“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. . . . you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.—Rev. 2:2,6
Does love have its limits? Are there places it won’t go, people it won’t embrace, ideas it won’t endorse? Or is true love indiscriminate, universal, and all-inclusive? These questions are clearly and decisively answered in our Lord’s words to the church in ancient Ephesus. And his perspective is anything but politically correct!
Jesus had already commended the Ephesians for their hard work and perseverance. He now turns his attention to their orthodoxy. Far from being blinded by love, they had 20/20 discernment. They hated evil—period. No ifs, ands, or buts. Whatever form evil took, whether ethical or theological, they stood resolute in their opposition. No compromise. No cutting of corners. Their love was revealed in their intolerance. Unsanctified mercy had no place in the church at Ephesus. . . . This was their most stellar achievement. No heretical concept could ever raise its ugly head in Ephesus without being decapitated by the swift stroke of biblical truth.
The Ephesian believers [were not] so naïve as to believe that Christian charity can tolerate such false teaching. Note also the contrast: they “bear” trials and tribulations for Christ’s sake (v. 3), but they cannot “bear” the company of these evil men (vv. 2, 6). They endure persecution but not perversion.
There are many lessons here, but one in particular stands out: Jesus hates moral and theological compromise. Any appeal to grace to justify sin is repugnant to our Lord. Any attempt to rationalize immorality by citing the “liberty” we have in Christ is abhorrent to him and must be to us. True Christian love is never expressed by the tolerance of wickedness, whether it be a matter of what one believes or how one behaves.
Much is being said today about the extent of the church’s engagement with culture. To what degree should we be involved? How narrowly should we draw the boundary lines for what is permissible, on the one hand, and what is off limits, on the other? There are no easy answers, but of one thing I’m sure. If “cultural relevancy” threatens in any way or degree to undermine your single-minded, wholehearted devotion to Christ, end it. To the extent that being “in” the world drains you of the necessary strength to resist its temp tations or diminishes the purity of your relationship with Christ, turn and walk away.
Don’t expect me or anyone else to identify on your behalf those activities or ideas or events or persons from which or from whom you should withdraw. If they are not explicitly noted in Scripture, or cannot be deduced by good and necessary reason, to legislate for others what is and is not permissible would be legalism. I can only make that decision for myself.
May God grant us the discernment to identify the “Nicolaitans” of our day and the moral conviction and love to be intolerant of their destructive doctrines.
Adapted from Sam Storms, To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3, Kindle Edition