I Don't Know…

“We are certainly at the very end of time. We are seeing a converging of events that are unprecedented at this time. It all points to Jesus Christ returning in the next 5 to 10 years. Don’t you agree pastor?” The question came to me from an excited reader. The person sees Economic crisis added to earthquakes and other terrible events and the person is very sure this is the end.

And my answer, “It could be…It kind of looks like it to me…but I don’t know.” I don’t want to be glib about it. But after years of living through “signs of the end” like economic downturns including gas lines and misery indexes and Tsunamis and wars and crime and Y2K and all of these things, I begin to realize that perhaps gauging the end by crisis is not necessarily the right thing to do.

Is It The Last Days?

I guess, I don’t have a problem with anyone’s prediction that we are close to the end. But let us recognize that we don’t really know and could be wrong. I mean the Bible writer says that the writer was in the “last days.” (Hebrews 1:2)

So please come say it with me “I could be wrong.” That is not to say that I am wrong. Neither is it to say that you are right. But there is something truly liberating about realizing that one can be wrong. I guess if I am consistent then I could be wrong about the fact that I could be wrong, but we ain’t gonna think about that one right now…

Difficult To Deal With “Can’t Be Wrong” Folks

At any rate, it is very difficult to have discussions with people who can’t be wrong. Often people who “can’t be wrong” are always attacking straw men. They are the hard core ideologues. Their ideology may be conservative, liberal, or even the lack thereof, but they know they are right and you are wrong.

Interestingly, it seems that a lot of discussions with Adventists go down that road. I don’t care if you are liberal, conservative, or even former. Many Adventists have this “I can’t be wrong” idea. I don’t know if it is from the “having the truth” or if it is from the “Sister White said.” But whatever it is, Adventists too often have a mindset where they “can’t be wrong.”

The People Who Are Sure

What is funny is when this mindset even carries over into things that they couldn’t know. I know someone who knows for certain that an herb will always heal you. Notwithstanding experience has proven that idea false, it is still something that one will fight you over. Then there are the ones who know for certain that various people are Jesuit infiltrators into the church. They can give you the names of infiltrators. I always wondered how can they so easily identify them if these infiltrators are so good at infiltrating?

Let us not forget the ones who are sure that the last great event in the world is a certain harbinger of the end time. A lot of them said that Y2K was going to be the end. Life went on past that non-event. I remember 1996 was supposed to be the end of the age. Using Ussher’s chronology 1996 was supposedly the 6 thousandth year of earth’s history. And time went on. All the way to the last “great recession” that was supposed to be the very end. What’s funny is some of the same folks predicted all of those events. And now they are still making predictions. Can we all just say it together….”I may believe it…but I Don’t Know.”

This I can’t be wrong mentality seeps into more discussions. In my interdenominational work, I have the opportunity to interact with people of many denominational groups. Some conversations are difficult to have. Whenever one has a conversation with one who can’t be wrong, then the conversation becomes more and more cumbersome.

Hard Discussions With Know-It-All’s

I remember doing a presentation once on vegetarianism. The presentation was not condemning but informing. I presented the speech to a secular audience and had a very good but respectful disagreement and agreement. Some said, I made some good points but was missing some information that would be helpful. Some made some valid critiques of my information. The point was sharing of information.

While preparing for the presentation, an Adventist got wind of it and decided to let me have it. She told me I was a legalist teaching salvation by works and promoting unhealthy living (she alleged that I didn’t consider the need for protein). Please note that the presentation had nothing at all to do with salvation (which would probably cause some others to be mad at it), the Bible, or even how to eat. But one thing I learned early that some Adventists are hard to have discussions with about anything.

I know it ain’t just us. But I must admit that there seems to be a disproportionate number of Adventists who “know it all and can’t be wrong.”

Conversation Is Difficult With Those Who Can’t Be Wrong

I can remember at Vanderbilt as well having interesting discussions about theology where we shared our own positions recognizing that we can learn from each other. But conversation is difficult with people who can’t be wrong.

Some attack those with whom they disagree with a certainty from those who cannot be wrong. Perhaps we Adventists need to add a spiritual discipline to our Bible Study, Prayer, Fasting, Meditation. Let’s add a discipline of regularly saying “I could be wrong.” Let us say together “God knows….I think I am right…But I don’t know.” Ahh…wasn’t that liberating?

Sanctuary Living – Offer An Offering

The next requirement of those who are living during the Day of Atonement according to Leviticus 23:27 is to “offer an offering.” There was an offering that was offered on behalf of the people on the Day of Atonement.

There’s something that I do want to emphasize right now— that the Day of Atonement included time for forgiveness. Even on that day the daily sacrifice was offered. So forgiveness was still possible during the Day of Atonement because you had the daily sacrifice like any other day.

Anti-type – Offer Offering

How can we offer an offering today? One thing that we can do is identify what the work of the priest and the offering of Jesus our sacrifice. We are to stop living as if ain’t nobody done nothing for us. Christ has done much for us to offer us forgiveness. But not just forgiveness…forgiveness and cleansing. (1 John 1:9) And it’s about time that we started living as if forgiveness and cleansing were possible and operative as a result of the work of Jesus on our behalf.

Also, Romans 12:1 says: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

We offer an offering by both identifying what the offering that Christ has done for us as well as offer ourselves a living sacrifice. That’s how we can have this offering mindset in the antitypical day of atonement.

The Hospice Mindset


The church is not a place for the righteous, it is a hospital for sinners.

So goes the popular saying that has taken on almost cliche-like proportions in many of our churches. The idea is that anyone who expects church members to live differently than those who are not members.

Is the Statement Helpful?

The statement is a helpful thing to keep in mind if it reminds us of our own hypocracy or even lack of understanding that the Christian life is one of growth and that we cannot expect new people to be as far along as some of our more seasoned members. It is helpful when it reminds us of these things.

However, too often the saying promotes a situation where there is no growth. It can hide the fact that often it is not the new members who are still falling to the sin that so easily besets them, but the old ones. Too often, it promotes the illogical and unchristian idea that we should not expect Christians to live any differently than those on the outside. Too often the saying promotes a mindset that is quick to call anyone a hypocrite who is calling the church to live better.

Do They Mean Hospice?

In short, too often the saying is used incorrectly. When the saying is used to support Christians who do not grow, then the speaker should say that “the church is not a hospital but a hospice.

A hospice is a place where the sick go to be comforted before dying. The sick go to have their pains masked by drugs while they wait for that same illness to overtake and kill them. Too often, we want to make the church a place where the sick can be confortable while they continue the dying process. A place where they will not be confronted by the realization that healing is possible in Jesus Christ. A place where those who do not wish to be bothered by any of the ethical implications of the gospel can go to have a good shout and go home to live unchanged lives.

Too often we want the church to be a hospice where we do not allow Jesus to take from us our most cherished sins. Too often we want the church to be a hospice where the same sin that elicited our need for Jesus ultimtaely kills us!

Reclaiming the Truth in the Statement

But the saying is right, the church is not a hospice, no, it is a hospital. It is a place where Jesus shows up. It is a place where sick folks are healed. Yes, people are broken in need of great help, but Jesus does something. Yes the church is a hospital.

To not expect that the sinner will get better is not a hospital mindset it is a hospice mindset. To not expect that Jesus is able to help me to overcome all of my weakness is a hospice mindset not a hospital mindset. Certainly the church is a place where the sick congregate, but are the sick expected to get better after a confrontation with the King of the Universe, or are the sick simply entertained while the ailment that brought them there ultimately kills them?

That is the question. Is it truly a hospital where the sick get well or a hospice where the sick are comforted and entertained before they die in their sins?