The Church at Pergamum was faced with a great challenge. They were situated in a majestic imperial city with all the trappings that go with big city life. Wealth, culture, power, magnificent buildings, night life with fine food and drink, outlets for sexual desire, and a tolerance for a plurality of religious expressions. A tolerance, however, that did not include those who choose to life by the values of a different King and a different Kingdom. Christians in Pergamum were being persecuted and killed. We have the name of one, Antipas, who lost his life for giving witness to another way of life, another King, and another Kingdom. It seems that there were some among the Church at Pergamum that could not resist compromising with the allurements of culture. They were eating meat offered to idols, which suggests they were mixing their Christian faith with pagan religious practices. They also compromised themselves sexually. This group was trying to fit their Christian faith into the surrounding culture rather than transform the culture with their Christian faith.
I lived for more than 20 years near NYC. Many of my neighbors worked in NYC and lived in luxury homes. I was a pastor in a New Jersey township where the average income was over $800,000 per year. My salary brought that down a bit! Most homes in my perish region started at 2 million. They were furnished with the finest of amenities. These were people of high culture and fine taste. They were living the American Dream. Most everyone was tolerant of other religions and they were largely disinterested in Christianity and the local church. Sunday mornings were for golf, brunch, shopping, gardening, sunning, or their kid’s sports event. Many Christians find it difficult to relate their faith to culture. We want what the world has to offer. We try to have the best of both worlds – the American Dream and heaven when we die. We try to satisfy our every desire, but even rich people seemed dissatisfied having every luxury available. Jesus expresses distain and displeasure with those who wish to have it both ways. Jesus has called his people to live by a different value system and a different sexual ethic. When tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus says we should live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Only the ‘manna from heaven’ truly satisfies our deepest desires.