As Richard noted yesterday, and as you, dear reader, have no doubt noticed since Monday, we have returned to the book of Revelation. This section, however, is far more straightforward and easily understood than the later chapters. There is very little debate about what John is talking about here: he is telling us what Christ thinks of His church.
In the section designated for today, we see two basic characteristics of the church that is faithful to Christ’s call. First, in our fallen world that is often less than perfect, the faithful church is one that is willing to suffer. And second, in a world where people so often find themselves mistaken and in pursuit of illusions, the faithful church is one that does not stray from the Truth.
There is so much that could be said about both these things—so much that needs to be said. As the Gospel has increasingly become equated with self actualization; as it is seen as a guarantee of the basic rights and privileges humanity; as it becomes one more way of achieving our personal best, the church has become less and less familiar with suffering.
That is not only our loss, but the world’s loss around us. Too often, I think, we fail to remake the world, serving instead only to perpetuate it—and thinking we do so with God’s blessing. So perhaps one question we could, and maybe should, ask ourselves is,“Where, quite literally, am I suffering for the Gospel?” (And do I need add that we need to be clear in answering this question to distinguish suffering for the Gospel’s sake and suffering for our own sake?)
And then Truth. The very word, capitalized and absolute, demanding nothing so much as our humble and complete submission to it, causes a great many people in our day to be most uncomfortable. For some the mere mention of this word and its implications is enough for them to want to break out the “barf bag”.
And again I think we have to be very careful. One of the predominant reasons Truth creates this response, I think, is that the church has been far too quick to divorce Truth from love. What we see as Truth, even in Scripture, has too often just been the reflection of our own psyches. But be that as it may, the fundamental claim of Jesus Christ is that Truth exists, and the he is Truth incarnate.
Which brings us to other questions. Am I diligently seeking after that Truth, even if it takes me to uncomfortable places? Am I willing to admit that my truth may not be the Truth, and that my truth needs reforming? Am I willing to submit my life to the Truth as made known in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, even when such submission does, in fact, bring suffering?
Whatever our denomination; whatever our political or theological leanings, whatever our place in the church, these are not easy questions. But they are questions that must be honestly asked—and answered—if we are to be the Church that Christ calls us to be.