From Dr. Johnson’s sermon Rev. 2:18-29 on the pressure to compromise the faith because “we have to live”:
“I can imagine the way in which an individual would respond to this when he was at the table. One of his Christian friends would say to him the next day, “How could you do that? How could you accept an invitation like that? How is it possible for you to sit at the table of quote “My Lord Tyrimnos?” Unquote. And I can see myself, for example, responding. “If you’re going to have a job, you’ve got to do this. If you’re going to live, you have to do this. There’s no other way to make a living in this town. You’ve got to do it. You must do it.” The ancient church had a deal with that question just like people today because we tend to do the same thing. We put up with things that are not Christian, because we have to live.
Well, Tertullian, in the 3rd Century, wrote a little book, well, a little work. It was called “On Idolatry”, and in it he dealt with that question. He deals with Christians who earn their living by making idols. These individuals had to live. We have to live. We don’t believe in these idols that we’re making, but we have to make them because they need them. They made statuaries to the idols. They painted them. They did for the guilders all of the kinds of things that had to do with the idolatry and the like. And when the plea was made to them that as Christians you cannot do this they said, “We have to live. There’s no other way by which we can live.” But Tertullian indignantly retorted that they should have thought about that before they started doing what they were doing. And furthermore, he then went on to say in his Latin, Vivere ego or ergo habeas. Do you have to live?
No, you don’t have to live, and the ultimate service to our Lord is the ultimate claim upon a Christian’s life. We don’t have to live. “Must you live”, he asks? Elsewhere he says, “There are no musts where faith is concerned.” In other words, the ultimate loyalty we have is not to our physical life. Not to the kind of life that we must live here upon this earth. Our ultimate loyalty is to the Lord God, and if it means death that’s our ultimate loyalty. The idea you must do this because that’s the way it’s done here is not a Christian idea at all. And our Lord does not leave any room for anyone who says, “Well I’ve got to live, so I have to do these things that are contrary to the word of God. I have to set down at the table of my Lord Tyrimnos.”