“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary…Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.”
“I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives...Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam,”
“I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first…Nevertheless, I have this against you: 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 know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead...Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.”
In all seven cases, Jesus still views these churches as his possession. On the macro/communal level Jesus has general statements for the church at large either positive or negative. At the same time, Jesus also recognizes that in each of these churches there are positive and negative exceptions to the rule…those who are going against the grain or against the trajectory of the church body at large.
I think this is a healthy distinction and one that we see is missed in statements or beliefs like attending a certain denomination is a guarantee of eternal salvation or damnation. Nuance is important and so is getting to know people on an individual basis for their individual values, behaviors and beliefs. None of us fill the role of Jesus. None of us truly and fully know the beliefs and deeds of another. We leave the rule of judge, jury and executioner to Jesus Christ. To usurp that role, wrenching it from His hands, is an act of arrogant aggression. Instead, let us be humble and patient and realize that Jesus has more candlesticks (churches) than many would like to recognize…and yet, there they stand and there He is addressing them as His own. Maybe Jesus has more hope for his churches than we do.