Religion in Relationships
Life is lived in relationships. Some are deep-rooted, others superficial;
some are of short duration, others last a lifetime. Some are purely functional,
others intensely personal. We relate to all kinds of people: to
a partner, to children, to relatives, to friends and neighbors but also to
the service-station attendant, to the person with whom we share a shift at
work, and to the police officer who stops us for speeding. And we relate
to our pastor, to the superintendent of the school in which we have enrolled
our children, to our employer, and, yes, to the tax collector.
All this is true for Christians, as well as for non-Christians. The difference
between us and our non-Christian counterparts is not that we live in multiple
relationships but that there is an important extra dimension to those
relationships: our religion.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe in a set of doctrines. Some we share
with other Christians; some are unique to us and help mark us as a special
people with a unique message and mission. Doctrines are not optional,
not if our faith is going to be more than a shallow feeling or a vague awareness
of some greater power or transcendent force that somehow relates to us. Doctrines
rendered into words—as best as can be expressed within the confines
of human language—reveal bow we understand the divine self-revelation
of God. They help us achieve a clearer sense of who and what God (as Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit) is and what He has done, is doing, and will ultimately
do for us as individuals and as a race. We need doctrines to grasp what the
implications of our belief in God and His plan of salvation are for our
perspective on life and for our daily conduct.
But Christianity—and most definitely Adventist Christianity—is
more than a catalog of doctrinal statements. The Christian God is not a distant,
impersonal deity who does not get involved in the daily grind of this world
and of our existence. Instead, He is a personal God of love who has encountered
us in Jesus Christ, in the most personal way possible.
God is a covenant God, One who goes out of His way to establish a close
relationship, One who is Love Personified, and One who seeks for a reaction
to that love—a response of worship, obedience, and love. Once we have
established a relationship with God (or, more correctly, once we have allowed
God to establish a relationship with us), this affects every other relationship
we may have.
we have gained a glimpse of who and what God is, once we have accepted the
Lord Jesus as our Savior and have welcomed the Spirit as our Guide on our
pilgrimage through life, we are able to look at the world from a new perspective.
No longer is it of prime importance whether or not the people with whom we
associate are of the same nationality or ethnicity or of the same political
persuasion as we are. The first question we will ask about the people with
whom we come in contact is whether they already share with us the knowledge
of the good news!
Religion is not work based-in other words, our standing with God does not
depend on our achievements. We live by faith through grace. Yet, a religion
that does not permeate our daily lives is a dead and meaningless exercise
(James 2:17). If our relationship with God does not impact our
relationships with fellow humans, we have every reason to wonder whether
this bond with God is a reality.
This quarter we will study numerous passages of Scripture with the intention
of increasing our awareness of the ways by which our faith impacts our
relationship to others—to those who are close to us and those who are
afar. We will discuss how we can strengthen those relationships, even restore
them if they have somehow broken down. We will discover that, indeed, there
is more religion in relationships than many may suspect.
This quarter's Adult Bible Study Guide was written by Reinder Bruinsma,
a native Dutchman and longtime church worker (including six years, from
1995-2001, as executive secretary of the TransEuropean Division). He is also
the author of 15 books in both English and Dutch. In 2001, he returned to
his native Netherlands, where he serves as the president of the Netherlands
Union. His pastoral concern about practical Christianity, about how we treat
others, comes through in every lesson this quarter.
(all lessons may
School Study Helps
Jerry Giardina of Pecos, Texas, assisted by his wife, Cheryl,
prepares a series of helps to accompany the Sabbath School lesson. He includes
all related scripture and most EGW quotations. Jerry has chosen the "New
King James Version" of the scriptures this quarter. It is used with permission.
The study helps are provided in three wordprocessing versions
Word; RTF for our MAC friends (this
is now a zip file); and HTML (Web Pages).
Last updated on July 13, 2004
Editorial Office: 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904.
Principal Contributors: Reinder Bruinsma
Editor: Clifford R. Goldstein
Associate Editor: Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
Publication Manager: Soraya Homayouni Parish
Editorial Assistant: Larie S. Gray
Pacific Press Coordinator: Paul A. Hey
Art and Design: Lars Justinen
Concept Design: Dever Design
Copyright © 2004 by the Office of the Adult Bible Study
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. All Rights Reserved.
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