AW: Love Your Enemy?

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CONSCRIPTED: Seventh-day Adventists often volunteered to bomb disposal duty, consistent with their moral convictions to save lives. Several of those pictured here went on to serve church as pastors, missionaries, and administrators. Credit: Adventist World, Aug 2014, p. 27.

Denis Kaiser, a presenter at the recent symposium on World War I held at Friedensau Adventist University, has written a reflection piece on WWI for Adventist World–Love Your Enemy” (August 2014, pp. 24-27).

Kaiser providers a brief history on the first world war and the Adventist response to it, including the formation of the Reform Movement. Kaiser explains:

As armies mobilized, young Adventists were conscripted and dragged into the machinery of war. Some denominational leaders in Germany lost their nerve and assured the military authorities that its conscripts would defend the homeland with weapons even on the Sabbath. At the same time they sought to convince church members that the Old Testament readiness for war was still applicable today.5

This position was, admittedly, not entirely new for Adventists in Central Europe. Yet the fact that these leaders practically told church members what they expected from them was certainly unique. A number of individuals voiced their discontent and opposition. The subsequent turmoil and contention could apparently only be stopped by disfellowshipping the “troublemakers,” resulting in further alienation, antagonism, and hard feelings. This internal “war” eventually led to the establishment of the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement.

Kaiser then turns to an ethical exploration of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, arguably the portion of scripture to which Christians (i.e., followers of Jesus Christ) should first turn when attempting to discern Christian moral responsibility. “In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) Jesus outlined the laws of His kingdom and gave us a glimpse of the wide framework in which He addressed moral and ethical issues. John Howard Yoder, a Mennonite theologian and ethicist, detected seven ethical principles in that sermon that I find helpful in considering how we can apply biblical principles under changing conditions and circumstances.”

Kaiser concludes the article by considering the Adventist Church’s mission. “God’s children should be characterized primarily by the attempt to resemble God’s character of perfect, excessive, and reconciling love to friends and enemies. Ultimately, Seventh-day Adventists consider it our mission to proclaim the three angels’ messages ‘to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people’ (Rev. 14:6) to draw people to Jesus so that they may not perish but be saved.”

The complete article can be read online here.