The Christians in Laodicea suffered from a condition that many still struggle with: they were ‘wishy-washy’. They thought they were ok, that they didn’t need anything. They thought they were faithful Christians. Notice what Jesus had to say to them.
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16 NIV)
I don’t know about you, but I like what I drink to be either hot or cold. On a cold winter’s day a hot cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate is refreshing and comforting. On a hot day working outside in the summer there is nothing like a glass of iced water or iced tea. These we find refreshing. But I don’t know anyone who asks for a cup of tepid coffee or a glass of tepid water. Yet Jesus said this is what the Christians in Laodicea were like spiritually – they were lukewarm.
They were very much like the town where they lived. Laodicea had two neighbouring towns: Hierapolis and Colossae. Heirapolis was known for its hot water springs. Colossae had very cold water. The water in Laodicea was lukewarm, not refreshing like the other two, but only useful as an emetic – something to cause vomiting. This was what Jesus said he was going to do to them: spew them out of his mouth.
The problems was that they were neither for Jesus nor against him. He wanted them to take a stand one way or the other. But think about it: if we are not for Jesus then we are, in reality, against him. On another occasion Jesus said: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30).
How often do we find people who don’t want to take a stand one way or another about Jesus? By refusing to stand with him they have taken a stand against him. Perhaps it is when we are with people who are against anything to do with Jesus. Do we stand up or do we remain quiet? “Whoever is not with me is against me.”
“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.” (Revelation 3:17-18)
They thought they had it made. In terms of their physical lives they were doing quite well – they were rich! As a result they didn’t think there was anything else that they needed. People can be like this today, as well. Have you ever spoken to friends about their need for Jesus and their reply was that they were doing ok without him – they have a good income, a family, what more do they need?
The problem is that these people do not see how they really are as concerns their eternity. Jesus said they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked”. What they really needed was to get refined gold from Jesus so they could be really rich. They needed to cover their nakedness and cure their blindness.
Jesus wasn’t talking about worldly riches but that they needed to have a strong faith centred in him. They needed to change their lives and put him back as their Lord.
Jesus pleads with all of us not to allow what is in the world to draw us away from him. He stands at the door of our heart and is knocking (Revelation 3:20). He will not force his way in. The question is: are we going to let him in?
Readings for next week: Revelation 3-14