I was listening to the radio this week and heard about a charity called Give a kid a blanket. This winter they have received and passed on 17,469 blankets to families in need. It is encouraging that in our nation there are kind-hearted people involved in compassionate service.
When you learn about Jesus, you discover his values weren’t always what people might expect. The kingdom of God has its own economy in which silver, gold, stock and bonds have little value; while characteristics of love, faith and hope are prized. So when we ask, does Greyfriars measure up, we shouldn’t look at our bank balance or assets, rather we look to the character, the soul and spirit of the church.
There was a lot to commend in the church at Thyatira: love, faith, service and perseverance. The people were excelling in spiritual acts of kindness. Not only were they doing well, they were improving, doing more than they did at first. You could count on them not only to do the right thing, but also to do it for the right motive.
When you encountered these people, you would know they were genuine. They were applying the advice of Paul who wrote, "your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus," and because they did so they could … "shine like stars in the universe as (they held) out the word of life". (Philippains 2.5 & 15-16).
But all their good work and witness was being undermined as some of them began to compromise their faith. In those days to work in a trade you had to be a member of the guild (union of sorts). But these guilds were inseparably entwined with temple worship including sacrifices and feasting at the temples of the gods.
The Christians at Thyatira faced the dilemma Christians in all generations face - how far, if at all, may Christians conform to the world around us and follow the norms of society before we become compromised in our faith? For them their income and livelihood were connected to participation in the guild. How would they, or we in our day, respond to the Christian teaching, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …” (Romans 12:2) or to the words of Jesus, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:25)
A church or people who are compromised are in a perilous spiritual position. Jesus warned the church at Thyatira of judgement that would come upon those who allowed their spiritual life to be undermined in this way. As Christians we may be tempted to compromise our faith and perhaps we need to ask, Am I spiritually or morally compromised? And if so will we turn to Jesus for forgiveness and restoration? However, if we have held firm and persevered with love, faith and service, our relationship with Jesus will be secure and will be able to overflow in acts of compassionate service.
We see clear evidence of people serving with compassion at Greyfriars. It is evident in those who serve us morning tea, in those who help with children’s ministries, with those who visit the prison, with our care team who provide practical help to those in need, and in many other ways. Let us continue to serve with compassion and without compromise.
For personal reflection
Is there some area of compromise in your life which you need to confess to Jesus? (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Is there some area of service in the church or community where you could offer your help? (James 2.16-17)
Rev John Malcolm