Roger Hernandez is the Ministerial Secretary of the Southern Union, USA.

We don’t live in a grace-filled world. Think about it:

• Sports: You play well, you get paid. Endorsements, applause and recognition go to the winner.
• Work: You work well, you get the bonus, promotions, accolades, the corner office and a raise.
• School: Those who study hard get on the dean’s list, receive scholarships, and graduate summa cum laude with a parchment paper to hang on the wall that says to everyone “I earned this”. 

Our world is ruled by works. From the supermarket to the information superhighway, the principle is the same. It’s impossible to buy a car by grace, or a house, or a computer. You get what you work for - sometimes less.

So where can we find grace?

In the church.

I contend that church is the hope of the world. It’s the only place people can see love for the sinner, hate for the sin. It’s the only place a person can come just as they are and leave better. With all its imperfections, church, rightly done, can be the vehicle that God uses to help us learn about grace.

The problem is, when people get there, will they find grace?

As a lifelong church member, I can remember being taught that if you want to be a good Christian (and by implication, attain eternal life) then you:

Must not cut your hair, if you are a woman. Must not leave hair long, if you are a man.
• Must always kneel when you pray.
• Must not celebrate Christmas. Or Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or any day. You must not celebrate, period.
• Must not wear pants or sing praise songs.
• Must not move the chairs from the platform, unless you are an ordained elder or deacon.
• Must have the doxology before the invocation. Always!
• Must not go up front if you have your period. (Really? Yes. Really.)
• Must watch out for Catholics, evangelicals and Jesuits teaching in our colleges.
• Must watch out for Pentecostal influences.
• Must be ready for persecution.

I was 22 years old, a theology student, a 3rd generation Adventist Christian and did not know Jesus! As long as I behaved well and looked the part, everything was OK. I do not remember even once having a conversation with an adult who inquired whether I knew Jesus as my personal Savior. 

The wonderful thing about knowing Jesus is that with Him in the picture, the Adventist message makes the Christian experience deeper, and makes the walk with God a delight, not chore. Church can be enjoyed, not endured. It’s you want to, not you ought to Christianity.

And it’s all because of grace.

Roger Hernandez is the Hispanic Ministries Coordinator of Oregon Conference.

This was originally published in the “Best Practices,” a free email newsletter from North American Division Church Resource Center.