As a kid in the Dominican Republic, the church was all I knew: church school, Pathfinder club, summer camp, everything. All my friends were from church. Between my native land and in my adopted one, the United States, I’ve been a member of many Adventist churches along the way, churches of all kinds—small, large, friendly, not so friendly, young, mostly adult, caring about their community, caring not so much, caring about saving souls, catering more to their members. Their urgency and methods may vary, but they all want Jesus to come. Soon.
I strive to be the same at work as I am at church because my work relations just mean more opportunities to share who Jesus is through me. I don’t have multiple personalities or characters, just one—me. That’s what I believe ethical living is. I’m outgoing and intentional, crazy about people and letting Jesus shine through me. My work allows me to have direct contact with people and help them any way I can. I’m thankful to God for what I’ve achieved through the years, but my greatest achievement is my family. “Daddy” is the best title of all.
I want to be consistent. I don’t share with people what I’m not practicing myself. I believe we should be that way in all our dealings. We should be transparent and avoid conflicts of interest. An ethical church approaches the community with care, understanding that our focus is people’s well-being. Carpet color and church Facebook pages don’t deserve the power we give them to divide us or distract us from our message.
One day a friend took me fishing. I went because he insisted so much. I didn’t catch any fish. But I can still share some truths about fishing: to catch fish, we need to be where they are—in the water; we need the right bait and the right hook. If you want to catch one fish, you’ll use the fishing rod. If you want to catch many fish, you need to have a net.
In our spiritual life of fishing we need to find the best tools, be where the people are, and love them sincerely, as Jesus loves us.
Juan M. Guerrero, daddy and husband, is a claims representative for the Social Security Administration, and lives in Maryland.
I will never forget my first real paying job. After graduating from graduate school, I had applied for an assignment close to where my fiancé lived. First, I was invited to have a phone interview; then a sit-down interview; then a Skype call for the team to question me, or me to question them. I shared that I would not work on Saturdays. The team offered its collective support. I was soon offered the position. I stuffed everything I could into my little car and drove to New England.
Then red flags started waving. On the schedule my supervisor handed me, I was down to work on Saturday. I pulled her aside after the meeting to gain some clarification. She said she just needed me to shadow one of the clinicians. Everything in me said no; but I didn’t want to seem disagreeable—especially being the only woman of color.
On Sabbath I showed up for work. The salary was exciting: I had never made this much money on my own. After two weeks they put me on the Saturday schedule. That surprised me. A coworker said I shouldn’t worry about it: it was just temporary. I took a deep swallow and pushed on with my good job and against my sensitive conscience.
A training meeting I attended presented various employee scenarios with which human resources had to deal. One was about an employee who shared that as an Adventist he was unable to work before 1:00 p.m.
I thought, Are you kidding me? Of all the scenarios! I couldn’t take it any longer. I raised my hand and asked to address everyone. I had practiced a speech for my soul: Morgan, you are the daughter of Kathleen Rudley and the late Pastor Orlando Rudley. Be done with compromising: being thought safe and agreeable cannot replace honesty, obedience to God, integrity.
I spoke proudly: “I’m an Adventist, and as I have shared before, we do not work on Saturdays unless it relates to the spreading of God’s Word and reaching His people. My present services go beyond that.”
My supervisor spoke up: “Well, you have worked now for two Saturdays.”
I had no credibility. I had compromised my beliefs and ethics around working on Sabbath. But I would not allow it to happen again. I was fired a month later; “not a good fit,” they said. I knew the facts, however, and I was going to stand for principle from that day forward.
I remember crying to my husband about it. He held me and firmly said, “You must own your part. You compromised yourself the day you agreed to work on Sabbath.”
I didn’t want to hear that, but he was right. I have carried with me the lesson of compromise. I was embarrassed to be fired from my first job, but I have learned my lesson: I will not compromise.
Morgan Rudley-Buckley is a mental health counselor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Mr. Unethical visited my church today. The greeter failed to welcome him.
Mr. Unethical walked through the lobby. The head elder avoided eye contact.
Mr. Unethical made a comment during Sabbath School. The teacher cut him off.
Mr. Unethical looked for a seat at divine service. The deacon was too busy to help.
Mr. Unethical attempted to understand the sermon. The pastor went Adventist-heavy on the terminology.
Mr. Unethical stayed back for potluck. The organizer served him last.
Mr. Unethical never returned.
In today’s society, being a virtuous human does not make headlines. Are Seventh-day Adventists sufficiently alive to the risks of learning our human relations, public relations, and communications from “all the nations around” (Deut. 17:14)? Is it our goal to see as they do and highlight what they highlight? Has it dawned on us that “Unrecognizable” may be our middle name?
We cannot afford to let the world teach us right from wrong. We already have God’s Word as our standard and Jesus as our example. We can find principles that help us figure out how we tip our waiter, commend our coworker, or babysit our neighbor’s kid.
“The ethics inculcated by the gospel acknowledge no standard but the perfection of God’s mind, God’s will. All righteous attributes of character dwell in God as a perfect, harmonious whole. Everyone who receives Christ as his personal Saviour is privileged to possess these attributes. This is the science of holiness.”*
Catching and practicing that science better prepares us for the next visit. The next time Madam Samaria, Rich Young the ruler, or Nico the seeker visits our church, home, or heart, let’s open our arms and undo our ties. Otherwise, there’s no telling whom our flawed judgment may be turning away.
* Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1902), vol. 7, p. 276.
Ricardo Bacchus is an assistant director for Communication Services at the Columbia Union Conference in Columbia, Maryland, and an editor of the Visitor magazine.