“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God… I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.’” Revelation 2:18-29
Our reading today is one of the letters to the seven churches. It begins in complimentary fashion as we see above. The Son of God knows the works of the church in Thyatira—their love and faith and service and patient endurance. But the letter goes on, and there is harsh judgment.
The problem in the church in Thyatira was that they had tolerated immoral behavior. There was a so-called “prophetess” who was teaching and beguiling the disciples there, encouraging them to practice immorality and to eat food offered to idols. She was given time to repent, but she had refused to turn from her immorality—so there would be judgment on her and those who committed adultery with her.
This is probably not the warm, fuzzy Advent devotional you were expecting or hoping for today. It’s difficult to think of glittering lights and decorated Christmas tree and a baby born in Bethlehem while hearing the letter to the church at Thyatira. But it is the Lord Jesus himself who calls this church to account. It is the Son of God who says, “the churches shall know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.”
Although we might like it to be otherwise, our Lord expects the church to be pure and holy until he comes again. When there is immorality and sin, there is to be given time for repentance. However, when there is no repentance, no turning away from immoral behavior in the Body of Christ, there is to be no toleration of it. In Matthew 18, the Lord himself provides a process for discipline within the Church—and we are to take that seriously as the Church. We dare not tolerate and accept immorality and false teaching! Not our own, not that of others within the Body. The Son of God says in our lesson, “to the rest of you…I do not lay any other burden; only hold fast what you have until I come.”
Son of God, Savior and Lord, as you call us to repent and turn from immorality and sin, send your Spirit to renew our hearts and lives. Amen.
Prepared by David Wendel, North American Lutheran Church