The college I attended had beautifully manicured lawns. The grass was thick and soft. Perfect sidewalks bordered the grass. And yet…at almost every turn in the sidewalk, there was a small arc of dead grass where students (including me!) literally cut corners on the way to class. What probably began as someone running late to class and running through the corners of grass instead of staying on the path became a habit, one that everyone else followed. The result? Strips of dead grass scattered around campus, standing testaments to the human tendency to take the easy way.
In Revelation 3:1-6, the church in Sardis has slipped into lethargy. At one time, they were known for their spiritual fervor and radical devotion to Jesus, but something has changed. They are withering, bordering on spiritual death. The writer does not describe the circumstances surrounding their spiritual passivity, but the culture of Sardis gives us some clues. Sardis was an important city in the Roman Empire, at one point being named the provincial capital. Important Roman cities, by default, were hubs of pagan worship including Imperial worship (worship of the emperor). In addition, Sardis had one of the largest and strongest Jewish communities in that region. In short, the Christians of Sardis were surrounded by narratives counter to the Gospel.
The church had a choice: live fully into the call of the Gospel to live in obedience to Jesus and mission to the world no matter the cost ORtone down their commitment to the Gospel and blend into the surrounding culture. To blend in meant more economic opportunities, more social mobility, more general “well-being” in a pagan city. To lay full claim to their identity in Christ and their mission to invite others into the light of Jesus would be costly this side of eternity.
Jesus’ response to this spiritual lethargy? Remember! Remember what you’ve learned
and who you are. Cling tightly to that and repent of your sin. Follow the pattern of those around you who are living in faithfulness. Faithful obedience puts you right in step with me, the Victorious One.
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Grace and Peace.