The letter to Pergamum speaks to Christians living within a culture that encourages a sinful lifestyle. This letter is most applicable to Western Cultures like Europe and America. Jesus commends these followers for not shrinking into the background, but holding strong to their faith even in challenging times. It is difficult to stand firm in your beliefs when they oppose the values of many around you. It is especially difficult when you know that this opposition may lead to harassment, judgment, or harm by others.
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.Revelation 2:12-13
The difficulty is being in the world without be changed by the world. Although continuing to proclaim faith in Jesus, their practices were not always aligned with the teachings of Jesus. Living within a world with a variable moral compass can be confusing. We may start to blend current societal values with our Christian beliefs, attempting to achieve a middle ground that is acceptable for everyone. We justify that we are only adapting God’s standards to fit a more modern time, which is a very slippery slope. We may claim to represent Jesus, but we have compromised God’s commands to fit our own desires.
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.Revelation 2:14-16
The Church of Pergamum had blended the sinful teachings of others groups in their society with Christianity. This allowed them to live a socially accepted lifestyle, while still proclaiming Christ as their savior. There are many Christians today that still like this option, as it provides the best of both worlds without requiring any sacrifice. Likewise, some churches have started allowing practices that scripture prohibits in order to ease social criticism. But when we follow a watered down version of Christianity, our witnesses for Jesus is misleading. We were not called to blend in and be comfortable, we were called to be salt and light in the world.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:13-16
Jesus clarifies God’s law, leaving no room for compromise. Following Christ may make us the subject of ridicule by others, but that should a price we are willing to pay. Jesus never promised it would be easy, rather that we would be joined with him in our suffering. In order to find our new identity in Christ, we must let go of our past and our need for others’ approval. To accurately represent Jesus we must follow him without compromise.