I am writing from my home tonight in the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
Dominos is a game played around the world, but I have found lately, it is not played the same way around the world. I was raised in Oklahoma, where my grandmother there taught me how to play, by playing off the ends as well as the sides, so that you are going in four different directions. (As seen in the picture) You score when all four sides add up to a 5, like 5, 10, 15, 20 and so on. For example in the picture the score would be 10. When the total does not round of to a five you get no points. Fact is, I did not know anyone played any other way. That is until I moved to Florida and sat down to play with some friends from Cuba. When I played off the side instead of the end my friends started laughing. They had never seen anyone play off of the side before and thought it was a joke. I thought they were joking. Come to find out, they were serious. Where they were raised, you only play in a straight narrow line, and you don’t even score by fives. You don’t even score at all! You just play till you are out of dominos. We were both raised to play the same game in different parts of the world, each one, thinking our way was the only way it could be done. Obviously the other way they were taught was wrong. So we both thought.
This led me to do some research. My first reaction was I was right and they were wrong. Later I realized I thought I was right, only because that is how my family taught me to play. My friends also thought they were right only because that is how their family taught them. I decided to have an open mind and go to the rule book and find out what the exact rules are. I Googled “Dominos rules” and come to find out I was right! Actually we all were right. Seems there is more than one way to play Dominos. In the meantime I learned a valuable lesson about tradition, and how we all come from different parts of the world, with different views and opinions, each thinking our way is the Gospel truth, and we are going to save the world, by making the rest of the world just like us. I am being sarcastic, but how many times have we been tempted to correct someone, for no other reason than they weren’t like us? How many times has a country sent missionaries to another country, and instead of just teaching them how to be like Jesus, actually taught them how to be like the country the missionaries came from?
A while back a gentleman joined my Sabbath School class. When I write, I enjoy giving all the details about places and times, however I can’t or at least should not do that this time, because this story also involves another Sabbath School class that may not wish to be identified. You see, the gentleman joined my class because he had basically been thrown out, or so he thought, from another Sabbath School class. He was not an Adventist. He did not believe in the Sabbath, and so he was asking questions that may not be usually asked in a traditional Adventist Sabbath School class. The class he was in, had a theology as narrow minded as those who can only play dominos in a straight line. They could not vary from the regular “cookie cutter” questions and answers that were to be given in a traditional study. Now I am not here to knock the way people play dominos, but, you may be able to play dominos in a narrow little line, but our God is too big for a narrow line.
Since the first class did not want to deal with his questions he showed up in my class. Instead of me telling him how my grandmother kept the Sabbath, or how we kept the Sabbath back in Oklahoma, we went to the rule book. We compared his questions to the Word of God and used that as our standard instead of how we each had been raised. (See 2 Timothy 3:16) My Sabbath school class was not intimidated by his challenging questions, because we did not have an agenda to defend ourselves. We were open to his suggestions, and compared them to the Scriptures to see if those things were so. (See Acts 17:11) When he saw that we treated him with respect, he treated us with respect. I wish I could tell you more, but the gentleman moved away before too long and I lost contact with him.
The Sabbath school class this gentleman originally joined apparently forgot that the whole purpose of Sabbath School is for evangelism! That’s right. Adventists got the idea of Sabbath School from Sunday keeping protestant churches’ Sunday Schools. After the dark ages, these Sunday Schools were instituted in addition to the regular worship service as a way to evangelize and teach people about Jesus. In my church, the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, I teach what is called a Seekers class or new believer’s class, but actually the purpose of my class is the purpose of every Sabbath School class, which is evangelism.
In evangelism you have to allow people to ask questions. That is how we learn. I have preached sermons during the worship hour, and then gone home, quite satisfied that my points were well made. I only got that notion because in the worship hour nobody asks questions. Later I found I was not as convincing as I thought. I also found some people with Scripture that seemed to contradict my point. As we sat down and looked at all the Scripture on that point, there have been times that the people saw that I was right. There have been times we have seen we both were right, and there has been a time or two I have seen I was just plain wrong. That’s okay. Being wrong does not scare me. I have no personal agenda that I have to defend. All I want to do is go by the Bible and teach others to do the same. After all, isn’t that how the Seventh-day Adventist church was formed? By people coming out of other churches and saying, let’s sit down and study the Bible, and just go by what the Bible says? If that is how the Seventh-day Adventist church was formed, should that not be our mode of Sabbath School evangelism?
Richard Tibbits, in his book Forgive to Live, says studies show Seventh-day Adventists have a harder time forgiving than the rest of the general population. Why is that so? Is it because of our unique beliefs, that we have always been taught to defend our faith and stand our ground, and show the world that we are right, that we get defensive? Even when there is no reason to be defensive? If you stand alone of the Word of God the B-I-B-L-E you don’t have to be defensive. You have no agenda, no dog in the fight so to speak, other than to go by the Bible.
In our Sabbath School classes we should not be afraid to ask questions, even untraditional questions, and just let the Bible answer them. This is what Sabbath School evangelism is all about. While you normally don’t ask questions during the sermon, Sabbath School is the place to be asking them, and questions should be encouraged, not discouraged.
Now I totally understand that at the same time, people should be respectful with both their questions and their answers. There have been times I have been teaching a class, and the debate has become a little heated, and so I tell everyone to direct their questions to me and not each other. That way nobody feels they are being personally attacked.
Remember in Sabbath School class we examine ideas. We don’t examine the people. We compare Bible verses with other Bible verses. We do not compare people with other people.
A while back two elderly ladies were in my class. One was extremely short. The other lady would playfully refer to the smaller lady as the “little lady.” I told the lady calling her that, that it was not appropriate to be commenting about people’s bodies in the class. People don’t come to Sabbath School to have their bodies discussed. She told me she meant no harm and continued calling her “the little lady.” I realized I now had to contact her outside of class to let her know the seriousness of the issue. I told her that these comments would not be tolerated in my class, and that if she refused to refrain from such comments she would be asked not to return to my class. A very awkward position for an evangelistic Sabbath School teacher to be in, but I had no choice! Thankfully the lady refrained from her comments and continued in our class.
When Jesus met Nicodemus He treated him with respect and let him ask his questions. When Jesus met the woman at the well He also treated her respectfully and let her ask her questions. In both cases there was mutual respect. Honest, sincere questions with no personal attacks.
Around this last election time in the United States, at my Bible study group which meets after school at a nearby Adventist grade school, I was surprised how passionate the youth were about the candidates. One student who supported Obama said something not so nice about Romney and offended another student. I pointed out to the Obama supporter that the other student had been hurt. I asked if the point could be made without having to insult Romney and his supporters. The Obama supporter was grieved when they realized their comment had wounded their friend, and quickly apologized and rephrased their comment more appropriately. We all decided, as we discussed vital social issues facing the youth, neither the Democrats, nor the Republicans have all the answers. Furthermore, while both candidates have good points they also have negative points, and neither one was all right or all wrong. We decided that since we all have good points and weak points, the solution would be for us all to work together combining all our good points.
In Sabbath School, I doubt any of us are all right or all wrong. We all have something to bring to the table. In the mid 1800s a Seventh-day Baptist lady by the name of Rachael Oaks introduced to a new Bible study group of Adventists the idea of keeping the Seventh-day Sabbath. The first reaction of the group was similar to the reaction my friends had, when they saw me playing dominos a different way than they traditionally played. However, this new group of Advent Bible studiers opened their minds, knowing like my after school Bible study group, that everyone should be treated with respect, and searched the Scriptures to see if what Rachael Oaks said was so. Turns out this Seventh-day Baptist lady did have something to offer the group of Adventists. Think it could happen again? Let’s be respectful of others and use the Bible as our only guide and we will find out.
Just a parting thought as I close. I realize not all Bible studies will end with everyone agreeing. Some disagreements are inconsequential. Other disagreements may actually have consequences concerning church membership, but even so that does not bar people from worshiping and studying together, and while there is such a things a baptism vows, and rightfully so, there are no Sabbath School class vows nor should there be. Again the Sabbath School serves a totally different purpose than church and the worship hour. As long as people can still be respectful of other people and their ideas, they should not only feel welcomed to attend Sabbath school, but also join in the discussion and be a part of the class.
You can study the current Sabbath School lesson here.