Pergamum is an impressive place. This city's loyalty to Caesar was rewarded in the second century AD with an imperial cult temple being erected on a high peak overlooking the city in honor of Emperor Trajan. An altar to Zeus stood on a lower slope of the summit, the smoke from its sacrifices rising day and night over the capital city. To the side of the royal citadel lay the marble stoned seating of an impressive theatre dedicated to the party god, Dionysis.
The people of Pergamum worshipped Roman power and the Greek pantheon; their faith was focused on satiating the universal appetites of the stomach and for sex. Food and fornication were the ingredients of a first century 'recipe' called idolatry and immorality.
We rode the cable car to the site where John, reporting the words of Jesus, tells us that Satan had his throne. No Christian living there then could have mistaken the message. The overpowering presence of pagan power that brooded over the city was pervasive. Some saints succumbed to the pressure of social conformity and spiritual compromise. This was the original game of thrones. People still play this game. We crown ourselves with claims of being able to find meaning and significance without God. We pay homage to the gods of independence and tolerance which pander to our innate selfishness and intellectual cowardice. Our sex saturated society submits to the baser desires of the body in the same spirit as Pergamum's Dionysis devotees. Even what seems morally neutral to us might harbor within it a dangerous desire.
Not everyone in Pergamum submitted to the gods of stone or to Rome. Some remained true to Jesus and did not renounce his name. These people received great promises. God would provide for them when the world was against them. They would wear God's name to tell the world to whom they belonged and for what they longed - food that lasts to eternal life and an intimacy with God that no illicit human relationship could ever substitute for or satisfy. 'It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.' (C. S Lewis)
Lord, claim my heart and name me as your own - and I will worship you alone.