Jerry A. Stevens
Editor/Director, Reading Services
Christian Record Services, Inc.
From the time I first came across a copy of ADVENTISTS AFFIRM shortly after its beginning in 1987, I have sensed that this journal represented the true voice of orthodox Seventh-day Adventism. AFFIRM’s object, it strikes me, is not to polarize fellow believers but to bind them more securely to the pillars that undergird a faith that everyone legitimately can hold in common. More than ever we need faithful watchmen on the walls of Zion, watchmen with the spiritual backbone to give the warning trumpet …an uncertain sound? No! a certain sound. Instead of polemics and negativism, AFFIRM offers confirmation and affirmation that God’s remnant church will stay on track as long as it remains submissive to His will and concentrates on "whatsoever things" are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. See Philippians 4:8.
Since the AFFIRM editorial board has been gracious enough to solicit my help with this issue, I feel the need to confide to our readers that my editorial style may seem a little peculiar. Just as peculiarly, editorial "conventions" seem to vary widely. English grammar, I daresay, is no exact science.
Permit me to illustrate my point. When it comes to capitalization, I have what some consider a quirky hobbyhorse. I like to think of it as a passion. It’s about the use of capitals in words that refer to Deity. Since Jesus is every bit as much "God" as is God the Father, for instance, why do so many writings, including most versions of the Bible, seem to demote "Him" merely to a low "him" status? See what I mean? So if you follow my logic, I think if ever there was anyone in the universe deserving of all words that refer to Him beginning with capital letters, it would have to be God … in any of His various Persons and functions. I want everyone to know Who He (notice the initial capital letters in both previous words) is, and make no apologies for that. I hope you agree. If nothing else, expedient capitalization of certain pronouns helps avoid ambiguity and therefore confusion when the reader otherwise is left wondering which individual is referenced. If this subject bores you, just let it operate quietly in the background. I’m okay with that. But don’t quit reading here!
The issue of ADVENTISTS AFFIRM that you hold in your hands fairly throbs with powerful statements about forgiveness—statements viewing the subject from a variety of angles. To get you started, I append a true story of an incident that happened "on my watch" a few years back. I believe the Holy Spirit gave me a creative idea that really helped defuse a potentially nasty and destructive situation.
Ron du Preez follows with his handling of forgiveness as illustrated by Christ Himself in a penetrating parable. Watch for some dramatic numerical comparisons to leap out at you; Ron’s approach to this topic is persuasive! Ron then relates the nightmarish experience of a Cuban pastor who survived unimaginable suffering for his faith. See how this pastor responded toward his captors and ex-wife; it will challenge your own faith.
Next, thrill with us as you read a gripping account of multiple missionary murders in Micronesia, and the magnificent Christian witness that ensued. Then meditate with Randy Skeete on why forgiveness is a nonnegotiable commodity, especially in these last days of Earth’s history.
Read on! Jules Lumbu contributes a powerful account of forgiveness in action—even forgiveness of a loving husband’s brutal murderer. Sam Pipim checks in with his characteristically thorough and incisive treatment of our topic.
We round out this issue with three additional articles very much worth your time. Let Ellen White have the last word on forgiveness as you prayerfully absorb her inspired pieces on this spiritually essential topic. Nestled between her two articles is Gerhard Pfandl’s thoughtful coverage of conflict resolution.
May our merciful, forgiving Lord bless you, dear reader, as you spend some quality time with this issue. Our prayer is that your faith will be confirmed and your beliefs affirmed in the process. What a privilege is mine of being associated with such a vital publication and its loyal band of subscribers. May your tribes only continue to increase!
Bury the Hatchet
A devotional delivered at a nominating committee on which I served as chair.
Two of the committee members, ladies in this instance, had had a long history of open antagonism on virtually any given issue. Their history of loudly hostile verbal attacks on one another had long been a source of embarrassment and had placed a stumbling block in the way of progress for an entire congregation. My aim was to generalize an entreaty enough so that the individuals wouldn’t be embarrassed but would still get the message.
The "tomahawk, or war hatchet, was one of the handiest weapons and tools of the North American Indian.…
"Tomahawks served as war clubs and hunting weapons. Some tomahawks were saved as heirlooms and handed down from father to son. These weapons often had long and bloody histories.…
"The Indians…buried them when they made peace with an enemy, and dug them up when they made war. From these old Indian customs come our present-day expressions, burying the hatchet and digging up the hatchet" (World Book, art. "Tomahawk").
In the time of the prophet Ezekiel, Mount Seir was a mountainous land at the southern end of the Dead Sea and was possessed by inhabitants known as Edomites, the descendants of Esau. Through the prophet, God spoke a stern message of impending doom: "Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred,…I will make thee perpetual desolations. …Therefore, as I live, saith the Lord God, I will even do according to thine envy which thou hast used out of thy hatred against them; and I will make Myself known among them, when I have judged thee.…Thou shalt be desolate, O Mount Seir…" (Ezekiel 35:5, 9, 11, 15). The enemies of God’s people (His church) always reap a bitter harvest.
I then said something to this effect: "If, by chance, my brothers and sisters, there is someone here tonight who has an 'axe to grind' or who hasn’t 'buried the hatchet' or who keeps 'digging up the hatchet,' may I entreat you in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Prince of Peace, to signify your intent to be at peace with all the members in God’s church by going the Indians one better? Rather than merely burying our hatchets, let us commit them to the flames so that there are no fragments ever to be dug up. Let us determine to build up rather than tear down."
Action: To symbolize our corporate willingness to put this sad chapter behind us, I had previously traced a small picture of an Indian peace pipe tomahawk on paper, giving all committee members a personalized copy with their own names written thereon. I then offered to commit the entire heap to the flames.
I continued something along these lines: "Now, let us proceed, in unity, to the Lord’s sacred business in [our local church]. Shall we pray?"
Result: Our generalized entreaty, followed immediately by concrete action, seemed to defuse the situation entirely. For the time being, at least, we were able to conduct sacred business with better efficiency. I praise God for planting an idea within me, thus allowing His Spirit to nudge others into an attitude of true forgiveness!