Friday, February 28, 2014

Thyatira: The Tolerant Church

In the second and third chapters of Revelation are letters from Jesus to seven of the first century churches in what is today Turkey.  While I believe these letters were addressed to real churches of that day, I also believe they have great application to our churches today.  The fourth of these was to the church of Thyatira.
“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.  I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.  I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.  So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.  I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’

To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father.  I will also give that one the morning star.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 2:18-29 NIV
Thyatira seems like the kind of church that many of us would want to be a part of.  Jesus commends them for their deeds, their love and faith, their service and perseverance, and their growth in all of these areas.  They are a growing and committed church that Jesus appears to be satisfied with, except for one thing.  They tolerated the self proclaimed prophetess Jezebel.  It is unclear to me if Jezebel was an active member of this body, or was on the outside and attracting a following from within the body.

Jezebel was the queen of Ahab, one of the kings of Israel, and was largely responsible for the promotion of Baal and Asherah worship in Israel.  These 'fertility' gods were popular, I suspect at least in part because of the sexuality immorality involved in their worship.  And someone, or some group, in Thyatira had adopted Jezebel as their hero; promoting sexuality immorality and participation in sacrifices to pagan gods.

The problem here is that Jezebel was having an influence, not just on the people of the city,but on God's people in Thyatira as well, leading many of them into immorality and pagan worship.  And the church took no stand against her, likely leading some within the body to see her teachings as being OK.

I am not an advocate for legislating morality; I think it has little real impact on the world.  But I do believe that the church needs to avoid the mistake that Thyatira made and hold each other accountable to live holy lives, committed to honoring Christ.  Ignoring the impact that Hollywood, a version of Jezebel for today's world, has on believers today is much the same as what Thyatira did with Jezebel nearly 2000 years ago.  Let's be willing, within the body of Christ, to hold each other to a higher standard than what is often found out in the world.  Don't be tolerant of Jezebel's influence in our midst.  Don't let Jesus hold our tolerance of sin in our midst against us!

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