seven letters  laodicea part II

As we continue with our final look at Jesus' messages to the seven churches of Revelation, we now stop to check out His opinion of those who claimed to be His followers in the ancient city of Laodicea... 

 "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!" (Revelation 3:15 NIV).

"Cold" in this sense means "uninterested" or "unresponsive" to spiritual things. The word used for "hot" above is related to our modern-day word "zest" and it refers to a feeling of excitement, intensity or enthusiasm. So it appears that the Christians in Laodicea weren't uninterested in Jesus and His teachings but they weren't enthusiastic about Him either. They believed in Jesus- but they didn't get all crazy about Him. They followed the Bible's teachings- but not with much intensity. They knew all the Christian buzzwords and had enough "Christianity" to feel good in church but not so much that it affected their thinking or behavior outside it. 

Knowing this, Jesus makes an interesting statement. He says, "...you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!" Doesn't that sound like a strange thing for Jesus to say? How could Jesus actually say something like, "I wish"? After all, Jesus was the man who gave sight to the blind and miraculously fed thousands of people with practically nothing. Jesus was the man who raised people from the dead, cured diseases and even controlled the weather! With that kind of power available, why would Jesus ever have to say, "I wish…" for anything? Why couldn't Jesus simply make these people do what He wanted? If Jesus really is the ruler of God's creation (as He Himself said just one verse earlier in Revelation 3:14), then why doesn't He just make everything happen the way He wants and be done with it?

The skeptical person might think about these questions and decide that Jesus must not be the all powerful being that He claims to be. But if that's the case, then how do we explain all the other miracles that Jesus did, some of which are mentioned above? No, there's got to be a better answer than that. So why didn't Jesus simply make the Christians in Laodicea into the kind of people that He wanted them to be? 

The answer to that question is summed up in one word: love.

What does that have to do with what we've been talking about? Well, follow along with the reasoning on this for a moment. First, the Scriptures tell us that one of God's desires is to have a real, personal relationship with humanity (see Ephesians 1:3-5, Galatians 4:4-7 and 1 John 3:1-2). Now people have relationships with other people for all sorts of different reasons. For example, there are relationships that are based on things like business activities, personal interests or family connections among others. However, God's desire is to have a relationship with people that's based on love. In fact, the Bible tells us that the very reason for our existence is to love God and have a relationship with Him. Jesus explained it like this in another part of the Bible...

 "One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:35-38 NIV).

Now one of the important things to understand about love is that love involves choices. For example, one person cannot "force" another person to love them- they must choose to do so. To put it another way, one person cannot make another person love them because real love can only occur when both people freely choose to love each other. Sure, one person can manipulate another person and call it "love" and two people may use each other and call it "love" but that's not real love. Real love involves a choice that can't be traded or forced because once those things occur, love immediately ceases to exist. So while God desires to have a loving relationship with His creation (that's us), no one can be forced to return His love if they don't really want to. Just as we can't order a boyfriend, girlfriend or parent to love us, so it is with God. God loves humanity but He doesn't force people to love Him back because "forced love" is a total contradiction. 

If God forced people to love Him then people would really be no different than robots that were programmed to respond to Him in a certain way. There's not much relationship in that. So in order for people to love God and have it actually mean something, they must also have the ability to choose not to love God (or be indifferent towards Him as the Laodiceans were). So God enables people to enter a honest, real, genuine relationship with Him by giving us the freedom to love or reject Him. This is why Jesus doesn't simply force people (like the Laodiceans or us, for that matter) to change their attitudes towards Him.

However, Jesus saw the noncommittal mentality of the Laodicean church towards Him and responded by basically saying, "You are neither unresponsive nor enthusiastic towards me- I wish you would choose one or the other!"  The Laodiceans were apathetic towards Jesus- they were indifferent, unconcerned and disinterested about spiritual things, just as many people are today. They weren't against religion, Jesus or Christianity but they weren't for those things either. 

So the Laodiceans tried to take a "middle of the road" approach with Jesus. Of course, the problem for people who try and walk the middle of the road is that they are always in danger of getting run over. But that's a subject for later- for now, The Doctor will leave you with this question: Knowing what you do about Jesus, can you imagine any situation where Jesus would tell someone, "You make me sick!"  

Click the link below to find out.

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The Doctor is not a real doctor but he plays one on the Internet. E-Mail prescriptions are also available on an individual basis.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptural references taken from The Living Bible, 1971, Tyndale House Publishers


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