Thought of the day:
I recently read a post someone made in which they shared an article that called out a nominally Christian denomination for its open acceptance of things like abortion and homosexuality. I also saw that a number of people commented below that post to tell the poster that he is unloving, and that while he is busy attacking his fellow Christians over quibbles of doctrine there are souls out there who have never heard the gospel, so shouldn’t he be glad that this church body was reaching more people through their inclusive, loving practices?
How is one to react to such claims?
I read in my morning reading today:
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
“‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Some might say, “We don’t know what exactly was going on there, but it must have been pretty overt idolatry and adultery for them to be called out like this. Probably cult temple prostitution or something. We don’t have to worry about that kind of practice here.”
But I think we often forget that this was written to a church, to people who have the outward appearance of being God’s faithful ones. It is very possible for a church body to think they are being faithful while in reality they are earning the title Jezebel.
I personally don’t find it very hard to imagine that Thyatira’s conduct was actually quite similar to what we see in many American churches today. Are our church authorities saying that sexual immorality is permissible? Many in America are. Are we passively embracing popular TV shows that promote sexual sin and Godless values? “It’s just a show,” we might say. “It’s just meat,” the Thyatirans might say.
Not only is Jezebel punished, she who would claim God’s authority as a prophetess to say her practices are okay, but great tribulation is also given to those who join themselves to her without setting themselves apart.
See who God says He is here. He is a God who does discipline His children in this life for their sins, both to lead them to repentance and also to make an example that can save others. He is not a passive observer. And He does not take it lightly when His people mingle with the ways of the world. He calls us to set ourselves apart to follow Him in both word and deed.
To those who conquer and keep God’s works until the end, He promises authority over the nations, rule with a rod of iron as Christ received from his Father (Psalm 2), and the morning star.
So how might I respond to the internet commenter who complains that doctrinal distinctions get in the way of love? We must not be lazy in our love and good works (see the other letters to the churches in Revelation!), but the key is that what some might call mere “doctrine” is actually a question of how we should live our lives in love, holy as God is holy, not just some written statement of belief.
“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ … For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”