Monday, February 9, 2015

Neither Cold Nor Hot

I happened to think about this passage in a whole new way today because of a random, silly incident involving ice and hot water. Anyway...

In the book of Revelations 3:15-16 (ESV), Jesus tells the church in Laodicea:

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. sWould that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 

For some reason, I always interpreted this passage as meaning this: if you're neither a passionate Christian (hot) nor a completely uninterested unbeliever (cold), you are lukewarm and therefore uninteresting to Jesus. I interpreted lukewarm as uninteresting!

But now, I see it differently. Whether one is hot or cold must do with the benefit one can provide to others. A follower of Christ must be a servant as Jesus was. As it follows, a Christian who is cold refreshes others through his work, and one who is hot brings warmth, perhaps sanctification. The one who is lukewarm does neither and remains totally comfortable where he is, simply serving himself.

In my previous reading of the passage, I gathered that the hearer of these words must aim to become hot (aka passionate). But, really, the way the passage reads is to serve God and people, doing good works that bless.

To come out of lukewarmness, however, entails discomfort. It's like getting out of a warm bed on a frigid winter night to get a drink for your spouse or forgoing the respite of air conditioning to play with underprivileged children at the field. To be hot or cold requires the person to endure those states. It's a command and warning to voluntarily enter into discomfort for the sake of love.

So Jesus continues to tell the church to get our of its comfort zone:

17 tFor you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, ublind, and naked. 18 I counsel you vto buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and wwhite garments so that you may clothe yourself and xthe shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, uso that you may see. 19 yThose whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and zknock. aIf anyone hears my voice and opens the door, bI will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 cThe one who conquers, dI will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as eI also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 pHe who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

One last note: it's weird that Jesus mixes warning with wanting to dine with the hearer. What? Why mix having a meal together with service? As I can see it, there are two things to take away from this. One, a relationship with Jesus is going to require uncomfortable, sacrificial service. Two, welcoming Jesus just might mean welcoming others to share a meal at your house in order to refresh and comfort them as drawn from Matthew 10:42 (ESV):

"And cwhoever gives one of dthese little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

The application could then perhaps look something like this:

Go, find a way to serve someone. A most obvious way would be to invite people to your house for a meal. There, encourage and comfort them. And in that environment of cold and hot, Jesus will dine together with those who are gathered. It's not comfortable, but it's definitely more interesting.

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