I recently heard a speaker at Parliament talk about the pervasive, current culture we find ourselves in. The speaker’s analysis was that we currently live in a ‘victim culture’: a culture where the majority of people feel they are victims. As a result of this mentality, it could be said that disagreement is often seen as a demonstration of hatred. Our culture says, “If you really loved me you’d validate my belief, my actions and not disagree with me or tell me I’m wrong”. Therefore it seems that the only way to demonstrate love is to agree, whatever the actions or belief system: tolerance of everyone and everything seems to be the modern virtue.
The tolerance of everyone’s beliefs and behaviour, coupled with the idea that all opinions (no matter how contradictory) are of equal validity have undermined the idea within our culture of ‘truth’. In other words our culture wants to say, “That may be true for you, but, it is not true for me”. This is difficult for a faith that follows one who said he is the ‘Truth’. He either is or he is not. It cannot be true for me and not true for you, nor can it be only half true! It is not hatred to disagree, sometimes it is the most loving thing we can do.
Thyrita was a small but very busy merchant town, full of local pagan trade guilds. Jesus says to this church that they are being tolerant of the wrong things, “I have this against you, you tolerate that woman ‘Jezebel'”. By being tolerant of Jezebel, the church is actually showing intolerance to the words and truth of Jesus. We are called to an exclusive relationship with him!
Who or what is ‘Jezebel’? In the Old Testament, Jezebel was the wife of Ahab, (1 Kings 16:25,31, 2 Kings 9:22,30-37) and is used as biblical shorthand for someone (particularly a women) who undermines loyalty to God by promoting tolerance to pagan gods through profit or sexual practices. In Thyrita, ‘Jezebel’ may be a prominent woman in the church leading people astray through prophesying a false message. Or perhaps ‘Jezebel’ represents a group within the church that advocates Christian participation in the pagan rituals of the local trade guilds. A similar contemporary situation may be likened to churches who encourage or tolerate ‘Free Masonry’ within the fellowship or engage in multi-faith services. Even as I write these words, my culturally attuned ears are pricking up and saying to me, “That sounds very intolerant Andy” but I want and need to be intolerant of the things that faith in Jesus calls me to be intolerant of.
While we are always to be loving towards people, we are called to be intolerant of hurtful, sinful practices. We are to be intolerant of murder, theft, sexualisation of children, rape, sexism, poverty, bullying, racism and injustice. We are to be intolerant of our own selfishness, hatred and actually, of anything that draws us away from loving Jesus. Thyrita was called not to compromise with the standards of the world in its day and so are we.
Keith Green is one of my all time favourite Christian singer song writers, in his song ‘Make My Life A Prayer To You’ he sings,
Make my life a prayer to you
I wanna do what you want me to
No empty words and no white lies
No token prayers no compromise
“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)
“The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (Revelation 2:26)
Father, please forgive me my compromise with the world. Help me please, by your spirit to stand firm and hold exclusively to you! In Jesus name. Amen.
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