Saturday, December 26
Beware of spiritual compromise
Scripture: Revelation 1-4
Revelation 2:14 But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.
Revelation 2:20 But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols.
I was struck by the repetition of similar sins in Pergamum and Thyatira: eating food offered to idols and sexual sins. What’s going on?
Greco-Roman communities were dominated by temples where worship consisted of offering animal sacrifices (the worshipper and invited friends and family would then eat the meat) and sexual practices (cult prostitution). Most social occasions involved sacrificial meals. When one became a Christian, one was expected to abandon all pagan worship, including sacrificial meals and cult prostitution. However, this also meant being excluded from much social interaction and even business.
These two things were common problems in the early church as evidenced by the council of Jerusalem’s decision to welcome Gentiles with four requirements—and these are two of the four (see Acts 15:28-29). And in 1 Corinthians 8-10, Paul writes extensively about avoiding sacrificial meat.
John warns that the Nicolaitans and Balaamites and Jezebel were all teaching that both of these were ok. While there is much we don’t know about these folks, we do know that they were advocating compromise to fit into culture.
Sir William Ramsay writes of them: “It was an attempt to effect a reasonable compromise with the established usages of the Graeco-Roman society and to retain as many as possible of those usages in the Christian system of life.”
William Barclay writes: “They sought to persuade Christians that there was nothing wrong with a prudent conformity to the world’s standards.”
The danger of course was that if they won, the culture would overwhelm the church and the gospel be lost, rather than the church being different and influencing the world with the gospel.
What are the points of cultural compromise that threaten the church and the gospel today? Where are we practicing a “prudent conformity” that in fact is dangerous to our spiritual lives and mission?
We are called to be different—holy, salt and light that influences the people and culture around us. And the difference is far more deep than simple outward attributes such as dress or food. It is far more about relationships, values, and behaviors.
Beware of spiritual compromise.
Prayer: Lord, we’re like the frog in the kettle that doesn’t know he’s being boiled—often blind to the compromises that we’ve made. Open our eyes to see clearly, and empower us to live boldly for You!