New Views on Christian Jobs

February 01, 2003 | Standley Gellineau

In recent decades there has been a growing trend toward Seventh-day Adventists entering civil courts and state service. This movement is a departure from the earlier traditional view of not considering professions such as law enforcement and fire prevention as appropriate for church members. The rationales for the traditional views are many. They include: not being in a profession that might result in taking the life of a person, avoiding occupations that necessitate working on the Sabbath and the notion that we should not be seen as “part of the world.” While we have traditionally rendered services in health and some human service fields over the Sabbath hours, the church has been more cautious in other professional areas of human and civil service.

Yet Adventists must continue to find contemporary ways to honor the biblical injunctions not to kill and not to work on the Sabbath while embracing the fact that human suffering and the need for aid are our responsibility. Human suffering does not stop at sundown on Friday and resume again at sundown on Saturday. To protect and to provide safety for others is a twenty-four hour seven-day-a-week reality.

Advancements in technology, the breaking down of barriers to previously “closed” professions for women and minorities, and sociological changes in communities have opened the access for service in areas that were previously avoided by traditional Christians in the past.

Our civic responsibility should reflect the value of “…to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isa. 61:1) and “… defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy…” (Ps. 82:3-4).

The Bible predicted that conditions will get worse before the Lord returns. There was a time when tent meetings were held in New York City. They were successful and without incident. By the early seventies, although tent meetings continued, armed guards or ushers were needed to protect the offerings. What happened on September 11th needs no explanation to illustrate the times we are living in. This reflects the changing conditions in metropolitan areas and our need to meet those challenges. So when we consider persons in fire prevention and law enforcement becoming members of our congregations, we should ponder several pertinent questions before rushing to judgment.

• Can a Christian function successfully in non-traditional settings such as law enforcement or fire protection?

• Can they maintain Christian values and actions?

• Can one be “In the world and not of the world?”

• Can one exemplify Christian role models in such environments?

• What was Christ’s purpose and mission in life?

With these questions in mind, re-read the profiles featured earlier in this GLEANER of those who are serving in civil servant capacities. Where would we have been if it weren’t for the courage, dedication and bravery of fire/police men and women, which reflected Christian values in action on 9/11. Remember, Christ had one mission in life—He lived to serve others. If this was his mission what should be ours?


From time to time the GLEANER prints articles with individual opinion or comment on these Perspective pages. This month’s Perspective by Dr. Standley Gellineau is related to the profiles of four Adventists featured on pp. 6-10, who work to protect and serve their communities while remaining active leaders in their churches. In doing so, they face some of the same issues as did Daniel and Joseph, civil servants of old. One issue raised is that of Sabbath-observance. While the church has addressed guidelines for health care and food service workers, guidelines for other essential community services are less specific. A study commission appointed by officers of the General Conference presented a report to the 1985 General Conference session which recommended that church members employed in areas of essential community service “should carefully review biblical principles of Sabbathkeeping and in that light examine the type of activity, environment, requirements of the job, and personal motives before committing themselves to working on the Sabbath. They should ask of the Lord, as did Paul on the Damascus road, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ When this attitude of faith prevails … the Lord will lead the believer to discern His will and supply strength and wisdom to follow it.” We invite your comments to as you read and reflect on these articles.