The Church in Pergamum
This week, as we continue to review the messages that God gives to the 7 churches in the book of Revelation, we encounter the message to the church in Pergamum. And this particular message is an important one (of course, they all are important). God speaks to the church in Pergamum a message of repentance, as he does with many of the other churches, but not just repentance. God also wants the church in Pergamum to learn to carve away impurity and idolatry.
As the message to the church unfolds, God declares that he is the one who holds a sharp two-edged sword. This sword is intended to cut away the “fat” to leave only the good meat behind. It is a sword which cuts both ways–it is not enough for the church in Pergamum to stand in contrast to the ways of the world (which they clearly did as the only martyr in the book of Revelation, Antipas, is mentioned here). God desires that they learn to excise that from within that is idolatrous.
The message to the church in Pergamum sets off a series of critiques from within the churches that John is writing to. The church in Pergamum and the church in Thyatira must deal with idol worship and practice; the church in Sardis and the church in Laodicea must deal with their lack of passion and commitment to worshipping God. Only the church in Philadelphia seems to be exempt in the coming messages from internal sourness that must be cut away. And this church in Pergamum must learn to rid themselves of false teaching, reliance on works-based salvation, and idolatry or idolatrous practices.
And this seems particularly instructive to me as a follower of Jesus. Because so often I think that we have good intentions as Christians to provide a reliable and good witness of God to the world around us, and we fail to see clearly who we are and what we are doing in the name of Jesus, perhaps, that ought not to be done. Of course, there are famous examples of this–Christians holding up any number of signs in public places saying, “God hates X group of people.” But, I think there are also examples from everyday life that each of us deal with and must realize. When we are unkind. When we lack a generous spirit. When we participate in gossip. When we are angered and respond in retaliation to a co-worker, family member, friend, or someone we don’t even know. There are so many ways that this can come into play in our lives.
And the message that God gives to the church in Pergamum is to learn to carve that out of your life.
The message comes from a God who doesn’t just want us to look at what other people are doing and to tell them what’s wrong. It is from the God who holds the two-edged sword. Of course, we are to stand in contrast to the way of the world. But we must not forget to examine ourselves and our own lives. We must learn to repent far more often than any of us are likely to be comfortable with.
And when we do, God shares a message of hope with us in that time. When we are able to conquer the sinful nature within us, even if just for that moment, God is preparing a feast for us that will satisfy in the age to come. God is preparing to give us a new name that will show that we are defined not by our weakness, but by God’s strength.
I look forward to that day. But in the meantime, I hope you will join me in examining your life as I examine mine, seeking to honor and glorify God with all that I am and all that I do.