Cultural Relevance is Very Important.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
What’s so special about a white stone? Unless you know its cultural relevance, absolutely nothing. It doesn’t make sense, or one can come up with any number of meanings – there isn’t enough context to understand the meaning of this passage.
If you lived two thousand years ago, everyone in the area where Jesus preached would have understood the relevance. A white stone with a person’s name inscribed on it would be given to the victor of the Roman athletic games. It would give that person special access to a special awards banquet.
The other significant part of this was that we will be given a new name. Names were very important in scripture. A person’s name described their character:
- Jacob (“deceiver”) was given the name Israel (“one who struggled with God”)
- Saul’s name was changed to Paul (“small” or “humble”)
- Simon’s name was changed to Peter (“little rock”)
- Nabal (“foolish”) nearly died when he refused David and his men food from their harvest after they had faithfully guarded his workers.
Run the Race
Paul indicated that living his life for God was like he was running a race. He wanted to run it like he was trying to win. So often we focus on the grace of God (and do whatever we want – after all God has forgiven us of all sin – past, present, and future, right?) or the holiness of God (we live in aversion of the painful consequences of when we do anything wrong, so that oftentimes we are paralyzed that if we do anything wrong, we will receive a swift penalty for it), rather than a balance between the two.
These metaphors are meant to illustrate that we need to live our lives in such a way that our character matches that of Christ, and that we strive towards the goal of perfection knowing that God will forgive us when we fail. This balance – perfection vs. grace – helps us to continue striving towards God, and experience victory over sin and discipline in our everyday lives.
And when we shed this moral coil, whether it be in slumber or in apantesis as we are being gathered up into the sky with our Lord Jesus Christ , we can be assured that we have a place at the victor’s table as we will sup with God for all eternity, devoting ourselves in obedience, prayer, worship, and adoration.
A Qualifying Question
OK, let’s ask ourselves a question – Am I living my life in such a way that it looks like an Olympic athlete seeking to win the Gold Medal for Christ-like character?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You give us strength when we are weak, and carry us when we are broken. Help us to live our lives in such a way that it reflects the character of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to discipline ourselves so that we will run the race set before us consistently and honorably. Remember us when we fall; help us to get back up again. Provide for our every need. And show us our new name, our new character, that we may live in it and rejoice in it. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.