If you’ve listened to me for any length of time, you know that I love history, especially because I believe it completes our understanding of the Scriptures. That said, many of us are familiar with the book of Ephesians — which Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus — but we may not know the story behind it. Ephesus, which was labeled the crown jewel of the Roman Empire, was home to the temple of Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting and nature. Considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the temple was not only elaborate and beautiful, it was also a hub of commerce. It housed offerings of gold and silver made to the goddess herself, and eventually, it became a store for the treasures of other citizens. When wealthy residents learned that their accumulated fortunes could be loaned to people for a price, the temple transformed into a center of trade, kind of like the Bank of America or Chase of its day. That said, the city was a draw for wealthy investors, and it enjoyed great prosperity. In fact, this is precisely why the church within it was seen as a threat. Even though the Christians lived peaceably, because they didn’t partake in the worship of Artemis, they weren’t contributing as much to the local economy. That meant that in large numbers, they stood to significantly decrease the region’s economic standing. Yet despite the looming presence of Roman officials and the intimidation of fellow citizens, the believers there stayed strong and refused to compromise. Even in the face of persecution and misunderstanding, they pushed through and remained unified.
My friend, sometimes taking a stand for Christ means you have to stand against the culture around you. If society demands that you adopt attitudes or behaviors that contradict the truth of Scripture, don’t cave. Instead, band with your fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord and hold fast to His teaching. While it may require that you surrender worldly wealth, influence, or prestige, embrace the thought of being different, and know that your eternal reward will outweigh the temporary discomfort of going against the grain. You were born to stand out, so chase after the ways of your Savior with passion, and make room for a blessing that’s far greater than anything you can fathom.