Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Believe Anything

We continue looking at John's letters to the churches in Revelation, and today, we come to the church at Pergamum. This church seems to have a bit of the opposite problem as Ephesus, who we looked at yesterday.

Pergamum is praised for their great faith, but is admonished for being undiscerning in their teachings (Revelation 2).

In other words, Pergamum were the people you wanted if you needed some inspiration. They believed. They believed enthusiastically. They believed with their whole hearts. If you needed someone to reassure you of anything, these were the people. We might gently say they probably had the spiritual gift of encouragement - their great faith was assurance for your struggle, your questions, your doubts.

But what they believed in was a bit of a problem. See, being undiscerning in their teachings, the church at Pergamum would believe...well, just about anything. They weren't interested in just the truth; they were into whatever they thought might be in some way godly. They were cool with ideas that were just thrown out there to see what would stick. If it sounded good, Pergamum was in - whether it actually was good or not. They didn't bother to check out if what they were buying into was right or wrong, if it was good or bad, if it was truly from God or just something posing as Him, just someone using His name or His words or even maybe twisting them. They were just believers...firm, fast, passionate believers who had faith right, but had the substance wrong.

We are seeing the same thing happening today in our pluralistic, postmodern culture that says that truth is whatever you believe it to be and that you can't argue with what someone else decides is truth because it's all relative; nothing is absolute. Naturally, it hasn't taken long for this mindset to creep into the church and infect even the things we believe about Jesus.

Now, we've got all these persons who call themselves persons of "faith" who staunchly believe things about Jesus that He never revealed Himself to be. They believe things about the world that Jesus directly warned us about buying into. They take everything that everyone ever tells them and throw it into a hodgepodge heart and call whatever comes out of it "faith." You start talking with them and all seems well, but then they start spiraling into all of these things that even the smallest amount of rational thinking and reasonable discernment would have discarded long ago.

And it's because we're told that if you're discerning, you're offensive. If you find a problem with something someone believes, then you're a bigot. You must hate that person. If you didn't hate them, you wouldn't disagree with them. So what we have is a whole world of persons afraid to be labeled as bigots, afraid to be called prejudiced, who are trying to take literally everything the world throws at them and make some kind of meaningful understanding out of the nonsense, trying to make harmony out of things that are incompatible. And calling themselves persons of faith because at the core of it all, they really do believe in "God." And if that's the foundation of their belief, then they must be Christians...whatever all this other stuff does or doesn't mean.

What they're finding is that it doesn't work. Of course it doesn't work. Not all teachings are created equal; not all truths are truly true. Yet, what happens is that we have these persons of "faith" who identify as Christians because of a core belief in God, but these beliefs they try to hold on the edges break them and then what they decide is that it's Christianity that's false. It's the Christian faith that doesn't work. After all, they were "believers" and it was unsustainable.

The problem isn't belief in God. The problem isn't faith rightly placed. The problem is being undiscerning about what you are willing to believe. It was the problem at Pergamum.

It's our problem today. 

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