Calvin Rock, veteran author, academic, and administrator, is a retired vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and one of Adventism’s most respected voices on the issues this article engages. The item before you is part three of seven in Dr. Rock’s series on “The Radically Social Jesus.” It is also available as an audio file at: https://soundcloud.com/adventistworld/radically-social-jesus-cbrock-3 (7:56).
We hope you enjoy this new perspective on Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.—Editors
The Messiah didn’t spend His life in the steeple of Jewish isolationism, but down among the people in the highways and byways of Judea.
He studiously avoided Roman censure by discouraging the masses from labeling Him king, but He did not shrink from healing the sick, raising the dead, and other acts that indicated a physical power clearly superior to that of boastful Rome—all the while engaging in a social code that exposed its tyranny.
He condemned the class barriers of both Jews and Romans by association with the rich and poor; He indicted their racial barriers by open converse with Jewish, Samaritan, Syrophoenician, and Roman citizens; He denounced existing sex discrimination not only by elevating women in many of His miracles and parables, but by their inclusion in His traveling troop and by His personal relations with Martha and the several Mary’s of His life.
The extreme difference between His social bent and that of the political titans of His day is that He was not only radically different in His spiritual orientation and daily associations; He also was radically unlike them in His strategic assumptions:
The Zealots tried to better conditions by armed insurrection. The Sadducees sought to alleviate suffering by compromise of belief and negotiation with their oppressors. The Pharisees sought relief by esoteric debate and pietistic flight from common duty. Jesus’ principle of service was demonstrably different: “the work of restoration.” He came to restore both our broken relationship with God and our improper relationships with one another; and, in fact, He told us that the former was not attainable without the latter. In other words, Jesus’ objectives involved not just the individual but the social aspects of society—not simply the vertical but the horizontal outreach of the cross that lay just ahead.
The pioneer leaders of early Seventh-day Adventism closely mirrored Jesus’ activist example. This is certainly instructive. They were not only priestly in their sympathies, but their prophetic address to social issues spoke boldly regarding the political issues and parties troubling the country. A list of these social-activist souls might include:
Calvin Rock, veteran author, academic, and administrator, is a retired vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
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1Ellen G. White, Early Writings (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1882), p. 17.
2Ronald Numbers and Jonathan M. Butler, The Disappointed (Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Press, 1993), p. 141.
3SDA Encyclopedia, second revised edition (Hagerstown, Md.: Review & Herald Pub. Assn., 1996), vol. 10, p. 266.
4The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, June 17, 1862.
5James White, “The Nation,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, August 12, 1862.
6SDA Encyclopedia, p. 170.
7Ellen G. White, The Southern Work (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn, 1901), p. 10.