And you refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you by Satan’s followers. And yet I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you who are like Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to worship idols by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.
The church at Pergamum was another church that was experiencing opposition. One of their members, Antipas, had actually lost his life in the persecution. How sobering is that? It is one thing for us to think of persecution as something that happens in Africa or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. Imagine if someone that you knew was killed for their faith.
“And yet I have a few complaints against you,” says Jesus. While He appreciates their faith and sacrifice, He makes it clear that there are certain practices going on in the church that He will not tolerate. The two that are specifically mentioned are “eating food sacrificed to idols” and “sexual sin.”
“And yet I have a few complaints against you,” says Jesus.
In the early church, eating food that had been sacrificed to idols was a constant source of conflict. Pagan temples were everywhere throughout the Greek world and almost all meat went through the temple before it was sold in the market. Paul made it clear in his letters that merely eating the meat was not a sin. The problem, however, here in Pergamum seems to be that the believers were also participating in the pagan ceremonies where the meat was served.
What seems likely is that in the name of fitting in, some of the Christians were accompanying their friends or families to the pagan temples and participating in their services. This would have included a ceremonial meal with meat that had been offered to that particular Greek god. In their minds, the believers did not see anything wrong with this but Jesus did.
In the name of fitting in, some of the Christians were accompanying their friends or families to the pagan temples and participating in their services.
The first of the Ten Commandments was that, “You must not have any other god before Me.” Our heart follows what or who we worship. Jesus reiterated what was also said in the Old Testament, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” There is no place for worshipping or even giving the appearance of worshipping any other gods.
Jesus also addressed the problem of sexual sin in the church at Pergamum. In some cases, illicit sexual practices were a part of the Greek worship. Some temples had “sacred” prostitutes that the worshipper could partake of. The believers at Pergamum were participating in “sexual sin.” This word in Greek, porneusai, covers them all: adultery, sex outside marriage, same-sex relations, etc.
The Greek world’s view of morality was very different from ours. Our worldview has been shaped by two thousand years of Judeo-Christian thought. And yet, sexual sin and sexual issues continue to confront us. The Church is not immune to these issues. This is a much bigger subject than can be tackled in a short post like this. My friend, Doctor and Pastor Jill Sweetman regularly writes on these subjects in her blog and I would encourage you to check it out.
Our worldview has been shaped by two thousand years of Judeo-Christian thought. And yet, sexual sin and sexual issues continue to confront us.
One thing that I do wonder about, though. Could part of the reason that there are so many struggling with sexual sins in the church be because church leaders have refused to address them in a grace-filled message that provides some real answers? The spirit of judgment that often prevails in many churches keeps many people from bringing their secret sins into the light. They know that if they do, rather than being loved, encouraged, and helped to find forgiveness and freedom, they will be judged and shunned.
To be continued…
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