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When I tell people that Iím a Seventh-day Adventist, they freak out because they think the SDA Church is all weird. How should I relate to them?

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When I tell people that Iím a Seventh-day Adventist, they freak out because they think the SDA Church is all weird, like we donít celebrate Christmas and nobody eats meat and stuff. How should I relate to people who tell me that my church is all messed up?


Steve Answers:

The short answer to your question about the church being all messed up is: You’re right—my church is all messed up! But we follow an amazing God who loves us, who accepts us as we are, and who is changing us to become like Him! Want to join?

Here’s a longer answer:

Your question reminds me of times people have told me that because of my religion, I’m weird. When they say that, it usually feels, well, weird—but not in a good sort of way. It’s like being odd, geeky, strange, possibly crazy, maybe even dangerous.

Usually people have weird thoughts about Seventh-day Adventists simply because they don’t know much about us, or maybe they met one SDA one time and they had a bad impression of that one person. That would be like meeting a person from the island of Fongafale (a real place, by the way; Google it) and declaring all people from Fongafale as weird because they are different from you.

Do we need a better PR campaign so people won’t think that we’re weird? I recall that several years ago Pathfinders would enter a float in the famous Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. Although it cost lots of money to do this, some people argued that it would make many more people aware of SDAs. Do people associate you with roses now? Maybe you just need to listen to what your friend thinks and then identify what is right and what is wrong with your friend’s perception.

Sometimes I’ve used the acronym SDA rather than the long title “Seventh-day Adventist.” But when some people hear SDA, they might confuse it with LDS (Latter-day Saints, sometimes called “Mormons”). Maybe if an SDA ran for president of the United States, our denomination would have more recognition.
I’ve had people confuse our beliefs with those of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. That includes things such as not accepting blood transfusions and not celebrating birthdays or other holidays such as Christmas.

And there have been times people get everything confused and say something like “SDA—aren’t you the people who refuse blood transfusions before you sing in your tabernacle choir in Salt Lake City?”

I took a guided tour in Bangkok, Thailand, several years ago. About 99 percent of the population is Buddhist. I asked lots of religious questions. The guide asked what my religion was. I explained that I’m a pastor. The guide hadn’t heard of that religion. I tried to explain that I’m a Christian and the term pastor is like a spiritual leader in Christianity. The guide said, “So you’re Catholic, right? Are you a priest?”

That’s when I realized that with 99 percent of the people being Buddhist, the guide wouldn’t know very much about Christianity, and certainly not much about different denominations within Christianity. If I heard about some segment of Buddhism, I wouldn’t know the difference between one group and another. Who was the weird one in this conversation?

I wonder if sometimes people think we’re weird or dangerous simply because they don’t know much about our religion. That makes me think of 1 Peter 2:15: “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people” (NIV).1 I don’t mean that your friend is foolish or ignorant. But you can provide a better, more complete perspective of your religion for your friend.

In contrast to this, some people just make up an explanation of their religion to try to match what they think their friend wants to hear. I’m not talking about being wishy-washy. Instead, consider the following three P’s from 1 Peter:

Prepared Think about this in advance (like you’re doing now). How could you respond to questions or comments about your faith? Some people talk only about how their religion is different from other religions. Others talk only about how they are the same as everyone else. It’s good to make it personal—what it means to you. Here’s how Peter put it in 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (NIV). Discuss this in your youth group, and practice giving an explanation there. That way you’ve received input from others and honed your response for when you share it with someone outside of your church.

Peculiar We read in 1 Peter 2:9: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (KJV). That’s the verse from which people take pride in calling themselves “a peculiar people.” I think they mean that being weird is something they are proud of because it makes them liked by God when others don’t like them. But that can be misused to the point that any weird conduct can be considered godly!

Some more modern translations use other words besides “peculiar”:

“His own special people” (NKJV).2
“God’s special possession” (NIV).
“God’s very own possession” (NLT).3
“God’s chosen and special people” (CEV).4

The Greek word means making something and then putting a circle around it to claim it as your own. In other words, God made us, and He personally takes pride in His possession—us! No need to feel cocky, but you can be confident that God claims you as His own. That’s not weird; that’s wonderful!

Persecuted
Peter addressed his first letter to people who had been dispersed and who faced persecution in various forms. For example, in 1 Peter 1:6, 7, talking about his readers being “temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations,” Peter wrote: “This is no accident—it happens to prove your faith” (Phillips).5 When talking about servants, he wrote, “If you suffer for doing good, and you are patient, then God is pleased. This is what you were called to do, because Christ suffered for you and gave you an example to follow. So you should do as he did” (1 Peter 2:20, 21, NCV).6 It’s rare for Christians to be persecuted in the United States these days. But that can happen and currently does happen in some parts of the world. Would you be OK if that happened to you?

Getting back to your question—how should you relate to your friend who thinks you’re part of a weird cult? Be prepared to share why you are part of your church. (Hint: if you say, “My parents make me go,” that won’t cut it.) Make sure you share how treasured you feel by belonging to God. That’s more important than which day of the week you go to church or how faithfully you tithe. And be amazed that this is the extent of the “persecution” you’ve faced.

Go ahead and share this, but “do it with gentleness and respect.”

1Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
2Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
3Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
4Scripture quotations marked CEV are taken from the Contemporary English Version. Copyright © American Bible Society 1991, 1995. Used by permission.
5Scripture quotations marked Phillips are taken from J. B. Phillips: The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition. © J.B. Phillips 1958, 1960, 1972. Used by permission of Macmillan Publishing Co.
6Scripture quotations marked NCV are taken from The Holy Bible,  New Century Version, copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.



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