Apparently if you are an aeroplane pilot and you fly off course by one degree, you will miss your landing spot by ninety-two feet for every mile you fly. If you fly around the world, starting at the equator, a one degree error would land you five hundred miles from your intended destination.
I haven’t done the sums on this – just relying on the calculations of others! However, even if the five hundred miles is inaccurate by one hundred miles either side, you are still an incredibly long way off your intended destination. If you want to process this emotionally, just imagine your favourite airline landing you a couple of hundred miles from your holiday destination.
There’s a saying, I don’t know where it originated, that what we permit, we promote. The idea behind it is that if we don’t uphold standards, whether in a corporate setting or personally, we promote standards with which we might not agree. This is true of businesses, churches, families and even in our own personal lives. A one degree deviation does not seem to make much difference today or even tomorrow. Or even next week. A month down the line, however, you might just have a sense that things are not as they should be. A year ahead, then a decade…you get the idea.
The church at Thyatira had a permission / promotion issue. A prophet called Jezebel was influencing people in the direction of idolatry and sexual immorality. We are not told exactly how she did this and how she arrived at a belief that was far from the teaching of Jesus and the apostles. It might well have been a mixture of half truths and error disguised as practical wisdom that led to her teaching this and in turn led to people embracing her teaching.
What was problematic was not just the behaviour of Jezebel and her followers. Jesus says that what He has against the church at Thyatira is that they allowed this prophet to teach her destructive doctrine (Revelation 2.20). They permitted it. And by permitting it they were unintentionally promoting it.
It is hard to believe that a church like Thyatira knew from the beginning what Jezebel was about, because this was a good church that was loyal to Jesus. And perhaps even Jezebel did not start out with brazen promotion of idolatry – perhaps she didn’t even think that what she was promoting was idolatrous! It was more likely a result of the destructive creep of “one degree off” syndrome.
Thyatira reminds us that we can be doing well in so many areas – the Lord commended them for their love, faith, service and perseverance (Revelation 2.19) – and yet allow a culture to develop under our noses that can threaten the future of our church, business, career, family or our own walk with God.
What are you permitting? That’s what you’re promoting. This is a huge challenge. It needs prayer and wisdom. Sometimes it takes courage to acknowledge that our one degree deviance is going to land us in the spiritual equivalent of the middle of the Atlantic ocean rather than the destination that God intended for us. And it takes even more courage to do something about it.