Jesus Meets the Churches Where They Are (Vision 3)

Jesus appears on the scene of Revelation in spectacular fashion (Rev. 1:12-20). The same Jesus is in close relationship with the seven churches (1:20). He knows each of them intimately (Rev. 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). And He introduces Himself to each church with one, two or three characteristics from the earlier vision.

The message to Ephesus (Rev. 2:1), for example, describes Jesus as the one who holds the seven stars in His hand (Rev. 1:20) and walks among the seven golden lampstands (1:12-13). In the message to Smyrna (2:8), Jesus is the first and the last, the one who died came to life (1:17-18). In the letter to Pergamum, He approaches with a sharp, two-edged sword (1:16). So it goes throughout the seven church letters.

Here’s the interesting thing. Jesus presents Himself differently to each of the seven churches. No two churches get the same picture of Jesus. Each church gets only a portion of the many characteristics in chapter one. He knows each church intimately and on that basis meets each church where they are. No individual church, therefore, has the full picture of Jesus. He is able to adapt to each church’s particular needs and circumstances. And if no church and no Christian has the full picture of Jesus, then we all have reason to be humble. We are all learners. And we all have something to teach each other.

There is a corollary to this observation. If one were to ask which of the seven churches has the RIGHT picture of Jesus, how would you answer? It is a trick question. It is Jesus who presents Himself to each church. Each church has a true or right picture of Jesus. That means that there is more than one RIGHT way to think. Each of the churches knows something right about Jesus, but they all need each other in order to have the full picture.

This doesn’t mean that all pictures of Jesus or God are right. There is such a thing as a wrong picture, a deceptive picture of Jesus. But just because two people disagree about Jesus doesn’t by itself prove that one or both of them are wrong. They may simply be seeing from a different angle or their perception of truth is limited by their training and experience up to that point.

Many church fights are grounded in the perception that there is only ONE right way to think. If that is true and I am right, then you must be wrong! But when godly people study the Word and listen to the Spirit, they come to a perception of the truth. It may be limited and expressed in their own language and culture, but it expresses a facet of truth that others need to hear. Witnessing should not be limited to outsiders, we all need to hear one another to learn and to grow. When you realize that there is more than one right way to think, it makes you more open to the work of the Spirit in others.

2 thoughts on “Jesus Meets the Churches Where They Are (Vision 3)

  1. Marylin George

    Amen! I love it that Jesus meets the churches where they are! If only we were not so afraid of varying perspectives, yes, in the light that there are right and wrong views, too! Individuals are on a journey of faith, as are churches in time and through historical time. Paul’s teaching of the gifts given to the body of Christ seems to validate this view. And multi-denominationalism since the Reformation seems no threat to the universal church, as each can be a representative emphasis of christian faith and life.And true unity is spiritual, living, a fluid happpening of connection to Christ Himself, and not institutional or organizational.

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    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      To which I would add: What you have said does not eliminate the idea that God could have a message specifically designed for the end-time situation and a people called to give it.

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