‘And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword:
‘I know where you are living, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling-block before the people of Israel, so that they would eat food sacrificed to idols and practise fornication. So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and make war against them with the sword of my mouth. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.
“If you tolerate this then your children will be next…” is a song by the Manic Street Preachers. What a message to us, and similar to the one God was giving to the Church in Pergamum. They had allowed some people to preach falsely, and therefore were diluting God’s teaching and presumably leading the fellowship in the wrong direction. How easy it is for us to tolerate our old sinful ways. We make excuses like “I’m only human” or “I’m no different from anyone else.” Our Christian journey is about knowing that our past sins are behind us and on longer hold us. We don’t have to tolerate them anymore because Christ has set us free from them; “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14). Sometimes we tolerate the sin in us because we don’t know what else do with it. It is easier to accept it than to deal with it. In these times we have to remember that we are not alone, that we have the Spirit of freedom within us to help us. We, therefore, need to regularly confess our sin, receive God’s promised forgiveness for it, and ask the Holy Spirit to continue to strengthen us and transform us.
We can also tolerate the sin that goes on around us, again because we don’t know what to do to challenge it or because we’ve become immune to it. When we see acts of violence, people being trafficked, children hiding from bombs and bullets, mothers with nothing to give their children, we can tolerate this or do something about it. We can pray, offer food, finance, letters to MPs or give our time to work for organisations that refuse to tolerate the injustices of this world.
What are you going to refuse to tolerate today?
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
The Prayer of St Francis of Assisi
The Rev’d Stuart Nixon is a pioneer minister working at MediaCityUK in Salford.