“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy gold from me — gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. And also buy white garments so you will not be shamed by your nakedness. And buy ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I am the one who corrects and disciplines everyone I love. Be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.”
This was the last of the seven churches that John wrote letters to in The Revelation. Laodicea was the home of the famous “lukewarm” church. They were the group of Christians that Jesus actually said made him want to spit them out of His mouth. That is nice translation for vomit. What is so bad about being lukewarm that it makes Jesus want to throw up?
What is so bad about being lukewarm that it makes Jesus want to throw up?
At the end of the first century, when this letter was written, Laodicea was prospering. There is no indication that the church was encountering any persecution. Jesus quotes them as saying, “I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing.” This sounds eerily like Babylon the Great’s pronouncement in 18:7: “She glorified herself and lived in luxury, so match it now with torment and sorrow. She boasted in her heart, ‘I am queen on my throne. I am no helpless widow, and I have no reason to mourn.”
This attitude of self-sufficiency seems to be the root of the Laodicean church’s lukewarmness. Even though they think they have everything they need from a material standpoint, spiritually they are bankrupt. They are “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” Again, the parallel with Babylon the Great is apparent. Because of that great city’s boasting, “death and mourning and famine” would soon come upon her.
This attitude of self-sufficiency seems to be the root of their lukewarmness.
The analogy that Jesus uses of water would have been an easy one the church to grasp. Cold water would bring refreshment and quench one’s thirst. Hot water could be used for cooking and bathing. Lukewarm water, however, serves no purpose. Jesus wants His people to live with purpose and passion. Lukewarm Christians have minimal influence and impact on those around them.
The most telling aspect of this letter is the description of Jesus standing outside of His church, knocking on the door to gain entry. Jesus was shut out from His own church. This is a terrible picture of what happens when we become self-sufficient and complacent. We can shut Jesus out of our churches but we can also shut Jesus out of our lives as individuals.
Even though the Laodicean church had shut Jesus out, He still offered them the hope of restoration. If they would just accept His correction and discipline, turn from their indifference and open the door, He would come in and share a meal with them. Even though His people have shut Him out, He continues to knock and try to get their attention.
We can shut Jesus out of our churches but we can also shut Jesus out of our lives as individuals.
What can we do to keep ourselves and our churches from becoming lukewarm?
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