 4.55% of all members in Canada and America are under the age of 25.3
A primary reason young people leave the church is lack of faith. I am not talking about their own lack of faith.
I am talking about the lack of faith of the older generation to believe in them. It doesn't matter if they don't deserve it.
To keep young people in the church, we have to believe in them. We have to invest in them. We have to accept them as they are. We have to believe in the power of love to transform them into what God would have them be, not what we think they should be. We have to believe in the power of love to collectively transform us and the church.
Sometimes we think of the world as bad and those who are in the church as good, but what if God is not using the church to change the world but is rather using those in the world as an opportunity to transform the church?
We expect hypocrisy and division in the world, but what if the church made it a goal to transcend polarization? What if we have an opportunity to connect with people in the world rather than just correct them?
What if we commit to looking for the good in our neighbors and loving them as we love ourselves? What if we demonstrate authentic love and risk believing it exists in those we are trying to reach? Is it possible that our success will be in proportion to their belief in our belief in, and appreciation of, them?
Our beliefs shape our priorities, and then our priorities shape us. All the law and prophets can be distilled into two essential beliefs: love God and love others. Everything else is a distraction if it does not lead to a belief that God is love and that we are called to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And if we don’t love ourselves, it may be best if we leave our neighbors alone.
- Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education (Review and Herald Pub Assoc, 1977), 281.
- Theresa Haskins, “Ragamuffin – The True Story of Rich Mullins,” Theresa Haskins Sharing Life, September 24, 2014, https://theresahaskinssharinglife.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/ragamuffin-t….
- “Endangered Adventism? | Adventist Review,” Adventist Review, January 7, 2022, https://adventistreview.org/endangered-adventism/.