The ruins of Laodicea lie in modern-day Turkey. But once upon a time, it was a city that boasted all the finest bells and whistles. Named after Laodice, the wife of Antiochus II Theos, (261-253 BC), it flourished and became one of the important commercial cities of Asia Minor. A place where movers and shakers struck large corporate deals and high-dollar trading was done.
In other words, filthy rich people lived here.
Laodiceans loved fashion and embraced the latest and greatest of Greek culture. After all, the city had it’s own water tower and aqueduct with water piped in from a nearby hot spring. After an earthquake leveled the city in 60AD, the deep pockets of its residents shunned Rome’s assistance and they rebuilt the city on their own. Impressive.
But all that wealth and means could only lead to one thing….Laodiceans were arrogant. Even the large, Laodicea Christian community couldn’t escape the temptation to be smug and self-righteous. Their impression was that they didn’t need anyone or anything. It’s a wonder they didn’t break an arm patting themselves on the back.
Which brings us to John…the apostle exiled to the island of Patmos. Writing furiously through the inspiration of the Creator, imagine Laodicea’s surprise to find itself as one of the seven churches that God addresses in the writings we now call Revelation. And God is not pleased.
You see, for all Laodicea’s wealth and accomplishments, they were neither passionate or apathetic about anything. They were as lukewarm as the water that flowed in their aqueduct. Pride and complacency had taken up camp in the hearts of the residents. Although they were wealthy beyond measure, they were destitute when it came to their spiritual well-being. They were useless when it came to living a life of authentic faith. And here is JC’s message to them
I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. ~Revelation 3:15-21
Like lukewarm water…the Laodicean church wasn’t good for much of anything. Cold water refreshes the thirsty and hot water cleanses the dirty. Both have a purpose. The irony of this water analogy wasn’t lost on these first century Christians.
And aren’t there a whole lot of lukewarm “Christians” these days? I’m sure you know them…they’re the ones who are quick to tell you what church they attend and how often, but ask how deep their walk is and you’re met with a blank stare. The lines between worldly and Godly pursuits are blurry at best if they’re there at all. Material prosperity, increases in attendance or popularity are never true indicators of a church’s spiritual vitality.
Although the church in Laodicea has one of the worst reputations of all the seven churches, it has one of the greatest promises for those that overcome these obstacles. Jesus is not a god that bangs down the door and forces himself upon his creation. Instead, he lovingly calls and invites us to believe.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. ~Revelation 3:20-21
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