President of the global Seventh-day Adventist Church talks about Religious Freedom SabbathSILVER SPRING, MARYLAND, UNITED STATES | TED N.C. WILSON, PRESIDENT, GENERAL CONFERENCE OF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS 15/01/2021
Greetings, friends. Here we are, just beginning the new year, and recent shocking events have already forewarned us that 2021 may not be any easier than the year that has just passed. Things we thought not possible are taking place in full view of the entire world, warning us that everything that can be shaken will be shaken.Let us pray together. Father in Heaven, I ask your very special blessing to be upon those people who are suffering right now because of their convictions that you have given to them regarding biblical truth. Lord, encourage them, whether they be in prison, whether they be harassed in some way, let the presence of the Holy Spirit come close to them to encourage them and fix their minds and their hopes up on the soon coming of Jesus. Keep each one of us faithful, Lord. Thank you for the privilege of advocating for freedom of conscience and religious liberty. Guide your church throughout this globe as we lift up these beautiful principles of human dignity pointing people to Jesus, in Christ name we ask it, Amen!
The Lord says, as recorded in Hebrews 12:26, 27: “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Continuing on in verse 27, the Apostle Paul comments, “Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken remain.” He then reminds us in verse 28, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”
This text reminds us to put our focus where it belongs—on God and His kingdom which cannot be shaken—and to serve Him.
While these astonishing events are happening around us, it is important to remember there are millions of people who are suffering around the world, often from causes that receive very little or no attention in the news.
One such cause is religious persecution. Millions of people around the world are suffering for their faith. This suffering is experienced at various levels in different places, ranging from discrimination and harassment, to imprisonment, torture, and even death.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe in the dignity of all human beings, and in their God-given right to express their faith according to each individual’s conscience, and we stand in solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
Adventists have been involved in religious liberty advocacy since the early days of this movement and have established the world’s oldest religious freedom organization—The International Religious Liberty Association. We also have representatives at the highest level of government, seeking to encourage leaders to embrace a world view that promotes religious liberty for all.
Why do we do this? And what unique contribution can we make as Seventh-day Adventists to help foster tolerance and religious freedom around the world?
I believe our view of God as the Creator gives us very important insights into the dignity of all human beings and provides a basis for religious liberty.
In Psalm 139 we are given a beautiful picture of God and the amazing connection we have with Him as human beings. We read, beginning in verse 1, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.”
A few verses later we are reminded that we all come from the hand of God. The Psalmist writes in verses 13 and 14, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are Your works. . .”
When we view other human beings through this biblical perspective—as human beings created by God Himself, it helps us to see them with dignity, as multi-dimensional individuals created in the image of God.
Christ Himself, while on Earth, related to all human beings in this way—from the lowest to the highest—all were treated with respect.
And it is this viewpoint, this understanding, that as a Church we seek to promote throughout the world, encouraging religious liberty, religious freedom for all to worship according to their conscience.
Every year on the third Sabbath in January, Seventh-day Adventists around the world take time to remember the God-given gift of religious freedom. On Religious Liberty Sabbath we take time as a world church to pray for the many millions of men, women, and children who continue to suffer harassment, discrimination, imprisonment or physical harm because they choose faithfulness to God, no matter what.
I encourage you, this Sabbath, to make religious liberty a special part of your Sabbath program. Through our prayers, we can support our brothers and sisters around the world, and we can express our support for freedom for all people, no matter what their faith.