by Darla Lauterbach-Reeves

Over the years, I’ve heard so many heartbreaking stories of people who have been shunned for their marriage issues, the smell of smoke on their clothes, their food choices, Sabbath activities, and church attire. They have been excluded from churches, Bible study groups, family get-togethers, and schools, and they’ve felt unloved, judged, unacceptable, rejected—the polar opposite of how Jesus would have treated them. They have left, never to return again.

Here are a few questions that come to mind: How do you love your neighbor? What about those who believe differently from you? Do you believe Jesus died for them? Do you believe your rules will save you? Do you believe Jesus wants them in His kingdom? Do you think your actions or lack thereof will save you? Are you leaning into Jesus and His love for others?

In our church, when we hear the word obediencewe tend to immediately think of the Sabbath— those who are not honoring the seventh-day Sabbath are being disobedient to God. But what if they find Jesus elsewhere? And what about other kinds of disobedience? For instance, what about judging those people? Isn’t that disobedience? What if God is calling you to forgive and you just refuse? What if you covet someone’s marriage or singleness? Or if He’s calling you to love your enemies and you just can’t go there. Isn’t that being disobedient? We allfall short (Romans 3:23), and there’s no shortage of ways to do it.

In the same way that we may judge someone by the color of their skin or by their clothes, neighborhood, food choices, jewelry, or even hairstyle, we also judge people by the church they attend. I met the love of Jesus outside of my home church and have returned to share what I learned from those who do not go there. Praise His name—since I’ve returned, I’ve found more and more people hungry for this love.

We all need more Jesus.

I love the Sabbath; I came back for it. However, do we worship the Sabbath or do we worship Him? As humans, we tend to worship creations over the Creator. We want something tangible to hang onto, such as our children, marriages, friends, careers, accomplishments, even doctrine. Anything to feel like we’ve got what we need. I have been guilty of this for sure. What we need most is Jesus. The rest are gifts given to us byHim to raise, enjoy, love, and study, but not to be exalted higher than their Creator. As Jesus Himself said, “The Sabbath day was made for man. Man was not made for the Sabbath day. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day” (Mark 2:27-28, NIRV).

I feel that if He were sitting in my living room, He would say, “Following Me doesn’t mean doing things the way they’ve always been done, just because.” There are so many Adventists who worship the day that sets us apart over the One who died to do so. I think this hurts His heart. I can also hear Him saying, “I don’t want you worshipping the day I made any more than the animals I made. Worship the One who made them.” When Jesus comes first, how we treat and love others (all others) is evident. How would Jesus treat that particular person?

Would you flat out refuse to set foot in church on a Sunday to worship our God in heaven with others? If so, what does that mean? Who are youworshipping? Do you think Jesus would be more likely to flip tables over in a church of people worshipping on the “wrong” day or people worshipping the day over Him? He knows our hearts and why we do what we do. Public worship is an honor and a privilege that many in this world aren’t allowed to do on any day.

As much as I hope my daughters are ingrained with a reverence for and knowledge of the Sabbath, my ultimate goal is that they find and cling to Jesus for themselves. No matter how, why, or where they find Him, my deepest desire is that they do. God works in mysterious ways. His thoughts and ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). He is bigger.

May they sense the joy, freedom, and strength in Christ over the shame, fear, and insecurity of any religion that lacks unconditional love. Because Godis love. In the last days, God will call His people out. Leave conviction to the One with whom they have a relationship. If that relationship is solid, they will hear His voice.

John 10:27-30 says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand” (NLT).

I claim this! I pray for a personal relationship with Jesus in my girls’ lives. That is my deepest desire because when that’s in place, they willhear His voice and no one can snatch them from His hand. No one. Nothing.

 

Darla Lauterbach-Reeves was raised in the church, but it wasn’t until her marriage fell apart that she came to truly know her Greatest Love—Jesus—in whom she found the relationship she had always craved. She is the author of the forthcoming book He Loves Me THAT Much?