“How’s Your Spiritual Health?”
“So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)
The Bible’s last book begins with seven correspondences to young congregations in the western part of what is now Turkey. Each of them is a message from Jesus. The final letter is to Laodicea, an affluent community in the Lycus River valley. Laodicea was blessed with thriving commercial banking and textile operations. What it didn’t have was a reliable source of clean water.
The proposed remedy came from a pair of aqueducts. One was built downhill from Hierapolis, a small town perched on a rise a few miles to the north. Hierapolis was famous for its steaming mineral baths. Pipes brought hot water to Laodicea. Colossae which was 11 miles to the south, had a generous supply of cold water generated by snow melt from nearby mountains. Laodicean engineers built water pipes to that town as well. The community had two sources of water. And the temperatures were a major bonus.
There was one problem. By the time the water from Hierapolis had sloshed down miles of pipeline, the hot was no longer hot and the water from Colossae was no longer cool. Laodicea was notorious for its tepid water. It was neither soothing nor refreshing. It was lukewarm.
That’s Jesus’s characterization of the Laodicean church. In Verse 15 he says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were either one or the other!” This is, happily enough, the only time in Scripture where someone’s spiritual temperature makes the Son of God want to vomit. There’s nothing in its text to make us conclude that Jesus favors extremism-that he applauds, for instance, bravado on the Far Left or Far Right. This is a spiritual checkup, not an assessment of political or social energy. The Laodiceans are apparently faltering in their discipleship. It’s half-hearted and half-baked.
Is there any hope?
It just so happens that one of the New Testament’s most famous invitations is only three verses down the road. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.” The word for the evening meal in Greek was DEIPNON, and it was the only sit-down meal of the entire day-and the only one enjoyed at home. When Jesus says, “I will come and eat with that person,” he uses the Greek verbal form DEIPNEIN. In other words, he’s inviting himself to dinner. He’s interested in joining each of us at the place in our lives that is most personal and most intimate.
Have you been listening for Jesus’ knock? Maybe you need to ask yourself some crucial questions: Has my trust in God become lukewarm? Has my heart for spiritual things become flat-lined? Have I gotten used to feeling neutral about Jesus?
As we move from the Easter season, by God’s grace, may our hearts reach a temperature that will bring joy to God all week long.
Ron Naylor, Chaplain