(continuing with Revelation 2) Wednesday we wrote about the letter to Ephesus, where Jesus commends their orthodoxy but condemns the lack of love. It is a classic critique of the church, and especially popular among those who are not concerned with all those "rules and regulations." After all, isn't love really all that matters?
Today, in the letter to Thyatira, we get the answer. Thyatira was not a particularly significant little town. [Bible Trivia: Lydia, the dealer in purple cloth in Acts 16:14 was from there.] The church is commended for its works, its love and its service. So everything seems fine, but then there is a crushing word of judgment from the exalted Lord Jesus.
"I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and leading my servants astray to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols."
Any number of current day "prophets/prophetesses" who advocate unceasingly for "tolerance" and reject the historic faith are guilty of this charge. Who is the Jezebel in Revelation 2?
The name is a 'type' and refers back to the pagan queen wife of Ahab. Her name is apparently a Hebrew twist on her Phoenician name (Ba'al is exalted) and may mean "not exalted" or "without a husband." This sort of punning mockery is similar to the twisted term "Lord of the Flies."
Jezebel was an oppressor of faithful Jewish worship of YHWH and an opponent to Elijah. She met a bitter end, and her name is associated with corruption of the faith. In Thyatira, there seems to have been those (symbolized by the name Jezebel) who were advocating a "go along" attitude with the pagan neighbors. The "who am I to judge?" impulse has a shadow side. "I refuse to persecute others for the faith" can deteriorate into "I refuse to take a stand for the truth." Jesus clearly thinks that allowing this "woman" (whether referring to an actual woman, or metaphorically to a group of men and women) free reign to spread her lies is abominable.
Offerings to other gods take many forms. The idea that "all roads lead to God" is one of those forms. The idea that it doesn't matter how you worship or who you worship is another of those forms. Jesus is clear, there is one God. The 'porneia' (sexual immorality, fornication, etc.) is literal and figurative. The church is to be pure. Sexual immorality is appealing, it follows after our impulses and desires. It takes little effort to desire, it is a struggle to harness the desires. Such sexual wantonness is also a symbol of infidelity to God. To commit adultery is to be unfaithful to one's spouse, and the covenant with God is like a marriage.
Tough words indeed. Orthodoxy without love is not acceptable. However, love does not free one from the truth, either. To be heterodox is as bad as to be loveless. So speaks Jesus today. Another challenge to fidelity on our journey of faith.