The following post is the fourth in a series focusing on Revelation 2-3, the letters to the 7 churches. I have written these posts to supplement the Sunday School class I am teaching on the same topic, however they will be helpful to you independent of the class as well. Enjoy!
We’ve all heard the saying “on the fence.” Surely, we have all been on the fence about something. Maybe it was a major decision like whether or not to accept a new job, or possibly something as minor as what restaurant to go to for dinner. No matter what it has been for you, we have all been on the fence, or undecided about something.
When John writes to the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:20 that there was a woman names Jezebel in the church, he is referring to a personality within the church that did the same thing the woman Jezebel did as recorded in 1 Kings. We read beginning in chapter 16 that the king of Israel, Ahab, married Jezebel, who was a worshipper of the false god baal. She led the Israelites into baal worship, much to the disappointment of Yahweh. The end result was not that Israel abandoned Yahweh, but that they were convinced that they could worship both Yahweh and baal. Here is how their situation is described in 1 Kings 18:21
“And Elijah came near to the people and said ‘how long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal, then follow him.”
Israel was “on the fence,” the exact situation that Christians in Thyatira were facing as well, but not about whether to go to a restaurant or order pizza. They had a decision to make that could make or break them financially.
The local economy in Thyatira was built around trade guilds, organizations similar to labor unions today. These trade guilds existed for nearly every trade and were virtually the only way to make business connections, hone your trade, and form partnerships with others. Not being a part of your trade guild would nearly ensure that you would go out of business.
The problem for Christians were that these trade guilds were also very pagan in nature. Each meeting would begin and end with sacrifices to the gods, they included meals where food sacrificed to idols was consumed, and the amount of drinking would make today’s fraternity party look like elementary school.
Therein lies the decision that Christians in Thyatira were faced with: Do they stick to their conscience and not join the trade guilds, risking the very financial future of their entire family, or do that decide that it’s worth the compromise so that they can continue to earn a living?
For them it was a trade guild, but for you it is probably something different. Maybe it’s the weekly outing that your coworkers take to the bars, or the fudging of numbers that your boss tells you to do. Whatever it is, the truth is that everyday we are faced with moments where we could sit on the fence. We could take the easy way out and decide that we will half-heartedly follow God but will also compromise in certain areas where it is just too hard to say “no.”
Friends, I’m telling you that God never rewards compromise, but stand firm in your calling to be holy. That is something God will reward.