One of the character tropes that stories like to use tells of a character who’s a plain, ordinary, everyday person who’s plodding through life until that one day when something sets him on the path to becoming the hero, or the anti-hero, who saves the neighborhood, the world, or even a galaxy far, far away. Something triggers the change. It may be a visit from another character who tells the character of their destiny. It may be a personal tragedy that sends the character on a quest for vengeance that changes into a whole new plan that becomes a heroic search for justice. The rest of the movie, or book shows this changed person changing the world around them to make it a better place.
Think about some of those famous characters, and maybe not so famous ones, from books, movies, or TV shows that you’ve seen. How many of them have been changed by events in their lives? How many of them changed and you thought, as the character developed, well of course they changed! Who wouldn’t? Perhaps it’s this understanding of human nature that makes these verses from recording of the Revelation of Jesus bone-chilling. “The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.” (Revelation 9:20-21)
The plagues referenced in these verses were horrendous. After the plagues of conquest, war, famine, and death, creatures came from the earth who tormented people so greatly that they longed to die, and yet, death would not come. The people lived through five months of continuous pain that was like a scorpion stinging them endlessly. Then came an army that spewed out fire, smoke, and sulfur that was so noxious that one third of the people still living on the earth died, and those who survived counted the dead as the lucky ones. As horrendous as all these disasters sound, we must remember: everyone around understood that these disasters were a judgment from God; everyone knew that if they turned to God and repented of their sins that the judgment, at least for them, would stop – and if it didn’t, they would eventually reap a great reward in heaven; and every person there refused to repent. They continued worshiping false gods, and the idols of society. They were sliding into the hell of destruction and rejoiced that they were making good time.
The Revelation is a word of encouragement to Christians dealing with persecution. John reminds those who follow Christ that those who seek to kill and imprison them will face a far worse fate before God. While we, in America, are not facing that type of persecution today, it is a reminder to us that God is still in control. It should also be a reminder that we need to show the love of God to those who don’t know Him. We obviously can’t make people change, only God can do that. We can introduce people to God; we can show others the love of Jesus by our lives; we can pray for them. We see stories, occasionally, of people who come to Christ and explain that it was the presence of God they experienced from believers who ministered to them in their time of need. We also see stories of people going through great difficulties and cursing God. Most of us would want to be near the first of those two groups of people and rejoice with them. Perhaps, though, we should seek to get close to those who might curse God and show them His love and grace. We must be God’s hands, feet, and heart, extending them the same love that God would give them if they would allow Him in.
Lord, help me to see people hurting and going through difficult times so that I can show them Your love.