If you want to generate a lively conversation at a church fellowship meal, bring up the subject of church standards. A discussion of such topics as jewelry, dress, amusements, movies, and diet is sure to create a wide difference of opinion, sometimes even hostility. Some feel that one of the reasons people leave the Seventh-day Adventist Church, especially teens and young adults, is that the church still teaches antiquated standards that define Christianity too narrowly. In their view the church majors in minors and neglects “weightier” matters, such as justice and mercy, honesty, integrity, and concern for the poor and the environment.
In a sense they are right. It is possible to equate external standards with godliness. It is unfortunate that some of the most vocal supporters of church standards are at times the least tolerant and most judgmental. The essence of Christianity is knowing Jesus. His love and grace transform our lives and lead us to higher standards, not lower ones. In Christ we become more likable, more loving, more caring, more concerned about others.
Seventh-day Adventist churches ought to reflect the loving, accepting attitude of Jesus for anyone who walks through their doors regardless of their dress or lifestyle. Any visitor should feel welcome worshipping with us on Sabbath morning.
But for those who desire to join the Seventh-day Adventist Church, there should be biblical standards. If the church is the “light of the world,” it must be different from the world. If the church is the “body of Christ,” it ought to reflect the teachings and lifestyle of Christ. Christian standards are simply biblical principles applied. They are the teachings of Jesus lived out in our lives.
Christian standards are not archaic, arbitrary rules; they are Christian principles put into practice. After all, “we are . . . Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Cor. 5:20).