Smyrna was the glory of Asia. America the Beautiful. It was a wealthy city with beautiful buildings and a healthy economy. Purple mountains majesty and amber waves of grain. Famous for scientific inquiry and study, and known for their doctors and medical care.
Spiritually it was the center of Caesar worship—they worshipped power. Rome, right or wrong. Love it or leave it. Rome was the extension of their religion, sort of like America, Christianity, and Elvis. They all melt together in garnering allegiance.
Oh, and Christians were scorned and marginalized. Any Christian must also be a fool at best, more likely an idiot to be trivialized, and at worst an enemy of reason and tolerance.
Jesus’ message to the church began with: I know what it’s like to be marginalized, mistreated, rejected, beaten, and killed. But there is life in death, and life after death. Jesus was not ignorant of their plight. Possibly their businesses were being boycotted and their property pillaged or extorted from them. Everything had gone wrong for them, and they have suffered in every way, and God hadn’t stopped it. He encouraged them to see through spiritual eyes, not economic ones, and to live in the new reality of their spiritual wealth. Yes, they were being discriminated against by the spiritually enlightened ones. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus counseled, “even when it gets worse. Your job is to be faithful no matter what happens. You will find new strength and true life. No matter what happens, your eternity is safe with me.”
The question for us, as for them, is: Are we going to cave in to cultural pressure? Christians are being blamed for weakening the moral fiber of America by our intolerance (Rome saw the value of many gods). Even the religious leaders estrange Christians because we’re not good team players, but always insist on truth rather than respectful interfaith acceptance. Ah, the slander of those who say they are God’s people…
The word of Christ: Stick to your principles, hold on to your faith, and be aware that you will suffer for it. Things will not go well for you because of your convictions. All that matters, however, is God’s will and God’s kingdom. Be faithful, and you will overcome.