In the early Church, we know there were many martyrs and those who risked life and limb (literally) to build churches throughout their travels. Christians worshiped in secret, under fear of death, hoping to attain the promised salvation of the proclaimed Christ. It all seems so dramatic and so distant to those living in a safe, first-world community with freedom to gather and worship as you please. It’s no big deal here in America to go to Church if you choose and to read the Bible. Have we lost our fire?
Look for a moment to those in less free societies. In North Korea, Christians must remain hidden or face execution or imprisonment. In Afghanistan, it’s simply execution for Christians. Other countries like Nigeria and Iran are just as deadly. Still, Christians in these areas press on, keeping their faith and relying on the saving power of Jesus. They risk their lives for their faith! Here where we’re safe from such persecutions, we try to schedule Mass around sports and work, making our faith convenient and comfortable for our lives. We don’t seem too fiery compared to them.
In Revelation, John tells of the letters to the seven churches of Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. So much can be unpacked here that there’s loads of movies and videos on this. Here’s a good one: Times of Fire. This video investigates the first three letters and has enough to make us question the same - have we lost our fire?
Each letter contains both an analysis from our Lord on what the churches have accomplished and how they fall short. It’s important to know how far you’ve come; it’s encouraging and brings focus to good motion. Still, harsh criticism is sometimes necessary to see where one falls short and the contrast could motivate one towards better choices. This is likely the hope for these letters. Each church is judged briefly, some not too badly and some quite harshly, but then each has work to do.
If we read through the letters and consider our own lives, could we discern what we’ve done well with and what needs work? Could we look to other sources of faithful inspiration and find a way to kindle our own fire of faith?
Ephesus seems to do well but has lost its fire, its fervor. Smyrna has faith but will need to fortify that faith for a great tribulation to come. They must be willing to suffer. Pergamum is surrounded by evil and has done generally well but the people are starting to fall for some of the evil habits. Thyatira does great works, the last better than the first, but they tolerate lust and idolatry. Such toleration leads to great sin and disobedience. Sardis has heard the word (the Word of God) but is not all obeying. Few will be spared if the whole of that church does not convert. Philadelphia has held on well to the faith and seem to have little criticism except to stay strong in the faith as they endure trials. Laodicea is neither hot nor cold but lukewarm. Can we relate? How many of us are lukewarm?! In fact, there seems to be nothing ‘nice’ to say about them. The Lord says He will ‘spit them out’ for they say they are rich but they are poor (in spirit.)
The warnings must be heeded by all ‘who have ears to listen’ lest we fall into the same fate. We must rekindle our faith and be burning for Christ like the Christians who face persecution every day. Let’s not be comfortable but be ablaze with the love of God and continue to proclaim the Kingdom of God.
“I say I will not mention him, I will no longer speak in his name. But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding back, I cannot!” (Jeremiah 20:9)