There's more to love about the church. So far, we've seen how her first love, the Lord, ought to inspire us to love her and how her steadfast faith in the face of culture is yet another reason. John then turns to Thyatira, and he finds something to love there, too.
What he loves there is her works.
That sounds strange to us, particularly as a people who have been taught over and over and over again that it's not by works that we are saved, but by faith. The Bible even says something like that. We're a people who exist in a church that too often believes working on her faith is the most important thing, that it's the way we believe that will ultimately determine our favor with God - our faith, our righteousness, our steadfastness.
But the Bible also says, and John's love here reminds us, that every good faith produces good works. You can't love God without living like it, and we live like it through outward expressions of faith: works. Specifically, the works that John loves about Thyatira are their love, faithfulness, endurance, and service.
That service one is a bit tricky.
Because to the modern church, service is something we do outside of our walls. It's something we do in our greater community, something we do to get our name - and God's name, in the best of circumstances - out there. Something that helps to change the way the world thinks about the church. To the modern church, our service is our programming, our offerings, our missions. It's building a playground and picking up trash and providing money in hardship and counseling in crisis. And that's certainly part of it.
To the first century church, however, and to the audience of most of the New Testament, it was probably quite different. Service meant not what they were doing for the world, but what they were doing for one another. See, there is a clear preference and teaching in the New Testament that Christians are to love their own first. Serve their own first. Do life with their own first. Commune with one another first.
In fact, the overwhelming theme about the way we live as Christians in the New Testament boils down to one anothering - what we do with each other. With other Christians.
Which means that when we look for things to love in the church, what we're looking at in Thyatira, and in our own churches, is how well we "one another." How well are we loving and serving one another?
When a member of the church has a need, is the church body stepping up to meet it? Not through programs. Not through the same channels we put the world through. But through fellowship, brotherhood, common faith? Some churches do this really well and not a single need goes unmet in their body; some churches, not so much. And some churches, it depends upon the season.
What's incredibly sad, and what we ought to recognize and understand in contrast to the love that we have for churches whose works are good, is that there is a vast number of Christians today, right now, who would never even consider asking their church to help them in a time of need...because they wouldn't expect she would do it. They wouldn't expect anyone in the church would show up for them. And again, not to harp on it, but it tends to be that the bigger the church, the more this is true. The more the church is a Christian community and not a true church, the more this is the reality of her members.
But we should also know that a lot of churches are getting this right. A lot of churches are full of good works, serving and loving one another deeply. And many more might do so given the opportunity, if her members would just ask.
So here's to the churches full of good works and one anothering. There's so much to love about you.