It was to have been the first time for many things that particular semester at Brandeis University--my first year of college, my first extended experience in a large city, my first dependence upon public transportation to get to church, my first New England winter, and the first time that I was not able to give " a reason of the hope that is in [me] with meekness and fear."
It was late Friday afternoon on the fifth floor of my freshman year dormitory. Classes had long been over for everyone at this Jewish-sponsored university whose academic population consisted of a majority who identified themselves as Jewish by culture and heritage but not necessarily by religion. That understanding was also a first for me. My only previous knowledge of Jewish culture had been the scriptural stories in the Old and New Testament. I was ignorant of the fact that one could consider himself to be both nonreligious (...even Atheist) and Jewish--without contradiction. The informal gathering of a few of my classmates in the hallway outside our rooms chatting about the week's experiences was not uncommon, but it was one of the first times that I had been an active participant--though I would have much rather have remained reclusive.
As the discussions were winding down, several of the guys decided that they were going to walk down to the small grocery store that was about a 40 minute stroll from campus. I was invited to come along. When I declined the invitation, I was quickly pressed for a reason by one of the guys. "Well...why not?," he asked. I responded, somewhat matter-of-factly, that it would be Sabbath before we returned. With a tone that was as incredulous as it was accusatory, he asks: "Are you trying to make fun of us?" It didn't take me long to realize what I had done. Having been raised in a Seventh-day Adventist household, the observance of the weekly Sabbath was as natural to me as eating and breathing. However, to this young man I appeared as one who mocked. I explained to him that he was more than welcome to do as he pleased, but I could not go on account of my Sabbath--not his. Obviously Puzzled, he said: "but you're not Jewish...are you?". I shook my head no and replied that I'm a Christian.
By this time, the other guys were heading off towards the stairs. For the next couple of hours, my Jewish classmate and I compared and contrasted our religious experiences. I learned that he had often felt pressured to disregard the Sabbath--especially around other Jews. I shared with him that one of my primary reasons for attending this particular university was so that I would not have to deal with conflicts regarding the Sabbath. He had never heard of the Seventh-day Adventist movement and listened intently as I outlined the history and peculiar teachings of the church. In the end, he was content to call me a Jew who believes in Jesus. He thanked me for standing up for what I believed in and encouraging him to do the same. I could feel the sense of pride swelling up inside myself for having "witnessed" to this young man. He was genuinely excited and as the other guys returned from their shopping trip, he could hardly wait to share what he had just learned.
"Here's a Christian who keeps the Sabbath!", he exclaimed. My pride as well as his excitement proved to be short lived.
"Oh, he may share our Sabbath but he has three gods and we have one", retorted another of the guys as he shoved his newly purchased six-pack of alcoholic beverages into the refrigerator.
"No, I don't.", I said as my pride gave way to a feeling more akin to embarrassment.
"Of course you do," he said. "...God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost".
I was deeply disturbed by this accusation of polytheism. For weeks the accusation haunted me. I knew it wasn't true but I had no explanation to offer. In my mind, I resorted to name-calling. "What would an alcoholic Jewish Sabbath-breaker know about Christianity anyway?"
In the months that followed, I spent many months trying to make sense out of a concept that I had to admit had always confused me: how is it that a god can be three and one at the same time and not be three gods? As I read the works of most modern authors, it was easy to see that I wasn't the only one caught up in doctrinal confusion concerning the personalities of God and of Christ. I reasoned that this must be why I had not experienced the joys of victorious living.
When it seemed that no one could help me, my journey took me back to the writings of the Adventist pioneers. I read as much as I could get my hands on and was thankful to have had access to a vast library of electronic literature via the Internet in addition to a wide selection of reading material from my parent's personal library.
This was nearly two decades ago and I thank the Father for the light that now illuminates His Living Word. I now know the Way, the Truth, and the Life and I have hidden Him in my heart that I might not sin against Him. I understand more fully my obligations as a son of man and a son of God. I now rest in the assurance of Him Whose grace is sufficient for me and Whose yoke is easy. He has give me a peace that passes understanding and has declared His Name unto me. He has made the crooked doctrines straight and the elements of certain Scriptural passages that I once found rough, He has made plain.
I can fear God for He has made me to understand that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and I have found the knowledge of God. I rejoice that the hour of His judgment is come and I can freely worship His Son--the Creator of Heaven and earth. The Babylonian fish god is fallen once again and this time its head and hands have been broken and are no longer capable of leaving the accursed mark on me.
Even so Lord Jesus quickly come.