How, you may ask, would I connect Monica Lewinski and the biblical character Jezebel in a Revelation lesson? I’m currently reading a terrific book recommended by my daughter entitled Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Her TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, led me to The Price of Shame, a TED Talk by Monica Lewinski. Like performance reviews where the boss sandwiches growth opportunities between compliments, in Revelation 2:12-3:6, Jesus evaluates three more of the seven churches in Asia. Monica is no Jezebel because when she saw the opportunity to facilitate a positive change, she chose appropriate action. I find the messages this week surprisingly relevant.
Jesus commends the church in Pergamum for faithfulness, but cautions against corruption by allowing seductive (Balaam) and domineering (Nicholaitan) influences into their community. When Jesus says, “I will fight against them with the sword of my mouth,” he means his (s)word, or teaching, is the weapon of choice in spiritual battles. Perhaps the imagery of a sharp two-edged sword is meant to be a metaphor for overcoming those who talk out of both sides of their mouth or who serve two masters. Behaviors like these can cause doubt and distraction. For those who drift off track and find their way back, Jesus promises spiritual and physical abundance (hidden manna) and the foundation (white stone) to build a new life.
The notes talk a lot about sexual immorality and the peril of compromising biblical truth. Is it biblical truth or Jesus’ truth that gets compromised? Here is where things go wonky for me. I don’t see these things as synonymous. Biblical truth is very often a product of an individual’s personal interpretation and if that person has a fundamental or traditional leaning, I am cautious.
Take the LGBTQ situation for example. There are six passages in scripture cited to support opposition to the gay lifestyle, six out of a total of 31,000. Referred to by many as the clobber passages, some are even debatable after being viewed through a broader, less bias lens. It all boils down to interpretation and how diligently context and historical setting are considered. There are exponentially more biblical passages with content about loving thy neighbor and abstinence from judgmental behavior than forbidding an LGBTQ lifestyle.
Moving on to Thyatira, Jesus lists love, faith, service and perseverance among the attributes for this church and points out the community’s good deeds are consistently increasing. Then Jezebel is introduced.
You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. Revelation 2:18-29
After a little additional reading in Kings, I learned that Jezebel was the daughter of a Sidonian king who worshiped the idol Baal. She married Ahab, the King of Israel, and apparently led him down a very dark road. I had always thought the name Jezebel implied vanity, someone who wears a lot of eye make-up and spends an exorbitant amount of time on her hair, but that’s not the full story. The Bible describes Jezebel as a self serving, manipulative, controlling, deceptive and cruel murderer unwilling to change.
The key to this passage is her unwillingness to change, resulting in intense, brutal suffering for both herself and others. She was erased from existence by being thrown from a window, her flesh eaten by dogs (2 Kings 9:30-37). Her son (with Ahab), unfortunately, suffered consequences for her actions as well.
I think the point Jesus is making here is that people who engage in manipulative, controlling, deceptive and cruel behavior are self destructive; there are rewards and consequences for what’s in our hearts and minds and deeds. The closing comment to the good people of Thyatira was hold on to what you have. I would add count your blessings and be grateful.
The third church we looked at in class was Sardis. Here the message is about complacency. Jesus urges them to wake up! Again, those who have not soiled their clothes will be rewarded. This, of course, is a metaphor for good, clean living.
I was moved by Monica Lewinski’s call (TED Talk) for more compassion in the world. She spoke about cyber-bullying and how social media is fueling an industry of shame where humiliation is the commodity. We all make mistakes. Her mistake at twenty-two had devastating personal consequences. Compassion saved her life.
Monica’s ability to pick herself up, learn something, change her path, and carry a flag for those bullied by people with domineering (Nicholaitan), seductive (Balaam) or manipulative (Jezebel) behaviors is admirable. Per the messages to the three churches this week, it is never too late to make a change. Are you willing? Jesus would have been first in line to sign up for Monica’s cultural revolution where we shift from shame and humiliation to compassion and empathy.
Brene Brown is a shame and empathy researcher. I haven’t yet finished her book but am fascinated by her research and findings. The best tidbit I’ve taken away so far is that vulnerability is not a weakness; in fact, it demonstrates great courage. Vulnerability is what helps us to live wholeheartedly, to love with our whole hearts. It’s interesting how research is now proving a spiritual truth delivered two thousand years ago.
I say, Keep an open mind and a loving heart, watch for fear based behaviors, remember who you are, and wake up; change the world.