I would rather be a tall drink of cool water or a hot cup of coffee rather than a lukewarm swig of vomit juice

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

Many interpret this in terms of passion, with God preferring white hot passion or cold indifference to Him rather than lukewarm fuzzy feelings for Him in an on-again off-again relationship. Really?! God wants us to be completely apathetic to Him. (Where is a sarcasm font when you need it?) Given the context and the geography of Laodicea, there is no evidence to support such a distant, passive-aggressive God. He speaks to us just as He spoke to the church at Laodicea, warning us of the consequences of our actions (or inaction) and giving us time to repent and change.

God begins by saying, “I know your deeds,” not “I know how you feel about me.” As a Christian for thirty plus years, I have gone through periods of my life where I only felt lukewarm towards Him or even apathetic. That’s ok! For it is in these periods (often called The Wilderness Period, or The Dry Season, or The Dark Night of the Soul) that our faith grows stronger as we learn to hear Him when He is silent and learn to trust Him though we cannot feel Him or see even His shadow. God is not condemning the church of Laodicea for how they feel towards Him (each member would have been at different stages); God is commenting on their deeds, which were putting their souls in jeopardy.

Speaking of Jeopardy, I’ll take Ancient World Geography for $1000, Alex.

This city’s source of water came from the hot springs of Hierapolis, six miles away. Water flowing through these stone pipes would arrive tepid and nausea-provoking. (The Book of Revelation by Robert Mounce)

Alex: Jon?

Jon: What is Laodicea?

Alex: Correct.

Thank you, Alex. Lukewarm water is useless. You can’t bathe in it. You can’t drink it. You can’t even lock and load it into a Supersoaker (ice cold water on a summer day is much more effective). Essentially Jesus is saying, “Your deeds are like your water – useless and nauseating.” In order to be effective, water needs to be hot or cold. Mounce points out, “the contrast is between the hot medicinal waters of Hierapolis and the cold, pure waters of Colossae,” the two cities in the region with much better water. What heals aching muscles better than a hot bath? And what feels more refreshing than a tall glass of cold water on a hot day? It is these acts of love that we should be doing.

God gave each of us gifts and talents to help others just as he gave Laodicea wealth, a well-known medical school famous “for ophthalmology together with the region’s well-known eye salve, and “a soft, glossy black wool” that “was much in demand and brought fame to the region.” (Mounce 107) Yet Jesus characterized Laodicea as “poor, blind and naked” spiritually, the exact opposite of what they were known for. So what talent has God given you that could help others, but has thus far only been used for yourself? Don’t hoard it like Laodicea did. And don’t try to be hot and cold at the same time by doing other people’s ministries instead. Ask God to show you what it is that He gave you to use for other’s benefit. Otherwise you’ll be as useless as a screen door on a submarine.

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