We don’t usually associate being lukewarm with aggression. However, as we read Christ’s indictment of the church at Laodicea, aggressive pride is equated with being lukewarm. Self-sufficient thought is lack of trust in God. Laodicea was a successful, well-educated city. They did not need the help of others. If there was a problem, they could take care of it with their own resources. The city embodied the “can do” spirit. This same self-sufficient spirit had infected the Laodicean church. Jesus’ critique is sharp. In Revelation 3:16 he states the nature of the infection: “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” In verse 17 Jesus gives the specific symptom of this infection. He says, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’”
Being lukewarm in this instance means that God is not really needed. Yes, they went to church, and did the right things. But Jesus was not pleased that his church had taken on the character of the self-sufficient city. Please don’t misunderstand! This is not a condemnation of the city. Rather, it a charge against the church for not being salt and light to the city.
See the sharp contrast with the church at Philadelphia. I don’t believe it is an accident that Laodicea is assessed right after Philadelphia in the text. Here is what Christ says about the Philadelphia church:
I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Rev. 3:8
The church at Philadelphia had an open door secured by Christ himself. The door at Laodicea had yet to be opened. Those at the church had yet to decide if they wanted to open the door to Christ, even though he was knocking. To invite Christ in would mean an acknowledgement of their total dependence upon him and rejection of the self-sufficient ways of the city. But being lukewarm, they couldn’t bring themselves to decide. They were torn between self-sufficiency and repentance, between the loving discipline of Christ and the praise of their city.
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