This past year our church was fortunate enough to have Rick Gamache speak at our family retreat. Over that weekend together, Rick took us through the churches in Revelation, familiar territory for many, but oh so necessary for the church in our time.
On our last morning we looked at the church in Laodicea. In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus says these words to this church through the Apostle John:
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.
I grew up with the understanding that Jesus is telling this church that He would rather they were Hot (committed Christians) or Cold (flat out rebellious) than lukewarm (half-hearted Christians). I know that many others have grown up with this understanding as well. On the surface, this seems to make sense. Jesus wants us all-in, not halfway. But Rick led us through the text and showed us that this is not exactly what Jesus is saying.
Rick reminded us that Laodicea sat at the crossroads of a waterway between the cool mountain water and the hot springs in the valley below. So the Laodiceans, who had built a very sophisticated aqueduct system, were constantly receiving luke warm water, which is not good for anything. It is not refreshing to the body, nor is it useful for cooking, washing, or medicine.
So Jesus is not saying here that Hot is Christian and Cold is non-Christian, but that both hot and cold represent different elements of the Christian life. Christians are to bring the cool, soul-refreshing good news of the Gospel to others, and we are to be hot, zealous for the Lord. But the Laodiceans were neither. They were lukewarm, useless for anything of spiritual good.
The warning for us in this passage then is to not become complacent in our faith. We are to be zealous as it says in verse 19. We are not to become reliant on our stuff but to seek the Lord and His goodness, that we might be Christians who are hot and cold, but never luke warm.
The Gospel goes forth from those who are zealous for the Lord, and we need His strength to make us useful for His glory.