It’s hard to believe that it has been only a year and a half since the devastating earthquake in Haiti. I know for the people who live in Haiti they still deal with the devastating loss of over 200,000 lives to the earthquake and the ensuing aftermath of lack of drinking water and food to eat. I had plenty of friends travel to Haiti for relief work and even months after the disaster they slept out doors and in tents. There was no faith in the structures and if another quake were to strike the people wanted to be prepared. In Haiti there was a climate of fear, and rightfully so, if you can’t have faith in your buildings then maybe a little bit of fear is a good way to go.
Haiti and the first century town of Philadelphia have a lot in common. Philadelphia was a city that was very seismically active. The entire town was often fleeing the city and then returning. The town was characterized by fear. The town also was a cultural center, setup to export Hellenism to the rest of the world. The early Christians in Philadelphia were also subject to a fair amount of persecution. However, in this letter Jesus praises this church more than any other.
This church suffered, it overcame, but mostly, it wasn’t afraid. Unlike all of the other churches we’ve looked at, this church remained counter cultural and did not take on the fear that the rest of the city had.
One night Jesus’ disciples were on a boat ride and it became stormy so they woke up their Rabbi. They said, “don’t you care that we are going to die?” Jesus responded with a question, “why are you afraid, where is your faith?” I think I would have been with the disciples on this one; at this point they hadn’t experienced the resurrection. But The point of Jesus saying this is obvious. God is in control; if you believe that God is who he says he is then there is no reason to fear.
This church took the fear of others and turned it into an opportunity to share about the security of Christ. This is a church that didn’t make decisions based on fear, they made decisions based on a God who was and is living.