Compromise. It’s a fighting word. It can be positive, as in fighting for common ground and mutual agreement, or negative, as in losing integrity or being placed in danger. It’s all around us, in huge arenas, like international politics and our professions, and smaller ones, like our individual relationships and daily decisions. In personal compromise, it seems the battle always comes down to living for the moment or a deferred benefit. Indulge now instead of waiting. Self before others. Jesus’ Lordship in our life.
It’s a fighting word for Jesus too. In this postcard he writes with a two-edged sword, a weapon, symbolic of his authority and judgement. He sends the message to his church, his bride in Pergamum (the name means married) to be wholly committed, wholly devoted. The pressures of persecution continually threatened them. Citizens were required to bow down to the Roman emperor, and their Christian brother Antipas was martyred for doing so. For those believers leaving pagan practices to follow Christ there was constant temptation to participate again. Jewish converts were asked to remember how Balaam made Israel compromise their relationship to the Lord and fall.
Revelation 2:14-15: But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
2 Peter 2:15: Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing.
Numbers 31:16: Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.
You can read about the story in Numbers 22-24. Balaam influenced the Israelites to worship idols and turn away from God. Christ asked John to give a message to his precious church to come back to him, to leave those things that steal their hearts, and to be faithful even unto death. Why does Jesus commend their holding fast and ask for continued faithfulness? Can you identify your stumbling blocks? List the truth(s) you depend on to give you victory over temptation.
Living in the twenty-first century, we too are surrounded by powerful and pressuring gods of our culture. Their demands on us, especially through media, are relentless. We are faced every moment with the choice to love Jesus first and follow him one hundred percent. We too can be distracted, deceived, and become preoccupied with the peripherals of life. We are pressured to bow down to worldly pleasures and leave heavenly priorities and perspectives behind. It’s easier to conform to the culture than to the person and character of Christ. These are serious fighting words from Jesus to the church in Pergamum. It’s a matter of life or death, heaven or hell. There will be victory and rewards for the overcomers: relationship with the Bread of Life himself and a special name known only to you and him on a white stone. Jesus is fighting for you, what decision can you make today to join him in the fight for your life?
By Donna Burns