Hovering over the last church in Revelation 2, Thyatira. What a complex church.
On the one hand, within their gathering there’s all the stuff that you’d want to see in a church, all the stuff that the Lord who is in the midst of the church wants to see. Works characterized by “love and faith and service and patient endurance.” What’s more, far from being static or being satisfied with a certain status quo of righteous, kingdom pursuit, their “latter works exceed the first” (2:19). Yeah! That’s what you want to see. Three cheers for the church at Thyatira!
But then this from “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire” (2:18b):
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.
(Revelation 2:20 ESV)
Think about it . . . under the same roof — love, faith, service, and patient endurance along with false, seductive teaching, sexual immorality, and idol worship. Like I said, what a complex church. How does that happen?
When people came to church in Thyatira on Sunday morning did the ushers seat Jesus people on the left and Jezebel people on the right? The faithful at the front and fornicators at the back? Those who were planning on partaking of the Lord’s table here and those who were going to dine with demons there? Probably not. For what was so clearly identified by the One “who searches mind and heart” (2:23) had become indistinguishable among the congregation. And that because they had come to “tolerate the woman Jezebel.”
Thinking it’s the word tolerate which put this on my radar. I’ve been thinking a lot lately that as a culture we need to recapture the practice of true tolerance. Not the popular view that tolerance is agreement, acceptance, and therefore advancement of a concept or practice. But the idea that tolerance is actually respectful, civil, “hear me out even as I listen to you” disagreement. We need more true tolerance in our culture, I think.
But, as I’m reminded this morning, that shouldn’t necessarily be the case for some things within the church. Particularly when it’s allowing the coexistence of teaching aimed at leading people into sin and away from faithfulness to the Lord. In that case, you can’t just let it go.
That’s literally what the word tolerance means, to let it go. To leave alone. To not address. To not discuss. Thus to permit, allow, and not hinder. And that’s what the Lord of the church had against the church at Thyatira, they tolerated that woman Jezebel and her wayward-leading teaching which seduced others into grave sins of the flesh and sacrifices to idols. And this, amidst those who at the same time were increasing in love, faith, service, and patient endurance.
So, what am I picking up from what I think the Spirit’s laying down this morning? Don’t let it go. Don’t leave seductive, false teaching alone. It needs to be addressed.
Not talking about everyone becoming heresy hunters ready to split hairs with those who don’t dot their interpretive i’s, or cross their theological t’s in the same manner. Not talking about majoring on minors. Rather, it’s being willing to speak up when worldly wisdom, “the deep things of Satan” (2:24b), is being sold as new and improved freedom for the church. Seductive, insidious teaching which leads others into personal impurity and toward divine infidelity.
Can’t just let it go. We can’t tolerate such teaching in our churches.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ~ Jesus
(Revelation 2:29 ESV)
Don’t let it go.
By His grace. For His glory.