I remember sitting in a classroom at Southwestern Adventist University that was taught by none other than Dr. Bill Kilgore. Bill was always practical in his approach to instruction and ministry. One of the many wisdom sayings of Bill went like this. “Jesus may be the answer, But Jesus is not the answer to every test question.” Turns out Bill was right.

Many Christians fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus is the answer to every issue we face in life, and, while in some ways that is true, in many other ways the answer is not that simple. While we are focused on explaining Jesus theologically to someone, we may often fail to assist them with present practical needs that they lack. Simply stating that “Jesus loves you” may offer some comfort, but it falls woefully short of offering that person a blanket on a cold night. If we are not deliberate in our approach, we can easily get caught between the already and the not yet.

This tension between what “is” and what “will be” is a biblical construct. For instance, if one were to ask, “When does a believer receive eternal life?” One Adventist may respond confidently, “As soon as we place our belief in Jesus as Lord.” Which this is true. Another Adventist might also accurately state, “We receive eternal life at the second coming of Jesus, whether we are a living believer, or a believer who has already been laid to rest.” This too is also true. There is a natural tension betwixt the two, between the already and the not yet.

Every Adventist today lives in this tension, between the completed work of Jesus, which we claim by faith (and because of this, we claim the promise of eternal life today) and the present reality that we are living in a world where suffering is universal. And if that is not enough tension for you, there is another tension which exists in our fellowship, primarily along generational lines.

In my admittedly limited observations, the Baby Boomer generation and many from Generation X are more inclined (though certainly not unanimously) to focus on the “soon” return of Jesus (the not yet), while Millennials and Gen Z tend to focus more on alleviating suffering (social activism) in the here and now (the already). This generational tension often creates a schism in many churches as they wrestle with what mission they should be about. Should we alleviate whatever suffering we can now, or prepare people for the return of Jesus in the time we have left?

Younger folks will often give up and leave if their local church refuses to address the issues of the here and now. Older folks will leave or disengage if the only focus of the local church is addressing community ills, without engaging in some type of intentional proclamation about “the last days.” By being deliberate about doing both, churches remain relevant participants in their community and members remain engaged socially and spiritually.

Adventists should possess an extra dose of compassion for those suffering around us, both in the already and the not yet. We should alleviate as much of that suffering as we are able, like Jesus did. Jesus used a 3-prong approach in His ministry that included teaching, preaching, and healing. If we are only focused on one or two of these areas, we are falling short of what Jesus has called us to do. We teach to educate folks and win their intellect to the message of the gospel. We preach to showcase the love of God for every living creature to win their hearts. We heal by meeting people where they are to restore their body, mind, and purpose.

For Adventists, our beliefs shape our mission. We have the privilege of representing Jesus everywhere we go. One might ask, “How could life get any more meaningful in the here and now as we minister to the marginalized and meet the needs of those in our sphere of influence?” Another may say, “How could life get any better as we open the scriptures to the people around us who are hungering for something to give them meaning in life and hope for the future of what is yet to occur?” The reality is that we need both! People around us need to be cared for now, and they need to know that God has an eternal plan for them, and that Jesus is returning soon.

Brandon Westgate is RMC youth director. Email him at: [email protected]