I wonder if any other country has such a thing as the “American Dream”? Is there a “French Dream” or an “Indonesian Dream” or a “Peruvian Dream” (I’d say lomo saltado with yellow sauce is close to my view of the Peruvian Dream!)? Perhaps what is typically comprehended as the American Dream exists in other places but not by that name: college graduate, well-paying job, home ownership, wife and kids.
As far as a set of goals for mankind these things are good. The problem with them from a Christian perspective is that they are too small. I’ve been reading in the book of Revelation and in one of the letters to the seven churches, we have what I call a “Real American Dream.”
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not but the synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison that you may be tested and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’Revelation 2:8-11
Smyrna is one of the seven churches that receives no rebuke from the Lord: they are doing everything right. Yet, the devil, leashed by the Lord, will test them by throwing them into prison, torturing them and then killing them. With this advance notice from God, He exhorts the church to stand firm in the faith unto death and promises them the crown of life if they do.
Remember: they are doing everything right. He isn’t using the devil to discipline them for their sins; He is using Satan to test them further. This is the church-wide version of what happened to Job. Job was initially faithful–even rebuking his despondent wife–but he had a season of unbelief and sinful anger at God. The Lord exhorts the Smyrnan church to not have that season of unfaithfulness but be steadfast because the crown of life is waiting for them.
No promise to save them. No promise to judge those who persecute the church. No reminders of His presence or offers to be their refuge. (Now all of these things are found in God’s word which they would’ve considered; but they are not found here.)
The Lord puts before the church the real Dream that should occupy them: eternal life, paradise, the presence of the Lord. He doesn’t pledge to preserve their lives, their health, their families or their station: only their soul’s reward.
- Is this the dream of American Christians? Are American Christians content that the One who is the “first and the last” is our true reward?
I wonder about these things in my own heart. Now, there is talk of upcoming food shortages, gas prices moving past $6 a gallon, increased inflation–we seem to be facing a pandemic of a different kind: threats to our comfort rather than our health. COVID proved much of the church’s commitment was to the American Dream rather than the hope of heaven. Have we learned anything? Is what lures in the future and promises to strangle our comforts another test from the Lord to wrest free from our grips the things that keep us from longing for heaven?
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.